How to boil an egg

Duck egg recipes

How to boil an egg

19 October 2023

Learn everything you need to know about boiling eggs – from timings to top tips.

How to boil an egg


Learn everything you need to know about boiling eggs – from timings to top tips.

Boiled eggs are an almost comically popular subject. Soft-boiled eggs have become an Instagram and TikTok star, and figuring out how to peel boiled eggs without the shell clinging to the white for dear life has become an obsession for many a food writer. Part of the charm of boiled eggs to cooks, chefs and writers alike is undeniably their ubiquity. Almost everyone has boiled an egg, so almost everyone has an opinion on how to do it properly. And at GBC we are no different – read on to find out our top tips and favourite techniques for boiling an egg.

How long does it take to boil an egg?

This, unfortunately depends on several things. Mainly, it depends on your method, the size of the egg and whether you want a soft-boiled egg or a hard-boiled egg. It’s also worth noting that eggs vary in size even within the same size classification, and egg size classifications vary between countries. American large eggs are roughly the size of British medium eggs for example.

Hard-boiled eggs have much more room for error than soft-boiled ones. Generally any egg added to a pot of boiling water – even an extra large one – will be hard-boiled in 10 minutes. A medium egg will be done in 9 minutes, but 10 minutes won’t do a smaller egg any harm.

That said, if you really over-cook an egg it can form a slight greyish colour around its yolk. This is caused by sulphur in the egg white reacting with iron in the yolk. Although a touch ugly, the discolouration is harmless, and the eggs are still edible.

It takes 5 minutes to soft-boil a medium egg, 6 minutes to soft-boil a large one and about 6 minutes 30 seconds to soft-boil an extra large one. For soft-boiled eggs, setting a timer as soon as the egg goes in the water is very important, since eggs yolks can go from entirely liquid to set very quickly.

One final factor is temperature: eggs cooked straight from the fridge will take slightly longer to cook than eggs at room temperature. The timings in this article are for room temperature eggs.

How to boil an egg


Bring enough water to cover an egg to a full boil in a pan


Add a large egg to a spoon and lower it into the water, gently slipping it off the spoon at the bottom of the pan


Set a timer for 10 minutes for a hard-boiled egg and 6 minutes for a soft-boiled egg. If your eggs are medium, they will only need 5 minutes to be soft-boiled


Once the timer is up, remove the egg from the water. You can cool it in an ice bath, in a bowl under a running tap, or just let it cool down on its own. Egg yolk will set up as it cools, so a soft-boiled egg that has been left in the fridge overnight will be firmer than one that is eaten warm straight from the pan


Either top the egg or peel it completely. The easiest was to peel an egg is to first tap it against a flat surface or roll it against a countertop to break up the shell. Then peel off the shell under water either in a bowl or under a running tap. The water will help the egg shell come loose and also wash off any little bits of shell still stuck to the outside of the egg white

Will eggs crack if you add them to boiling water?

Eggs can crack when added to hot water. These cracks can look quite severe when the eggs are in the pan, but as the eggs cool – either at room temperature or in an ice bath – the egg will shrink back inside its shell and the cracks will barely be visible anymore.

Some people prefer to start their eggs in cold water in order to avoid eggs cracking, but this will make eggs much harder to peel.

If your egg half explodes out of its shell rather than forms delicate cracks, this could be because it dropped to the bottom of the pan when added to the water and formed a more severe split. The best way to solve this is to gently add the egg to a pan with a slotted spoon. Lower the egg all the way to the bottom of the hot water in the spoon, and then slip it off the spoon. This will stop it from splitting as it sinks to the bottom.

If you really want to avoid any cracks and also reduce the chances that the egg will stick to the shell, you can also steam eggs, but this will slightly change the recommended cook times.

Can you boil an egg in the microwave?

There are lots of viral videos of eggs exploding dramatically in microwaves, evidence of the fact that putting an egg in its shell in a microwave can be a very risky thing to do indeed.

If an egg is completely covered by water it should theoretically be safe to put in a microwave. In reality however, it’s probably not the best idea. If the water evaporates you risk the egg exploding, and as each microwave is different it is difficult to know how long the eggs should cook for. This is definitely a case where just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

Egg-cellent egg sandwiches

One of the absolute best uses for a boiled egg is an egg sandwich. In this ultimate egg mayo sandwich recipe from Helen Graves we deep-dive into the very best way to make one.

Can you ‘boil’ an egg in an air fryer or oven?

Although eggs will cook through in the oven or air fryer, there are mixed reviews about whether or not this is a good idea. It takes much longer to cook an egg through dry heat, and some tests also suggest that baking makes eggs makes them difficult to peel, more likely to crack and also highly unevenly cooked through. Also, since air fryers are generally small and require good air circulation, it’s not a good way to cook more than four eggs or so at a time. Ovens and air fryers are probably best reserved for cooking coddled eggs, shirred eggs and Spanish tortillas rather than boiled eggs.

Get in touch

Please sign in or register to send a comment to Great British Chefs.