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Hard boiled eggs at altitude

I've lived in Denver for five years and still can't seem to get my timing right for hard boiled eggs. Any tips from experienced high altitude cooks on method/timing so that my eggs are fully cooked but not overdone?

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  1. Never hard boil an egg. Eggs need to be treated gently and boiling is one of the worst things you can do to one. If you are using standard lg. eggs put them in a pot and cover with cold water by an inch. Add about a tsp. of white vinegar and bring just to a boil. As soon as you reach boiling temperature cover the pot and turn the heat as low as it will go. Leave the pot undisturbed for 15 minutes then remove from the heat and drain. Cover the pot again and give it a good shake to crack the shells all over. Cover with ice and cold water and chill until cool enough to handle. You should have tender firm whites, creamy smooth yolks and no green ring. If you have a copy of Joy of Cooking they are very specific on hard cooking eggs and timing. Altitude has nothing to do with it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Actually, since water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes (around 10 degrees F lower in Denver) it *does* have something to do with it. I'm only at about 3500 feet and I have trouble getting them right as well (and I had to pretty much re-learn to bake when I moved here from sea level too!).

      Best advice I could find was this rather scientific article: http://newton.ex.ac.uk/teaching/CDHW/...
      Basically it says if your eggs are room temperature they will take about 40% longer to boil than they would at sea level and if you're putting them straight into the pot from the refrigerator they will take about 10-15% longer.

      I've also found good advice for other high-altitude cooking questions on the Colorado State University extension office site here: http://www.cerc.colostate.edu/titles/... (although everyone is very non-specific about eggs!)

      1. re: mizinformation

        The Newton site is hilarious if you've been around engineers your entire prof life. My favorite line:
        Under results in the first section "the final result is relatively simple:" Then a picture of a multivariable log function.

        Freakin hilarious.


      2. re: Candy

        Candy, when people speak of hard-boiled eggs, they are talking about the consistency of the egg, which is "hard" when compared to "soft-boiled" eggs, which are only boiled (or simmered, if you prefer) to a soft consistency.

        When a food is cooked at a lower temperature, common sense tells us it takes longer to cook. If you believe that the Joy of Cooking is the authority on the boiling temperature of water instead of the thousands of scientists who tell us that water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes, then you will want to see page 145 in the Joy of Cooking (if you have the hard-cover version I do). Under High-Altitude Cooking, it says, "But any process involving liquid will be proportionately lengthened as altitude increases: see the chart below showing the boiling point of water at different levels." The chart shows clearly that water boils at 212 degrees F at sea level, and that drops to 203 F at 5,000 feet.

        1. re: Candy

          altitude has lots to do with it. I live at sealevel and have my "system" for soft and hard boiled eggs down pat (and as someone said, hard boiled simply means the egg is solid) and when I visited my brother at 8000 feet I was shocked at how much longer each took; probably half again as long. I think you're just going to have to carefully keep track of what you try and optimize it for how you like your egg. My method is to bring cold eggs to a boil in a pot, put a lid on and turn the heat off and time at 14 minutes for hard boiled. But it's likely to be more like 18 or 20 in Denver.

        2. It's very difficult to have an egg perfectly done boiling it. Tried many times, the best result was letting the eggs get to room temp before cooking(that's the important part), then putting them into a (big) pot of boiling water. The cook times here are ~1.5-1.75x the times quoted in most cookbooks. If you live above Denver(Evergreen, Bailey, etc.) my advice would be don't bother. Basted is a better and more reliable preparation, although you don't get to whack the shell.
          To baste: let the eggs get to room temp and preheat a frying pan with oil/butter in it, avocado oil or bacon grease is my favorite. Crack the eggs and crack some fresh pepper and salt onto the top. Put a tablespoon of water into the pan and cover with a tight lid. The steam cooks the top of the egg and the yolk to whatever consistency you like(I'm a 1.5 minute or less fan), and the bottom is nicely fried but not crispy.

          Candy, you are absolutely incorrect about altitude not having anything to do with it.


          11 Replies
          1. re: TNC

            Take it up with Joy of Cooking. Altitude counts in baking, 212 is 212. Never boil and egg

            1. re: Candy

              What is the problem with boiling? At sea level, water boils at 100C; it doesn't get any hotter, regardless of how vigorous the boil. If the heat is reduced to a simmer, it will remain close to 100C, maybe a few degrees lower, except at the bottom of the pan where a few bubbles form.

              A higher altitudes, boiling temperature decreases.

              I suspect that the real difference between boil and simmer is the turbulence in the water, not the temperature. Just to be sure, I'll go put a pot of water on a simmer and check.


              1. re: paulj

                OK, at 500 ft altitude, I measured a rolling boil at 210F - close enough to 212, allowing 1deg for altitude, and 1 deg for weather. Reducing that to a simmer, with bubbles forming on the bottom, but not rising to the surface, I get closer to 206.

                For Denver, at 5000 ft, boiling temperature should be about 10 F lower than at sea level, down to the 200F range.

                According to H. McGee, egg whites can be cooked at 185F - but it takes up to 30 minutes to get the heat all the way to the yoke at this temperature.

                So there are two issues regarding a boil. A rolling boil jostles the eggs and can break the shells. The closer the temperature is to 185 the more tender the cooked egg, but the longer it takes to cook them all the way through. Apart from the jostling, a rolling boil in Denver may produce a more tender egg than a gentle simmer at sea level.


                1. re: paulj

                  "What is the problem with boiling?" Boiling an egg may produce a strong sulfur smell and a green ring around the yolk. I think the cause of sulfur/green is too high of a temperature.

                  1. re: Alan408

                    What temperature produces the smell, and what temperture prevents it?

                2. re: Candy

                  Yes, Candy, take it up with the Joy of Cooking, which agrees with scientists everywhere. See High-Altitude Cooking under "The Foods We Heat" in the Joy of Cooking to confirm what scientists and people who LIVE in high altitudes know - altitude counts in boiling!

                  1. re: jenlan

                    If you had a pot of water boiling at the top of Mt. Everest you could put your hand in it and it wouldn't burn you. It would be hot but it would not hurt you.

                  2. re: Candy

                    But water doesn't boil at 212 in Denver! That's the whole point!

                    1. re: DGresh

                      Well, technically, water is still boiling at 212, but it's been boiling for a bit before that. Right?

                      1. re: npratt

                        Unless it's in a pressure cooker, water boiling in Denver can not reach 212 degrees. About 210. Higher altitudes are even more problematic, but most situations have been "charted out" to allow one to compensate.

                        1. re: npratt

                          the whole point is that the water reaches the "boiling temp" whatever that is, and does *not* get any hotter. It turns to steam (unless as veggo noted, it's under pressure).

                  3. Hard cooked vs. hard boiled. I am in the hard cooked camp. I use the method posted by Candy. The boiling temperature of water is not the determining factor (because the eggs are not boiled), size and egg temp have more influences than altitude.

                    My rest time is usually 17 minutes and I poke a hole in the round end of the egg (saw someone do that on television).

                    I think the type of sauce pan used (cast iron vs stainless steel) or the volume has more influence than altitude making hard cooked eggs. However, I do agree that "boiling" foods take longer at high altitude, potatoes for mashed potatoes have been my challange.

                    edit: after posting I re-read the thread, I remove the pot from the electric stove vs. Candy's leaving the pot on low. That explains (to me) the 2 minute difference.

                    1. My house is a bit higher than 6000' feet in the foothills of the Sandias on the E side of Albuquerque, Sarah. I put the eggs in the water, bring it to a boil (which is a lot lower than 212° F at this altitude - remember how pressure affects boiling points people), and then turn the gas down and simmer them for 20 minutes. Works for us.

                      The lower boiling point is something that I have to keep an eye on with my homebrews, too.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Erich

                        If you put a bunch of salt in your water you can raise the boiling point back to 212F.
                        1 tablespoon / cup of water gives you 5 degrees higher boiling point. If you have a probe thermometer you can titrate ( calibrate) how much salt you need to get to 212 where you live.
                        Heat 2 cups of water to a boil and add a teaspoon at a time until your thermometer reaches 212. This is ok for eggs, but do not try this for pasta.


                      2. I've found several people who use pressure cookers to make hard cooked eggs. Wish I could find the original article I read years ago from the Egg Council or similar institution.

                        That should take care of your altitude problem.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: tudza

                          for me a pressure cooker sounds like overkill. Better to just experiment a bit to find out how many minutes of standing in the brought-to-boiling water provides a good result for your taste at your altitude. For me (at about 300 feet) it's 14 minutes in a covered pan. Start at 20 minutes or so and go up or down by a minute or two depending on the results.

                          1. re: DGresh

                            I have several pressure cooker books, and can't find any entry for eggs, whole or not.

                            Vegetables like potatoes and onions are very sensitive to cooking temperatures. Below sea level boiling point cooking times go way up, above that they drop significantly. But a temperature like 180F is enough to cook eggs. In fact some changes in the egg proteins start as low as 130F.

                        2. I live at the north end of the springs at just shy of 7,000 feet. the way I get the best hard boiled eggs is bring a pot of water to a rolling boil then place the eggs in the water and boil for 20 minutes. Then transfer the pot under running cold water to dilute out all the boiling water and bring the eggs to a steady cool temp. I then chill under ice for about 10 minutes. then they are ready to peel and enjoy.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: cooper_girard

                            Just followed these direction up in Denver (5280, baby!) and it worked like a charm! My first batch of yummy eggs at altitude! Upon suggestions of others, I brought the eggs to room temp before starting. I kept the burner up at high the whole 20 mins. They were well cooked (may cook for 1-2 mins less next time), no green discoloration/funny smell. Thanks for sharing your method!

                            1. re: cooper_girard

                              Just now tried this technique, and we are enjoying the best hard boiled eggs since moving to altitude (Boulder) years and years ago! Have tried many of the others described in this thread, including bringing to boil and then removing from heat and allowing to sit in water for17+ minutes, and they are always undercooked with a green ring and a mess to peel, even when pricked. Thank you so much for sharing cooper_girard! Both the white and yolk are perfect texture and color, and they peel beautifully. I did use an egg pricker before cooking them. Thank you SO much for sharing! Perfection!

                              1. re: cooper_girard

                                What size eggs do you use? I buy jumbo eggs and have yet to figure out the best way to hard boil them. It is a rare egg that lets loose of its shell without taking half the egg with it. I am at 9000 feet.

                                1. re: Headwindtom

                                  Wow! Lobbing jumbo eggs from 9000 ft. should be enough firepower to take down a bighorn sheep!

                              2. Wow, such a fuss over eggs! Just a couple of clarifications - the green ring/sulfur smell is from overcooking, not cooking at too high of a temperature. Though cooking at too high of temperature will make the overcooking much more likely. I live in Denver, and have been refining my hard cooked/hard boiled (really?? calm down!) method for a few years. Here's what I have come up with:
                                Put the eggs in a pot and cover with at least an inch of cold water. Place the pot on a burner on high, and watch carefully. As soon as the water hits a rolling boil,remove the pot from the heat and cover. Set your timer at that point. My time here in Denver (actually just outside, at about 5000 feet,) is 28 minutes. As soon as the timer goes off, place the pot in the sink and run cold water over the eggs until they are completely cooled. The point is to stop the cooking as fast as possible. Once the eggs are cool, put them in the fridge or shell and eat. If you are shelling them immediately, just leave the cold water in the pot and shake it back and forth rapidly to crack the shells. Let it sit for a few minutes, and the shells will come off easier. Very fresh eggs are harder to shell, as they have not built up the air pocket between the shell and membrane with aging.

                                I hope that's helpful. Not necessarily new info from above, but it is what works for me here in your specific location.


                                4 Replies
                                1. re: alclaire

                                  glad to have found this thread - i'm at about 7,000 feet and have been having trouble with eggs since i got here. i've been using my usual method -letting eggs come to room temp on the counter, placing in pot, filling with water until they are just covered, bringing to a rolling boil, turning the heat off and letting them sit for 12-15 mins under a lid before dumping the water and leaving under a stream of cold water. my problem isn't that they aren't cooking well (they are!) but that they WILL NOT peel well. i work in a soup kitchen and we are making large quantities, and we never end up with one egg peeled perfectly. i haven't tried vinegar in the water yet, which i've heard works. i know that fresher eggs are harder to peel, but i dont think ours are that fresh because they are donations coming from a food bank.

                                  i can't think of any reasons why they wont peel well - is the altitude to blame for this? if i cook them longer will the white be firmer and therefore easier to peel? has anyone else had this problem at high altitude?

                                  1. re: mg84

                                    How old are your eggs? Most often I hard boil the last eggs in a carton, ones that have been in my fridge for a week or so. They tend to peel well - not always, but more often than not.

                                    On the other hand, a batch that were cooked and color just before Easter, aren't peeling well.

                                    Between the shell and the cooked white is a membrane. On an easy peeling egg, that membrane comes off with the shell.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      I live at 8,500'. When I lived in Houston, I could make a perfectly cooked hard boiled egg in just over 15 minutes.... the first time I tried that up here, I had very runny eggs <g>. At my altitude, here's what I do.... cover with water, bring to a rolling boil and IMMEDIATELY decrease to a mere simmer.... for a FULL 26 to 28 minutes.

                                      They will come out perfectly. In other words, at an altitude this high, you just about double your cooking time.

                                      I am still working on my quiche... it comes out riddled with tiny holes, and I can't find the answer why. Any help out there??


                                    2. re: mg84

                                      Try this: Just continue what you are doing in regards to cooking the eggs. When you get to the poing where you run cold water on them - put them in a bowl of water with ice in it instead. Let them sit in the cold water until chilled.

                                      Chilling or "shocking" the egg in cold water serves two purposes:
                                      "1. When rapidly cooked, eggs, like most dense foods, do not heat evenly. The outside portions of the egg (the egg whites) are much hotter than the interior (the egg yolk). By shocking the shell with ice water, we lower the temperature of the egg whites to a temperature below that of the egg yolk and this causes the egg yolk to stop cooking. Otherwise, the yolk would continue to draw heat from the whites and raise its temperature while the egg white temperature lowered resulting in overcooked egg yolks.
                                      2. The other reason for shocking the eggs is that it causes a little bit of shrinkage in the egg, hopefully making it easier to peel.” (http://www.cookingforengineers.com/re...


                                      Hopefully that helps!

                                  2. I live at 6200' and make hard boiled eggs regularly. I add a good amount of salt to the water to raise the boiling temp, bring to a boil, cover,remove from heat, let sit 17 minutes. Perfect. At lower elevations, I can leave out the salt and reduce the time. But not here.

                                    1. Hard boiled eggs in Denver... using a steamer:
                                      For timing to be accurate, allow steamer to reach a steam. Then place several standard Large eggs (which should be at room temperature) in rack / tray and cover. Steam for 25 minutes (you can go 2 or 3 minutes over), then remove eggs from steamer and place in chilled water. Remove shell and serve.

                                      The first time I did this, the eggs were perfect! I used a large Lotus Foods stainless steel steamer. While the eggs are chilling, you can throw some veggies and meat into the steamer for the rest of your meal.

                                      1. I'm in Loveland and I actually just use my electric kettle for small batches. I put 3-4 eggs in the kettle and set my timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, they are just right. My husband sets the timer for 20 minutes though.

                                        If I am cooking them on the stove top then I'll boil them for 12-15 minutes. You are a little bit higher up in Denver than I am over here in Loveland though so you might want to be on the 15 min side of things if doing it on the stove top. If in an electric kettle then closer to 20.

                                        Look up alton brown's take on hard boiled eggs, it has worked well for us, we just add more time for altitude differences.

                                        And I don't know you Candy, but I learned the hard way that altitude does make a difference. I could hard boil eggs in less time up in Washington state than I ever could here in Colorado.

                                        1. Interesting threads on this blog site. One of the more interesting is one can put their hand in boiling water at a very high mountain top and not be hurt because water boils at a lower temperature the higher up one goes. Using physics there is not a mountain top high enough to do this. The summit of Mt Everest, which is ~ 29K feet above sea level, would allow water to boil at ~ 150 degrees F ...... way to hot for my mear body.

                                          As to cooking soft boiled eggs at altitude, several factors come into play ..... like temperature of eggs, size of egg, type of heating, temperature of water out of the faucet, and, yes, altitude. Part of the year I live at 1298 FASL (feet above sea level) and another part of the year at 8200 FASL. Down low I find if I put an extra large egg right out of the refrigerator into a pot of cold water and turn on the gas burner to high, I get the perfect, for me at least, soft boiled egg if I time the cooking for 2 minutes and 30 seconds from the time the water first starts its rolling boil. When the water starts to boil I then turn the heat down to simmer.

                                          At 8200 feet I just duplicate the above but cook for 5 minutes with the same results. One might hypothize doing the same for hard boiled eggs by just dubbling the cooking time.

                                          1. I live at an altitude of 8,520' at the base of Pike's Peak. Our water boils up here at 195 degrees F (I measured it). To get the perfect hard boiled egg up here, I start with cold water and eggs right out of the fridge. Cover eggs by about an inch of water; Bring the water and eggs to a roaring boil and boil for 20 minutes; then I reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Finally, quench eggs in cold water until they are cold. Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs!

                                            1. I live at about a 5000' altitude. My HBE method is to put the eggs in cold water in a heavy pot with a well-fitting lid and to bring the water up to a boil with the eggs in it. Reduce the heat to a medium simmer, and allow to simmer, covered, for exactly 3 minutes. Turn of the heat and allow to sit covered for another 10 minutes. Run under cold water and peel.

                                              1. According to this sous-vide egg cooking chart (widely distributed on the web), 167F is sufficient for a hard cooked egg (holding time 1 hr).

                                                1. I live in Fort Morgan, CO, 80 miles northeast of Denver. We're around 4100 ft. I use the Joy of Cooking technique - Bring a pot of water to just above simmer, making sure you have an inch of water above where the eggs will be. Once there, insert eggs with a slotted spoon. Cook for 14 minutes (the yolk may be a bit soft) to 15 minutes (if you prefer your yolk to be firmly set,) all the while maintaining the simmer. Remove from heat and immerse in cold water. I don't know if keeping the heat on is the difference, but my eggs are always great. Oh, JoC recommends a 1 minute increase per 1000 ft.