Learn how to cook a perfect boiled egg—every single time—with this handy guide.
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Credit: Illustration: Joël Penkman

Here’s a commonly asked cooking question: How do you know when boiled eggs are done? 

For hard-boiled eggs, we say 12 minutes. But the answer really depends on the style of boiled egg you prefer, whether it’s a completely-cooked yolk or soft, creamy center.

The truth is, when it comes to cooking a boiled egg, timing is everything. And if you’re planning to make deviled eggs for a cookout, yummy Avocado-Egg Salad, or if you’re just in need of a quick and easy protein snack—you need to know exactly how long to boil eggs. We can help! This handy guide shows you a foolproof method for how to tell if eggs are boiled, no matter which type you prefer.

How to Make a Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

Rule #1: Don’t just throw cold eggs into boiling water! The sudden change of temperature can lead to “shocked,” or unevenly cooked, eggs or even worse—cracked, damaged eggs. Instead, heat the eggs gently using the water. This allows for a gradual, even cook that equals the perfect hard-boiled egg.

You’ll know that your egg is perfectly cooked if it has an opaque, yellow center. The yolk of an overcooked egg, on the other hand, will turn a greenish-gray color.

Credit: Laurie Ambrose/Getty Images

Stick to the formula below for a perfect hard boiled egg, every single time:

  1. Place a single layer of raw eggs in the bottom of a medium or large saucepan. Fill the pan with water to about 2 inches over the eggs.
  2. Place the pan on high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover, and let the eggs stand for 12 minutes.
  3. Run the eggs under cold water or place in an ice bath to cool. Peel the hard-boiled eggs, and enjoy.

How Long to Boil Eggs (Soft, Firm, or Hard)

Creamy Kale Caesar Salad with Soft-Boiled Eggs

Whether you want a completely cooked boiled egg or a slightly softer boiled egg, use this trusted timeline:

Soft-boiled egg (slightly runny center)

Let the eggs sit in the water after it comes to a boil for 4 to 5 minutes. It's imperative with soft-boiled eggs that you don't let them continue to cook after removing them from the water. To avoid this, prepare an ice bath and dunk the eggs immediately after taking them out of the boiling water. Remove them from the ice bath quickly if you want to serve the eggs still warm overtop toast or a salad. 

Slightly firmer yolk (custard-like texture)

Leave the eggs in the water for 6 minutes. Same as with soft-boiled eggs, make sure to dunk them in an ice bath as soon as you remove them from the boiling water. 

Firm yolk (still a bit creamy with some liquid)

Leave the eggs in the water for 10 minutes. If peeling and eating right away, you can forego the ice bath. Otherwise, make sure to chill the egg to prevent overcooking. 

Completely hard-boiled egg (for deviled eggs or egg salad)

Leave the eggs in the water for 12 minutes. If you're getting the dreaded green ring, make sure your timing is exact, but also consider the water you're using. If your tap water has higher levels of iron, that could be affecting the outcome. In that case, use filtered water to boil your eggs. Also: Use the ice bath if you're not peeling and eating the eggs immediately. 

How long do hard-boiled eggs last in the refrigerator? You can safely refrigerate the eggs in their shells for one to 1½ weeks.