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How to boil an egg

Lynn Wright / 14 February 2015

Whether your preference is for hard- or soft-boiled, here’s our guide to timing the perfectly boiled egg.

Boiled egg and soldiers
For a runny yolk, boil large eggs for 5 minutes for a runny yolk

Everyone has his or her own view on what makes the perfect boiled egg. For some, it must have an oozing golden centre surrounded by a tender set white, while for others a wobbly white and runny yolk are the stuff of nightmares. Whether your preference is for hard or soft-boiled, or somewhere in between, it’s easy to get the perfect boiled egg simply by altering cooking times.

There are three main techniques for boiling eggs:

  • Place eggs in boiling water, then simmer until cooked.
  • Place eggs in cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer until cooked.
  • Place eggs in cold water, bring to the boil, then remove the saucepan from the heat and cover with a lid. Leave the eggs to cook in the cooling water.

Cooking times will vary depending on which technique you use. A couple of key things to remember is never place fridge-cold eggs in hot water as they’re more likely to crack – and simmer, rather than boil, your eggs to avoid overcooked, rubbery whites.

How to boil an egg

1. If necessary, take your eggs out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. This helps prevent the shells from cracking when placed in hot water.

2. Select a small saucepan to prevent the eggs knocking into each other. Fill it with enough water to cover the eggs by about half an inch. Too much water means more space for the eggs to move around and potentially crack shells.

3. Place it over a high heat and bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a slight simmer.

4. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower the eggs one at a time into the simmering water.

5. Set your timer for the desired time. If using large eggs, cook for 5 minutes for a runny yolk and just set white; 71/2 minutes for a firmer but still gooey yolk and 10 minutes for a hard-boiled egg.

6. If serving soft boiled, lift the eggs out of the water and transfer to egg-cups. Lightly tap the top of each egg with a teaspoon to crack it, then cut or scoop the top 1cm off so you can see the yolk. Eat straight from the shell, preferably with hot, buttered toast soldiers for dipping. More firmly cooked eggs can be carefully cracked and peeled like a hard-boiled egg.

7. For hard-boiled eggs, remove the saucepan from the heat as soon as the eggs are cooked. Plunge the eggs into a bowl of cold water or let the cold tap run over them for a minute then leave them in cold water for a further 2 minutes. This stops the eggs from continuing to cook in the residual heat, preventing dark rings forming between the yolks and the whites. When they’re cool enough to handle, tap the egg lightly on a hard surface to crack the shell and then peel.


Adding a small pinch of salt to the water can help to prevent the eggs cracking during cooking.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.