Food Snob Chronicles — Eggs 101: How to boil an egg

So, you think you should skip this short tutorial? Go right ahead. But first know that the Belfast (UK) Telegraph reported earlier this week that three of every four students there cannot properly boil an egg.

Neither can a lot of older Americans.

For starters, there’s no such thing as properly boiling an egg. Sure, you can do it if you wish — and many of us do. But the proper way to cook an egg in its shell is to simmer it.

Yes. There's an app for that.

Yes. There’s an app for that.

I read tips from numerous reputable sources — most of whom offer different directions — and then set out to come up with my own methods. After several cartons, plenty of taste tests and an extra few doses of cholesterol medication, I found what works in my kitchen.

When boiling eggs, put them in the pan and cover with cold (tap) water. Bring the temperature up to a hard simmer, about 175-180ºF. Then, start your timer.

When the timer goes off, run cool water over the eggs for a couple of minutes to stop the cooking process. Then, get busy peeling.

Peeling them
I regret to inform you that there is no magical way to quickly peel an egg. Before you mention it, I’ve seen the video of the guy who blows off the shell. I’ve read the old wives’ tales about adding salt and other concoctions to the water. The best way? Just tap the egg with something heavy (a spoon, knife butt or sledge-hammer) to create cracks. Then start peeling under running water.

Or, hire a cook to do it for you.BoiledEggs

Did you know? An older egg is easier to peel than a more recently laid egg because of the pH. The inner membrane of an egg is tougher when the pH is lower (acidic). Eggs are most acidic when they are at their freshest, but head toward alkalinity the longer they sit.

Preventing leakage
OK. That headline doesn’t sound good. But I think you know what I mean.

You’ll find in cookbooks, magazines and on the Internet (where it must be true) that adding vinegar to the water prevents the white from leaking during the boiling process. I have a better idea.

Use eggs that aren’t cracked, and don’t act like a bull in a China shop when you’re placing eggs in the pan. Easy enough.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+.

This past weekend marked the official start of Autumn. Though our overnight temperatures here in northeast Texas dropped into the upper 50s, the daytime highs are still into the low 90s. Still, it’s soup season and we dove in headfirst.

Tortellini Soup w/ Sweet Italian Sausage is one of those ‘Sunday’ dishes that cooks like a ‘Tuesday’ recipe. The taste, no matter how quickly the soup comes to the table, is pure comfort. (No boiled eggs required.)

Tortellini Soup w/ Sweet Italian Sausage

Tortellini Soup w/ Sweet Italian Sausage. A Tuesday meal that tastes like Sunday.

Tortellini Soup w/ Sweet Italian Sausage. A Tuesday meal that tastes like Sunday.

1/2 lb – Sweet Italian sausage

1 – Small onion, diced
3 – Garlic cloves, minced
1 TB – Extra virgin olive oil

28 oz can – Diced tomatoes
2 quarts (8 cups) – Chicken stock
1 cup – Fresh spinach, chopped

4 – Summer squash (about 3 cups), thickly sliced
2 TB – Fresh Basil, chopped
1/2 tsp – Red pepper flakes

8 oz – Fresh or frozen Cheese Tortellini

Kosher salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Romano cheese

If using Italian Sausage links: Brown on each side, then simmer in water for about 10 minutes. Slice into half-inch pieces. Set aside to drain.
If using bulk Italian sausage: Shape into 1-inch meatballs. Brown on all sides. Set aside to drain.

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil to medium. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until limp — about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic; cook for another 2 minutes.

To onion/garlic mixture, add tomatoes (w/ juice) and chicken stock. Raise heat to high until mixture comes to a boil, then lower heat to medium (to maintain a light boil/simmer). Add cooked sausage and cook for about 10-15 minutes, skimming any fat that rises.

Add spinach, squash, basil and red pepper flakes. Bring mixture back to a light boil and cook for another 10 minutes.

Add tortellini and cook until tender (length of time depends on whether you’re using frozen or fresh).

Season to taste with Kosher salt and freshly ground Black Pepper. Top with freshly grated Romano and serve with hot Italian bread, if desired. Makes about 4 quarts.


  1. Still have not mastered the art of a soft boiled egg, and, Ben, my husband, is the king of it~~I’m inspired right now to try again….just put some in water and on the blaze…wish me luck!

  2. I remember the pedant who came to stay…wanted his breakfast egg boiled for three minutes only.
    I explained that we had our own hens (and ducks) and thus that the eggs were both large and very fresh.
    No. He knew best.

    He hasn’t returned.

  3. I was just about to make some boiled eggs. Now I might have to experiment. See how you are, Adam! :)

  4. This recipe looks fantastic. I notice there is a lot of “raise heat to high … lower heat to medium …” my stove is original to the house: 1960 with electric coils. The sensitivity of those coils is lacking, to say the least.

    Any recommendations for those of us using old, electric stove tops? (I usually turn 1 burner on for high, then move the pot to the right, where THAT burner is set to medium when a recipe calls for medium. This works okay as long as I only have 1 thing cooking on the stove.)

  5. When I was an very lazy teenager I decided to ‘boil’ an egg without having to mess up a pan by putting the egg in the microwave. After the egg exploded I had a really big mess to clean in the microwave! Much like my friend who tried to warm up his golf balls in the microwave.
    Ah good old tortellini soup…when I was ill it was one of about three things my husband could cook and we lived on that for about 4 years. To this day, my daughter can’t look a tortellini in the eye but it’s still comfort food for me.

  6. For what it’s worth, I have consistently found that adding baking soda to the water for boiled eggs does make them peel easier. It’s either that or the lecture I give them about what happens to uncooperative eggs (egg salad).

  7. When I was young and foolish, I used to boil the crap out of my eggs to the point where they’d be grey *gasp*. Now, many years later, I’ve picked up the fact that simmering the eggs, turning off the heat and leaving them in hot water for about 7 minutes makes pretty perfect medium boiled eggs. I DO hate peeling them. I always end up with little shells everywhere. Running them under water is a great tip!

  8. Yes, the older the eggs, the easier to peel. I have not tried any of the other methods. However, I am at highish altitude (almost 3,700 feet) and those times go out the door when I cook anything. Water boils at a lower temperature at high altitude. That might be a good food snob tutorial for you. Potatoes take forever, pasta takes way longer than the cooking time on the package. Cooking at high altitude has been a challenge for me, and I’ve been here 20 years! Forget baking anything. I don’t know how anyone bakes a cake here. I’ve sort of mastered the pecan pie simply because I CANNOT go a Thanksgiving without Texas Pecan Pie. And I’ve had some failures, let me tell you.

  9. I just love the line from Julie/Julia where Meryl Streep says, “I know how…to boil…an egg.” No one can roll their eyes like she does.

  10. and I thought that an older egg was more difficult to peal…always something new to learn with you. Susana.

  11. Reblogged this on Delicioso y Divertido! and commented:
    I thought this article about boiling eggs was important to know. via Food Snob Chronicles. Susana @ Delicioso y Divertido.

  12. Good tips. I’ve also found that the age of an egg really plays an important part (I’ve been eating a lot of hard boiled eggs for breakfast lately. Easy and portable). Love the sound of the soup and the great thing is I just found a bit of home made Italian sausage lurking in the freezer. Think I’ll try this on Sunday after the cold front comes through and drops us down to the 80s.

  13. One needs them at a stage between runny (not shown) and creamy to use as the centre of Scotch Eggs. I plan to do them again soon. Good to be educating the masses. Keep up the good works.

  14. You’re a good egg, Adam!
    Your soup looks delicious…I’m thinking that I’m long overdue for a heavy dose of carbs. A big loaf of crusty sourdough and a pot full of this, and I’ll be in carbo heaven!

  15. My mom is the deviled egg queen and I the princess. I can’t tell you how many eggs I’ve boiled over my years. I’ve always subscribed to cold water bringing to a simmer. And always use eggs that are older. And about that soup OMG and pinned.

  16. Hahah!! This is so true. My old roomie tried to boil eggs once and not only did she burn her pot but the eggs rocketed towards the ceiling and splat. It was pretty funny..

  17. I already know this is my new favorite soup. I can’t wait for the first snowstorm to destroy all these tortellini’s. I had to share this on my, “Whachhoo Bloggin’ Bout” section.

    Justin & Garnet

  18. Oh I so hope you are still reading comments.
    I love love this post. Simmering is indeed the only way to boil an egg. Apparently it is too much work for people these days to watch the pot so it doesn’t boil too har and set a timer to get to the desired firmness. (Hense the cracked eggs) It’t the only method I use for any boiled egg soft to hard and everything in between (different firmness used for different meals)
    Gonna miss this blog……

    • adamjholland says:

      Whoa, Jane! No need to miss this blog. I’m still up and running! In fact, I’m hosting it myself now — so you don’t see funky advertisements for Oreck vacuum cleaners or Campbell’s Soup!


  1. […] Tortellini Soup w/ Sweet Italian Sausage -  I love this soup.  Everything.  Especially that it was made by this dude, Adam from “The Unorthodox Epicure.”  He cooks a mean dinner and teaches a great lesson.  Check him out and help Adam gain food snob status. […]

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