How to Boil an Egg

Once upon a time, almost thirty years ago, a young wife who was also a brand new mother decided to boil some eggs.

It was the week before Easter. Even though her baby daughter was only a few weeks old and wasn’t the least bit interested in Easter eggs, the young woman thought it would be fun to dye some eggs and then take lots of Baby’s First Easter
pictures. So she took from the cabinet her biggest cooking pot–a bright red
Club Cookware Dutch oven that had been given to her as a wedding gift.

She ran some cold water into the pot, carefully added a dozen eggs and placed the pot on the stove’s biggest burner. She had just turned the temperature knob to “high” when the baby started fussing, so she wiped her hands on a kitchen towel and went to see what was wrong.

The baby was wet, so the young woman changed her diaper. The baby seemed hungry, so she nursed her. Looking out the window, the young woman was struck by what a lovely spring afternoon it was. “Let’s go out to the porch swing and enjoy the sunshine,” she told her daughter. The baby cooed agreement.

They sat there for a long time, admiring their neighbor’s daffodils and the delicate pink dogwood tree that grew in their own front yard, until the smoke alarm inside the house went off.

The young woman plopped the baby into her crib and dashed to the kitchen. She was greeted by a terrible odor and billows of smoke pouring from the stovetop. She grabbed the same kitchen towel she had dried her hands on (how long ago had that been?) and moved the pot off the burner, which was glowing bright red. Not a single drop of water remained in the charred pot. Nor did it hold any eggs.

What in the world had happened to them? The young woman searched around the stove but saw no sign of the missing eggs. Then she looked up. The eggs had exploded all over the ceiling. The Dutch oven was ruined. It took hours to clean up the mess. And no baby-with-Easter-eggs pictures were taken that spring.

Don’t ask me how I know this story. Instead, allow me to share with you what I’ve learned in the ensuing years about the best way to boil eggs, whether they’re for dyeing at Easter or putting in tuna salad or for enjoying as a quick breakfast.

More than once during the past week I’ve run across a recipe for “Easy Hard Boiled Eggs” that are baked on their sides in a mini-muffin pan at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Haven’t tried it. I’m also reminded of the AS SEEN ON TV “Eggies,” plastic cups into which you pour a raw egg and then place in a pan of boiling water. Never bought any. Nor have I purchased an electric stainless steel egg cooker (“just $29.95,” the catalog says) that promises perfectly cooked eggs every time.

Here’s how to boil an egg.  Start with eggs that aren’t particularly fresh. They’ll be easier to peel. (Eggs that float are rotten. Ideally, you want them a little fresher than that.) Place eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a cooking pot. Cover them with cold water and put them on a burner turned to high. When the water reaches a rolling boil, turn the heat down to simmer and leave the pot on the burner for ten more minutes. Then remove the pot and turn off the burner.

I never fool with salting the water or plunging the eggs into an ice bath when they’re done or any of the other dozens of helpful hints I’ve read. Leave the eggs alone until the water is just cool enough to reach in and take them out. Firmly tap each egg on the counter several times until it’s cracked all over. Then begin peeling at the fat end, making sure to hook your thumbnail under the membrane. The shell should slide right off.

One last thing. Under no circumstance should you leave the kitchen until this whole process is complete. Unless you enjoy scraping burned eggs off the ceiling.

(MARCH 31, 2013)



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