How to boil an egg: zero fuss and tasty results, plus recipe ideas

Looking for tips on how to boil an egg? An easy breakfast or lunch idea, these tricks will help you get it right every time

how to boil an egg
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How to boil an egg – simply by putting an egg into a pan of boiling water, right? Well, yes, but there are a couple of tips for boiling eggs that will ensure you achieve the perfect result, whether you like your eggs runny or hard-boiled. 

First, though, you need to make sure your eggs are fresh. If they've been out for a good while and/or are past the use by date on the carton, you can easily test them for freshness by submerging them in cold water. Any egg that floats has gone off and should be discarded. 

For all our egg recipes, don't miss our dedicated page. For more great recipes, check out our food hub page. 

How to boil an egg: soft-boiled

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If you love your eggs soft-boiled, with a runny centre, boil them for five to five and a half minutes maximum. Make sure that the water is boiling before you put them in, and that the eggs are fully submerged in the water, or they won't cook evenly. After they're done boiling, put them in cold water for half a minute to make them easier to handle.

How to boil an egg: hard-boiled

Boiled eggs

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Hard-boiled eggs will take between eight and 11 minutes to boil, depending on just how hard boiled you like them. We don't recommend boiling the for longer than 11 minutes, as the yolk will go too dry. Again, make sure your eggs are fully covered with water to prevent uneven cooking. 

Should I salt the water for eggs?

Yes – always add a pinch of salt to your boiling water just before adding the eggs. Salted water is hotter (fact) and even prevents the eggs from cracking. 

How to boil an egg like Delia Smith

Obviously there are only so many ways to soft- and hard-boil an egg, but you may find Delia Smith's recipe interesting. Let's see what she has to say...

Delia's first tip is to ensure you're using the right sized pan. She says that your eggs should sit comfortably, without crashing into one another. If you don't have the luxury of a larger pan, she also suggests pricking the round end of your egg with a pin as this will reduce pressure and prevent cracking. Oooh, that's a new one on us.

In terms of how much water to use, Delia suggests that you ensure there's enough to cover your eggs by around 1cm, so keep an eye out for this when filling the pan.

When it comes to timings, Delia's advice is pretty similar to ours. Set a time for six minutes if you like a soft(ish) centre, or seven for an egg that's completely cooked through.

Delia's ultimate trick is what you do with your eggs once they're boiled. Rather than leaving them on the side to cool, or attempting to crack them while they're still warm, she suggests running your eggs under cold water, straight away. This will prevent a dark ring from forming around the yolk.

How to boil an egg like Gordon Ramsay

if you're on the hunt for something a little more exciting, Gordon Ramsay's epic trick for boiled eggs and soldiers is a must-read. He has one secret ingredient that totally transforms the experience for the better.

Wondering what this secret ingredient ir? Well, the key is apparently: anchovies. Bet you didn't see that one coming...

It may sound strange, but this approach is seriously tasty. Give it a go if you're looking for an easy way to enhance your brunch or lunch. Here's everything you need to know:

1. Gordon Ramsay starts by combining anchovies and a small about of pepper in a bowl. From there, he adds an equal amount of butter and grinds to achieve a smooth paste. Don't get rid of your anchovy oil, you'll need that in the next step.

2. Add a small amount of anchovy oil to a frying pan and lightly toast your bread – Gordon Ramsay recommends using sourdough. When ready, remove from the pan and set aside.

3. Now to the eggs. Gordon Ramsay recommends you start by gently lowering your egg into the water on a spoon, into a pan of boiling water. It's important to ensure that they don't hit the bottom, but are instead lowered in gently.

4. Gordon Ramsay then recommends you turn the heat up to full boil, count to five, then reduce it down to a more gently simmer. Leave your eggs to boil for four and a half minutes.

5. Whilst your egg is boiling, spread your anchovy butter onto the toast and sprinkle with chopped parsley and cut into soldiers.

6. Remove your eggs from the boil and serve immediately.

See Gordon Ramsay's epic trick on his own page.

How to boil an egg without cracking like Jamie Oliver

Jamie advises using the best quality eggs you can – at least free range – for this recipe. So, free-range or organic eggs at the ready, here’s what else you should know for perfect boiling results.

1. Jamie uses large eggs for his recipe in order to provide boiling times to match. We think he’s taken the fact that they should be fresh as read, but we do like to double check our eggs before we start. How? Submerge them in cold water and any egg that floats is a non-starter and is discarded.

2. We always make sure our eggs are completely submerged to ensure even cooking. Jamie’s advice is to fill a pan two-thirds full of water, which adds up to the same total immersion.

3. Jamie gets the water up to a fast boil before adding the eggs, and we’re with him 100 per cent on that. And as to salting the water? Yes, we’re as one on that, too. Like us, Jamie adds salt to the boiling water just before putting in the eggs. His is sea salt and who are we to disagree?

4. Lowering the eggs into the boiling water with a slotted spoon is Jamie’s method, and it’s at this point that he uses his neat trick that avoids the eggs’ cracking. You need to lower each egg slowly on the spoon, then remove it – in other words, give it a quick dip – before putting it back into the water and leaving it there. The result? The shock of the temperature change that can make them crack is swerved. Neat, yes? We now do this every time and we haven’t had a failure since.

5. Jamie’s timings are five minutes for runny (we usually do five to five and a half minutes max); 10 minutes for hard boiled eggs (our range is eight to 11 minutes here); and he recommends an in-the-middle of seven and half minutes (tried it and liked it).

6. When we’re making boiled eggs after their allotted time we remove them and put them in cold water for half a minute to make them easier to handle. Jamie? He just takes them out with a spoon, although he does, of course, let them cool if they’re going to be peeled.

We also recently spotted this handy egg timer, which will help ensure you get the timings for the perfect egg just right.


Jamie Oliver's soft boiled eggs with flatbread and chili

A great new way to prepare boiled eggs for breakfast? We’re in. A dish that takes very little time to prepare, and just needs a handful of ingredients? Definitely for us. Looks great on the plate, too? Yes, please. So when Jamie Oliver shared his egg and mango chutney flatbreads on Insta, we were among the happy followers.

We have tried this recipe, and can report that the results are everything we hoped – especially if you like a little spice in your life. Chili gives this dish a kick that makes it a brilliant start to the day. 

Can’t wait to make this fiery egg dish yourself? Scroll down to take a look. 

1. The eggs in Jamie’s recipe are soft boiled. How long does he recommend they’re in the pan of boiling water to achieve just the right yolk consistency? Jamie says five and half minutes exactly. He’s the boss, and we followed suit.

2. Jamie creates his own flatbreads (see our recipe below) for this dish, using flour, yoghurt, a little olive oil and a pinch of salt to make the dough. Once rolled out, Jamie cooks them in a frying pan until each side is golden. While this is super easy, we have to confess that we’ve also used shop-bought to cut down on heat in the kitchen in the recent weather. Our comment? Homemade is better, but we reckon it’s an acceptable cheat in the circs.

3. Jamie then tops the flatbread with some mango chutney, and some more yoghurt. Bear in mind that there’s chili in this, too, so if you (or your fellow breakfaster) are cautious when it comes to spice, you’ll need to allow for it later in the recipe.

4. The halved soft-boiled eggs go on to the flatbreads now. Jamie suggests smashing them with a fork if you like – and we did think this boosted the taste of the dish, helping combine flavours.

5. Jamie’s final step is to finely slice and scatter a red chili over each plate. To take the heat out for one of our dining companions (guinea pigs) we removed the seeds, and the plate looked equally appealing but delivered less heat to chili-sensitive tastebuds. Salt and pepper, plus a drizzle of olive oil, are the final touches Jamie advises. Result? Your plate will be Insta-worthy, too. 

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