How to make perfect hard-boiled eggs

Ask any egg aficionado how to make hard-boiled eggs, and she might start by telling you something you weren't expecting to hear: start with old eggs.

As odd as that sounds, it's good advice. Old eggs are easier to peel when they're hard-boiled. So if you have a party coming up and you want to serve deviled eggs, egg salad, or maybe even a spicy egg curry, buy your eggs a week ahead of time. When it comes time to peel those eggs, your fingers will thank you.

So, got your old eggs ready? Here's how to make hard-boiled eggs—perfectly.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil

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You want enough water in the pot to cover all your eggs completely. (Eggs they aren't covered completely will be unevenly cooked.) Some recipes call for salting the water—the salt will coagulate any egg white that escapes from a broken shell, according to The New York Times—but this is completely optional and, honestly, unnecessary.

What's that? You've heard that you should start the eggs in cold water? That's a myth—and we've debunked it.

2. Gently lower the eggs into the water

Use a large spoon to lower the eggs into the boiling water. (If you drop the eggs in haphazardly, they can hit the bottom of the pot and crack, leaving you with egg whites floating in the water.) Oh, and start with cold eggs if you can—it makes the finished eggs easier to peel.

3. Lower the heat slightly and boil for 8 to 14 minutes

If the water is still at a full boil, lower the heat a little so that the eggs aren't jumping around in the pan. Then set a timer and let the eggs cook to your desired doneness. Boiled eggs can be ready to eat in as little as 4 minutes, though at that point they will be soft-boiled (the kind you spoon right out of the shell). After 8 minutes they will be hard-boiled, but those who like drier hard-boiled eggs can keep going all the way to 14 minutes. Use the guide below to achieve the level of doneness you desire.

4 minutes: eat-it-with-a-spoon-out-of-the-shell soft

5 minutes: firm white, runny yolk

6 minutes: firm white, gooey yolk

8 minutes: firm white, fully set yolk, but still sort of gooey and golden

10 minutes: firm white, a firmer pale yolk, with just a bit softness in the middle

12 minutes: firm white, almost completely hard-boiled yolk

14 minutes: firm white, completely hard-boiled crumbly dry pale yolk

More: How to Use Up Your Leftover Hard-Boiled Eggs

4. Transfer the eggs to an ice bath

When the timer goes off, use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs from the boiling water to a bowl full of ice water. The ice bath will stop the egg from cooking further (ensuring it will be exactly as you want it). Some people think the ice bath is also one more thing that makes the eggs easier to peel.

5. Peel and eat!

When your eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them under cool, running water. The water will get under the shell, which will help you lift the shell away from the egg cleanly. (It also ensures that any tiny flecks of shell left on the eggs are washed away.)

Another option: do as Epicurious's Food Director Rhoda Boone does and submerge the eggs in a pot of cool water. Swirl the pot so that the eggs rattle around and their shells crack. This method has the same benefits of the running water, only with less water use. And it is allegedly faster—Rhoda can peel a dozen eggs in under two minutes this way.

Now that your eggs are ready, eat them! Use them in sandwiches, salads, pasta, or casseroles. Here are 12 recipes to get you started.