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There are two methods for arriving at les oeufs durs, or hard eggs as the French call them, nearby skillfully avoiding the hard-cooked versus hard-boiled controversy. Which cooking method do I prefer? I do them either way, depending on how I feel at the moment of cooking. Certainly the first is faster (The straight simmer method), but the second (The coddled method ) produces a more tender egg white.
THE 17-MINUTE SIT-IN
Coddling produces boiled eggs with a marvelous tender white and almost guarantees no yolk discoloration if the eggs are reasonably fresh, but it does take a little more time than the previous simmer.
If you have eggs that are questionable peelers, however, I find the whites are so tender that peeling becomes even more difficult, although a thorough chill before peeling does help.
In this system, which is favored by the Georgia Egg Commission, by the way, eggs are brought to the boil in cold water, then removed from heat, covered, and allow to sit 17 minutes.
Shape of pan and proportion of water to eggs are important, of course, since a dozen eggs would never cook properly in a skillet-shaped pan with a quart of water for instance.
My water rules for coddled eggs. The water must cover the eggs by at least 1 inch and you need a minimum of 6 cups of water whether you are cooking 1 or 4 eggs, with at least an additional cup of water for each additional egg.
6 eggs (6 cups plus 2) need 8 cups of water, or 2 quarts.
12 eggs (6 cups plus 8) need 14 cups of water, or 3 ½ quarts.
The Coddling Method Instructions
Pierce a hole in the egg
Prick the large end of each egg, going down 3/8 of an inch through the shell, and place in a saucepan.
Step 2. Add water, salt and turn up the heat
Poor in the water, add 1 ½ tsp of salt per quart, and set over moderately high heat.
Step 3. Remove from heat, cover sit for 17 minutes
Keep your eye on the water. When it reaches the boil, remove the pan from heat, cover it, and set the timer for 17 minutes.
Step 4. Crack the egg
Immediately the time is up, drain the boiled eggs, tap very gently with the back of a spoon to crack shells in several places, and run cold water into the pan, or transfer eggs to a sink of cold water.
Step 5. Peel the eggs
Peel and store as described earlier. If you have any trouble peeling, chill the eggs thoroughly and try again.
This system works for all sizes of eggs from small to jumbo, and whether the eggs are chilled or unchilled.
The eggs turned out exactly as Julia said they would. See bottom of this page for a complete statement on the results.
Items we used to test these instructions
How To Boil An Egg Step-By-Step By Julia Child – The coddled method for hard boiled eggs
- Pair of Tongs
- Egg pricker
- 6 Each Eggs
- 8 Cups Water
- THE 17-MINUTE SIT-IN
- Pierce a hole in the egg. Prick the large end of each egg, going down 3/8 of an inch through the shell, and place in a saucepan.
- Step 2. Add water, salt and turn up the heat. Poor in the water, add 1 ½ tsp of salt per quart, and set over moderately high heat.
- Step 3. Remove from heat, cover sit for 17 minutes. Keep your eye on the water. When it reaches the boil, remove the pan from heat, cover it, and set the timer for 17 minutes.
- Step 4. Crack the egg. Immediately the time is up, drain the eggs, tap very gently with the back of a spoon to crack shells in several places, and run cold water into the pan, or transfer eggs to a sink of cold water.
- Step 5. Peel the eggs. Peel and store as described earlier. If you have any trouble peeling, chill the eggs thoroughly and try again.
Troublesome hard-boiled eggs
and what to do about them
There is not much you could do to remedy non-peeling cooked eggs. If you had planned to serve them whole and our faced with a ragged group, you will have to change gears and come up with a new idea. Salad or sandwiches using chopped eggs are obvious alternatives or you can serve halved eggs yolk-side up and disguise exterior with mayonnaise. Sometimes ragged eggs look acceptable when sliced crosswise.
Try and halve them so the off center is least obvious, such as on a slant from top to bottom, even if one half is thicker than the other. There is no way to slice them crosswise properly; serve them quartered or chopped.
For halved eggs, lop the end off cleanly, as though you meant them to be that way.
This means the dark line between yolk and white. If the eggs are fresh, they are perfectly edible but you cannot remedy the situation; you can only disguise it by deciding to have stuffed eggs. Halve them and separate yolks from whites; wash the whites to remove the dark residue of yolk. Then mash the yolks with mayonnaise and so forth, perhaps adding a little heavy cream to lighten their color like pimiento mushrooms are also helpful.
Ways to use hard-boiled eggs
I spent so much time in our program, just as I have here, on how to hard-boil an egg that there was little left in that short half-hour of television to show anything else. Two recipes where I could manage. Now I shall add a few more for hot as well as cold dishes, since eggs are among the cheapest of our nutrient and protein-rich foods. Treated with a bit of style they make splendid luncheon and supper dishes, even for the most elegant occasions.
Hard-boiled eggs –
the whys and hows
Freshness of eggs
Grandmother always said that if an egg was too fresh you couldn’t peel it; she was right but she never knew why, because it was not until the late 1950’s that scientist began to discover the reason.
A new laid-egg is more acid than alkaline, they found ( it’s ph factor, as researchers would say, is too low). After a few days, if the egg follows it’s natural course, the relationship changes, and then it swings over to the alkaline side (to ph 8.7 if you want the exact figure) your troubles are over. Then you can peel an egg with ease.
Various factors influence the transformation, including storage temperature and the air that enters the microscopic pores in the eggshell.
To maintain quality, many packers not only keep eggs well chilled, but also spray the eggs with a fine mist of tasteless mineral oil, which retards not only air penetration but alkalization. That’s where our egg-peeling difficulties lie: the sprayed egg won’t get stale, which brings us to our first principle.
Eggs that are too fresh.
When perfectly peeled hard-boiled eggs are important and you know yours are either very fresh or have been sprayed (eggs from out of state are often sprayed), scrub them rapidly in warm water to remove possible spray from shells, and leave them at room temperature, uncovered, overnight before cooking them. (In hot weather, leave eggs uncovered for a day or two in the refrigerator).
Staleness of eggs.
On the other hand, if your eggs are stale but still edible you are not likely to produce perfectly shaped hard-boiled eggs with perfectly centered yolks – again, if that is of any importance to you. Why? Because the air pocket at the large end of the shell has become enlarged, and you will have a lop-ended boiled egg; at the same time the white will have relaxed, and the yolk will hang off-center. You can do nothing about filling the air pocket, but some people do believe that if you stir the eggs about as they cook you may re-center the yolk.
Know your eggs. You can always cook one or two from a batch, as a test.
Eggs That Leak
You should never ever have a leaking egg if you always pierce a pinhole in the large end, going right down through about 3/8 inch so as to pierce the membrane also. There is even an egg-pricker gadget available, but a pin will do as well.
Then even if the egg is cracked, the air from that pocket will escape as it expands in the hot water and this releases pressure from the crack area.
If there is no pinhole and the egg is cracked, the air from the pocket will travel around to the crack and burst out through the membrane at that point, drawing with it some of the egg white.
Try this at yourself and you will see the miracle with your own eyes: lightly crack the shells of 2 raw eggs, pierce the large end of one and not of the other, then lower them both into simmering water.
The non-pierced cracked egg will leak, but the pierced cracked egg should simmer cleanly throughout its allotted time.
Always pierce your eggs before you cook them. Use an egg pricker designed for the purpose, or a push pin, or just a plain straight pin.
That dark line between yolk and white
This is a chemical reaction between yolk and white and is accentuated by an excess of heat.
In other words, if you really boil a hard-boiled egg you may get the ugly dark line around the yolk, especially if your egg is not very fresh.
Our experiments showed, too, that the longer the yolk and white of a cooked egg remain in contact – several days, for instance – the more likely you are to get that line; again, this has to do with too much cooking heat and with the chemical climate of the particular egg in question.
Rule 4. Never boil a hard-boiled egg.
Does salt help?
I have read some scientific experiments to the effect that salt in the cooking water may have a slightly beneficial influence on pealability… sodium chloride and alkalinity in other words.
Whether or not it is helpful, it can do no harm, and I always add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt to every quart of egg-cooking water.
How Julia’s mission started
I never had realized until I started our research on the subject that so very many people, not only private individuals, but people in the food business have real problems with the hard-boiling and peeling of eggs.
Since doing the program, (Julie Childs cooking show on TV) I have gathered even more facts, from viewers and from people in the egg business such as the Georgia Egg Commission and from the American Egg Board. Therefore, in this first section of the chapter, I have tried to bring up all of the hard-boil problems and answer all the questions that have so far come my way. But I am sure, as in all things culinary, there is more to know. And surely that is one of the many reasons cooking is such a fascinating art: you can never know it all because new facts, products, and processes are continually appearing.
Final comment on the results
Personally, I am a fan of Julia Child. But not being bias. Following her instructions, everything came out as she had stated it would. Except, the first time I pierced the egg and put it in the water, egg white did come out. The second time I did it, egg white did not come out. Either way, the egg itself did not crack under the pressure of the heat or the boiling water.
The eggs did not have a green over cooked ring. The taste, Julia was right, coddling made for a better-boiled egg.
Other Ways To Boil Eggs
Steamed Eggs is another boil egg method that produces a perfect hard boiled egg and it is easy to peel. Visit our page below, on how to perfectly steam eggs.