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Feb 6, 2007 01:06 PM

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:
      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: (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.