The Twelve Minute Egg

I can't remember when my quest for the perfect method for making hardboiled eggs began. I do know that a hardboiled egg can become many  things such as a garnish on a salad or vegetable, a delicious egg salad sandwich or even the elegant deviled egg. It's just that the process of getting the right consistency of yolk and white as well as having easy to peel shells eluded me. I of course read up on it. Should I go with the cold water method, or boiling method? Should I bring to a boil while in the pan? Or do I boil water then add the eggs? How did my grandmother do it?

Alton Brown "steams" his for 14-16 minutes to be precise. Harold McGee, the author of "On Food And Cooking" and otherwise known to us foodie geeks as the "Science Guy" (pre Alton), recommends the cold water method. It's just the cold water method wasn't working for me. I ended up with overcooked or undercooked eggs. If that wasn't enough, peeling the eggs was a nightmare. My whites looked like Swiss cheese by the time I got done peeling them because the shells always stuck to the whites.  I learned at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) among other things to add salt to the water. In spite of all my research, the aforementioned problems remained. For a long time it was enough to make me avoid doing dishes with hardboiled eggs.

As a semi-confident chef, I felt the hardboiled egg was my Everest. You see, egg cookery marks the skill of a chef. I couldn't let this continue as my nemesis. Plus, I love a Cobb or spinach salad any day of the week and there is no substitute for a hardboiled egg.

I noticed that one of the chefs I work with had no problem with hard boiled eggs. What was his secret? It was so simple and yet elusive. Sometimes what you read in a cookbook needs some tweaking. I can now honestly say that I have learned the proper way to cook a hardboiled egg with a moist yolk, firm but not rubbery white and yes, an easy to peel shell. I embrace this simple technique and realize we can learn something new every day in the kitchen if we open our eyes and are not afraid to ask questions.

The Perfect Twelve Minute Egg

Take eggs out two hours before you plan on boiling. It turns out that egg proteins go from fluid to solid as they are heated. If the transition from cold to hot happens too fast, these proteins lock together too tightly, and you get rubbery eggs.

Use a pan large enough to hold the eggs and allow them some room to gently cook. Bring the water just to a boil and use an Asian skimmer, or slotted spoon to gently lower eggs into the pan. Set a timer for twelve minutes for grade A large eggs.

Meanwhile, set up an ice bath. An ice bath is a bowl of water with ice. You will want to remove eggs from the cooking water at the twelve minute mark and plunge them into the ice bath. Let eggs cool completely. This will also prevent the yolk surface from turning green and will help firm up the whites for easy peeling. Crack eggs all over by tapping on the counter. Peel under running cold water. If you follow this procedure, you will have perfect hardboiled eggs.

This brings me to my ulterior motive for overcoming my fear of hardboiled eggs: making deviled eggs!

                 Deviled Eggs

6 hardboiled eggs
1 teaspoon chopped shallots
3 sour gherkins or cornichons
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder (Colemans)
1/4 cup BestFoods Mayonnaise
4 Shakes Sirracha Sauce
1/2 teaspoon chopped tarragon
salt & pepper to taste


Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove and mash egg yolks in a glass or non-reactive bowl. Set empty whites aside. Add remaining ingredients and combine until smooth.

Arrange the empty whites on a serving plate or tray. Spoon (or pipe) the yolk mixture into reserved egg whites. I prefer to pipe with a star tip for a decorative appearance. Dust the completed ensemble very lightly with ground paprika. If you really want to impress your guests, add a tiny sprig of fresh dill on top of each egg for color and flavor.

Enjoy as an elegant starter with your favorite sparkling wine!

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