Ask a dozen cooks how to boil eggs and you’ll get a dozen different answers. But, ask a dozen cooks how to peel boiled eggs, and you’ll get tales of frustration. For a food that seems so foolproof (it’s just eggs + water!), boiled eggs can be utterly infuriating—especially when it comes to peeling. You’ve been there: All that’s standing between you and egg korma or egg salad is a dozen eggs straight from the stovetop, but it’s taking you 15 minutes to peel each one, and you’re removing huge gashes of egg white with every tiny shard of the stubborn shell. It’s enough to drive you mad, even if you aren’t already very, very hungry.

The best way to make easy-peel hard-boiled eggs (or soft-boiled eggs!) starts well before you get to the peeling. It begins with the eggs you choose, how you cook them, and how to treat them once your timer (yes, you must set a timer) dings. For eggs with cooked yolks set to your liking and pearly, smooth, unblemished exteriors, follow our favorite cooking method, outlined here:

The 5-step plan for perfectly boiled eggs:

1. Start with old eggs. 

Farm-fresh eggs will be harder to peel—it’s a matter of their particular chemistry. To minimize frustration, save those straight-from-the-hen eggs for poaching or frying and use a carton of slightly older eggs, like the ones from the grocery store, when boiling. (But first, get to know how to tell when eggs have gone bad.)

You can use cold eggs straight out of the fridge or room-temperature eggs. Some argue that using cold eggs may cause the eggshells to crack due to thermal shock. We find the time saved by not tempering the eggs worth the gamble.

2. Drop the eggs into boiling water. 

Eggs added to a pot of boiling water rather than brought to a boil along with the cold water will be easier to peel. Plus, this method allows for more precise timing. And when you’re boiling eggs with the intention of jamminess—say, for soy-marinated eggs—timing is crucial. But don’t actually drop them in, or you’ll risk lopsided or deflated eggs. Use a slotted spoon or spider to gently lower the eggs into the hot water. Then lower the high heat to maintain a gentle simmer rather than a rolling boil, so the eggs don’t knock around in the pot.

You don’t need to add baking soda or vinegar or salt at this point. Any methods you’ve seen touting these remedies for easy-peel eggs are just folklore. The only thing you need to remember is to add enough water so that the eggs are fully submerged. If any are peeking above the line, they won’t cook evenly.

Cook up to eight large eggs in a single layer in a 2-quart saucepan—more than that, and they might butt heads and crack open.

3. Set a timer. 

Setting a kitchen timer is a must to avoid the dreaded green ring that plagues even slightly over hard-cooked eggs. How long to boil your eggs depends on what level of doneness you’re going for. Set a 7-minute cook time for jammy eggs with set egg whites and firm but gooey yolks, or a 10-minute total time for eggs that are cooked through (but not chalky). You’ll need a bit more time if you’re using jumbo or extra-large eggs.

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