Bookmark and Share October 24, 2009 - Dave Mulder

Hard-boiled eggs: Way more than you wanted to know

I crunched the numbers on this, and if my calculations are correct then J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at set a new world record for “longest article about hard boiling eggs”. This thing clocks in at around 150,000 words. Okay, you’re right, that’s an exaggeration. Barely.

You’ll need to head over to Lopez-Alt’s article for the full scoop, but here’s the gist on making a perfect hard-boiled egg: It’s all about the initial volume of water.

Fellow physics nerds will remember that water has a high specific heat capacity. This means that it takes longer to add heat and remove heat from a water system.

Lopez-Alt finds that the optimal volume of water is 1.5 quarts. If you start with cool tap water and then bring it to a simmer, you’re adding approximately 425,000 Joules of energy to that system. Now imagine that you start with 4.0 quarts and also bring it to a simmer. That extra water puts about 2.6 times as much energy in the pan and it has to go somewhere.

Usually, that destination will be the eggs themselves, meaning they will be overcooked within that volume of water. By paying close attention to the volume of water that goes in there, you can control how well done the eggs get.

Oh yeah, and make sure you’re not using generic white grocery store eggs. Lay down a little more scratch for some seriously good locally-produced eggs.

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