HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Gray Ring Around Yolk of Hard Boiled Eggs...

Funwithfood Jul 28, 2011 10:08 AM

No matter how softly I boil eggs, *after* refrigerating them they always have a gray ring around the yolk. I heard somewhere that placing eggs in ice water after cooking prevents this (I rinse with cold water for 5 minutes). Have you found this to be true?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. f
    ferret RE: Funwithfood Jul 28, 2011 10:14 AM

    Has nothing to do with ice water and everything to do with (over)cooking. To hard "boil" eggs, place them in room temp water in a pot, bring to a boil and then cover and remove from heat. Wait 12-13 minutes and then rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Yolks should be yellow all the way through.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ferret
      Norm Man RE: ferret Jul 28, 2011 10:36 AM

      That gray ring is iron that leached out from overcooked yolks. Follow "ferret's" directions to get perfect boiled eggs.

      Link to another way to boil eggs:


      1. re: Norm Man
        jjjrfoodie RE: Norm Man Jul 28, 2011 12:19 PM

        I use the same process as ferret and seldom if every get the green rings.

        I rinse in cold water after cooking in a running water bath for 3- 5 minutes until cool to the touch then add ice and change out non-running cold water bath every 5 minutes or so until internal egg temps drops and stops cooking. Then right into the fridge.

        1. re: jjjrfoodie
          Amy Mintzer RE: jjjrfoodie Jul 28, 2011 12:28 PM

          A nice big ice-water bath (with plenty of ice), and you won't have to run water or change water every 5 min. Eggs stop cooking and cool down quickly. In my experience.

          1. re: Amy Mintzer
            pine time RE: Amy Mintzer Jul 28, 2011 01:12 PM

            +1 on ferret's method.

            1. re: pine time
              Mr Taster RE: pine time Jul 28, 2011 01:15 PM


              Mr Taster

        2. re: Norm Man
          rainey RE: Norm Man Jul 31, 2011 01:11 PM

          Those are excellent directions and yet I find that even an egg that's never been overcooked can develop the gray ring over time so don't do more eggs at a time than you mean to use in 24-36 hours.

      2. dave_c RE: Funwithfood Jul 28, 2011 11:53 AM

        The gray/greenish ring result from eggs not being cooled and/or overcooking.

        Typically, I boil eggs 7 to 8 minutes and cool immediately. No ring around the yolk.

        1. Peg RE: Funwithfood Jul 28, 2011 01:07 PM

          Why is a ring round the yolk a problem?
          It tastes the same to me - why make an effort to avoid it?

          8 Replies
          1. re: Peg
            Mr Taster RE: Peg Jul 28, 2011 01:10 PM

            It's not the grey ring itself which is the problem. It's that the grey ring is an indication that the yolk has been overcooked, and overcooked yolks are dry and crumbly.

            A properly cooked egg yolk will be bright yellow and *moist* all the way through. If you've never had a properly cooked egg yolk, you've probably resigned yourself to believing that overboiled egg yolks are the only way to make them, and it's simply not true.

            I have been using a method similar to ferret's with perfect results nearly every time, although I usually steep the eggs in boiled water for about 10-11 minutes and then plunge the eggs into an ice water bath. On very rare occasions the center of the eggs are a little underdone, but it doesn't bother me as I enjoy soft boiled eggs too.

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster
              Peg RE: Mr Taster Jul 28, 2011 10:32 PM

              Ah - I have done them both ways (overcooked and not) and actually prefer the dry crumbly ones unless I'm aiming at a semi-liquid yolk.

              1. re: Peg
                Mr Taster RE: Peg Jul 29, 2011 09:23 AM

                >> unless I'm aiming at a semi-liquid yolk.

                Just to be clear, a properly cooked egg should not be semi-liquid, which would be undercooked (sorry if my example threw you off).

                A properly cooked yolk is a moist solid, as opposed to a dry, crumbly solid.

                Mr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster
                  pilotgirl210 RE: Mr Taster Aug 30, 2011 11:14 AM

                  We make dozens of eggs each year for our Elks Family Picnic potato salad, and we never get the gray ring. One secret to easy peeling is to buy the eggs a week before you plan to boil them. (I do this each Easter, too.) I put them in a large pot, cover the eggs with water by about an extra inch or two, bring to a rolling boil, remove from heat and cover for 12 minutes. Then I put them in an ice water bath. Have no problems with rings, as this method really works. Learned this as a home economics major at Oregon State. Go Beavs!!!

              2. re: Mr Taster
                BH. RE: Mr Taster Aug 29, 2011 06:24 PM

                change your terminology, they are soft cooked and hard cooked eggs as Boiling is what causes the over cooking and the black ring around the yolk, this is what we learned to college food science classed!!!!!,

                1. re: BH.
                  Mr Taster RE: BH. Aug 29, 2011 10:34 PM

                  But this isn't food science. It's an art.

                  People can enjoy their boiled eggs soft, hard, or at the wide grey area in the middle where the yolk is more soft than hard, or more hard than soft.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster
                    John E. RE: Mr Taster Aug 30, 2011 07:12 AM

                    I think the point was that the eggs should not be boiled, but simmered.

                    1. re: John E.
                      Mr Taster RE: John E. Aug 30, 2011 11:00 AM

                      Perhaps... I took my best guess at what BH. was trying to communicate.

                      Mr Taster

            2. greygarious RE: Funwithfood Jul 28, 2011 03:21 PM

              True or not, I can't say, but what Jacques Pepin has to say about the dreaded ring is that it is caused by sulfur migrating to the coolest part of the egg during cooking, and that the way to prevent them is by promptly cracking the shell after dumping the cooking water, then putting the egg into ice-cold water. He says the sulfur migrates toward the now colder white, and escapes into the water through the cracks. He cracks the eggs by leaving them in the cooking pan while he pours out the hot water, then swishing the pan around until the eggs crack by smashing into each other and the sides of the pan. Then he fills with ice water.

              Don't shoot the messenger. I am just paraphrasing what he said on one of his TV shows and
              have almost always found his advice to be sound.

              14 Replies
              1. re: greygarious
                John E. RE: greygarious Jul 28, 2011 09:37 PM

                That sulfer migrating thing sounds like something Jacques learned as an apprentice in France in about 1950. I think the cracking the egg and placing it in cold water will make it easier to peel but the gray/green ring is from overcooking not from not allowing the sulfer to 'migrate'. The old time chefs (not necessarily Jacques) are the same people who claim there are male and female eggplant and other interesting tales.

                1. re: John E.
                  dave_c RE: John E. Aug 1, 2011 07:50 AM

                  The sulfur reason was something I learned about in a cooking class.
                  Also, it's the same reason listed on the American Egg Board website... http://www.incredibleegg.org/recipes-...

                  In regards to make and female eggplants, Alton Brown mentions that male eggplants are better if you have older/more mature eggplants.

                  1. re: dave_c
                    John E. RE: dave_c Aug 1, 2011 11:57 AM

                    Except that there is no such thing as 'male' and 'female' eggplants. An eggplant is a fruit without a gender.

                    1. re: John E.
                      Mr Taster RE: John E. Aug 1, 2011 12:03 PM

                      There are indeed gender differences in fruits as a result of how they were pollinated. If you doubt it, read about the complicated sex life of figs.

                      As for the practical implications of this gender bias, the male fig is fibrous and entirely inedible whereas the female yields a juicy fruit.


                      As far as eggplants, one gender has quite a lot more seeds than the other, in addition to more subtle physical characteristics (a dimpled versus a flat blossom end, etc.)

                      If what you're really arguing is over the semantics of whether fruits explicitly possess sex organs in the way, I'll leave that for the botanists to discuss. Though I do remember a rather game changing lecture in my freshman biology class where my professor described a fruit (such as an apple) as a huge, overdeveloped ovary.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster
                        John E. RE: Mr Taster Aug 1, 2011 06:34 PM

                        I did not say that there were not eggplants that have more seeds than other eggplants (I know virtually nothing of figs), I simy said that there is no such thing as a 'female' eggplant or a 'male' eggplant. You may call it semantics, I call it facts. The eggplants are the result of the flower on an eggplant plant being pollinated.

                        1. re: John E.
                          dave_c RE: John E. Aug 2, 2011 11:20 AM

                          From a gardening class I took ages ago, I believe eggplants are self-fertile where an eggplant can grow from a male or female flower. Pollination helps ensure flower set and a good crop/better yield.

                          True or not? I never really questioned it.

                          1. re: John E.
                            Mr Taster RE: John E. Aug 2, 2011 12:05 PM

                            I'm hardly an horticultural expert. But isn't every fruit the result of pollination? The pollen (sperm) from the male organs travels down the flower to the ovary, and the ovary grows into the fruit, whether it's apples or figs or eggplants.

                            If figs develop specific traits related to gender, then why is it so absurd to consider that eggplants could do the same? I'm asking sincerely. I really don't know the answer.

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster
                              John E. RE: Mr Taster Aug 2, 2011 07:48 PM

                              Figs are tricky. They do not have flowers in the normal sense nor are figs fruit. They are inflorescences. I don't claim to know everything there is to know about eggplants and I surely don't know everything about figs, but you also have not provided enough information to believe the resulting ''offspring' that we eat have a gender. I also don't need for you to provide such information because I am really not that interested in the subject.

                              1. re: John E.
                                Mr Taster RE: John E. Aug 2, 2011 11:00 PM

                                > I also don't need for you to provide such information because I am really not that interested in the subject.

                                Fair enough. (Though for someone uninterested, you've replied an awful lot!)

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster
                                  Altarbo RE: Mr Taster Aug 3, 2011 02:32 AM

                                  So . . .

                                  Even though eggplants look like gourds and are in the nightshade family with sexy tomatoes and evil jimson weed, eggplants can self pollinate? And if an eggplant self pollinates it changes the amount of seeds it produces? What benefit to the eggplant is producing the less seedy fruit? Is self-pollination some crazy last ditch effort on the plant's behalf?

                                  1. re: Mr Taster
                                    John E. RE: Mr Taster Aug 3, 2011 10:15 AM

                                    You kept asking me questions. Sometimes we (me) post things that are meant to be innocuous but generate a response that increases their importance far greater than intended. This is one of those instances.

                      2. re: John E.
                        greygarious RE: John E. Aug 21, 2011 08:46 AM

                        Apparently JP is on solid scientific ground here after all! I just got the 1997 paperback edition of McGee's "On Food and Cooking". On p. 69, "The yolk contains a good deal of iron, and the albumen a good deal of sulfur, primarily in side chains on the protein ovalbumin. When that protein is heated, some of its sulfur atoms are liberated and react with hydrogen ions in the albumen to form hydrogen sulfide (H2S)...As the gas forms, it diffuses in all directions, and some reaches the surface of the yolk, where it encounters iron and reacts to form the dark particles of ferrous sulfide (FeS). The way to minimize the discoloration is to minimize the amount of hydrogen sulfide that reaches the yolk. First, cook the eggs only as long as necessary to set the yolk. Then plunge the cooked eggs immediately into cold water. This lowers the pressure of the gas in the outer regions of the white, since cool gases exert less pressure than hot, and cool protein loses less sulfur than hot. Consequently the hydrogen sulfide diffuses away from the yolk, toward the region of lower pressure at the surface. Finally, peel the eggs promptly: this also helps pull the gas away from the yolk."

                        1. re: greygarious
                          Funwithfood RE: greygarious Aug 21, 2011 09:43 AM

                          Interesting, thanks!

                          I never thought to peel my eggs right away...will be a hard habit to "break" :).

                          1. re: greygarious
                            John E. RE: greygarious Aug 21, 2011 09:51 PM

                            You have written an interesting post, so it's still about overcooking the eggs?

                      3. Funwithfood RE: Funwithfood Jul 28, 2011 04:07 PM

                        Thanks mine are perfect when eaten before refrigerating.

                        The only thing I do differently from the video is add them to ice water after cooking (and I think she cracked them too--that's a new one for me, she & Jacques must be on to something there!)

                        1. a
                          Altarbo RE: Funwithfood Jul 29, 2011 02:24 AM

                          You say, "no matter how softly I boil" the eggs. Do you mean you get gray rings on eggs with runny yolks or you get gray rings boiling at a low setting? No matter what setting your stove is on, water will boil at the same temp.

                          - Like ferret said, if you're going for hard boiled you can drop the eggs into the water, before you bring it to a boil. If you want soft-boiled eggs, you need to hurry up and set the whites before the yolk. If you want hard-boiled that's not an issue.

                          - Your yolk should start out as a bright liquid. As it cooks it will become a goop, then a jam, then a pliable solid, then a firm ball, and finally a crumbly pebble. If you want it crumbly it will always turn out grey. :( My mom would intentionally cook her eggs like this.

                          If you want something firm or pliably solid then you shouldn't get gray rings. Try cooling the eggs (nod to ferret) to stop them from cooking. I've heard people say that cooking too long or keeping the eggs too long can also give them the gray ring. Which seems odd to me; I've done onsen tamago-esque eggs in a slow cooker for an hour and didn't get any grey.

                          1. Funwithfood RE: Funwithfood Jul 29, 2011 02:18 PM

                            I wonder if leaving the eggs on the counter and cooking them from room temp is a factor?

                            (Again my eggs are lovely and soft, even have a moist center when done. It's *after refrigeration* that the gray ring shows up.)

                            17 Replies
                            1. re: Funwithfood
                              Altarbo RE: Funwithfood Jul 30, 2011 09:04 PM

                              O, how odd. I'm not sure.

                              1. re: Funwithfood
                                mcf RE: Funwithfood Jul 31, 2011 01:32 PM

                                I've used the boil, steep, then chill method for years and often place the unpeeled eggs in the fridge without ever getting grey rings. I've never seen them on tender, properly cooked yolks ever.

                                1. re: Funwithfood
                                  Mr Taster RE: Funwithfood Jul 31, 2011 02:40 PM

                                  I suspect your eggs are not thoroughly chilled (to the very core) and as a result the eggs are continuing to cook (slowly) in the refrigerator, resulting in the grey ring showing up hours later.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster
                                    Funwithfood RE: Mr Taster Jul 31, 2011 11:22 PM

                                    That makes sense, I'll ice them next time and see what happens.

                                  2. re: Funwithfood
                                    dave_c RE: Funwithfood Aug 1, 2011 07:40 AM

                                    "I wonder if leaving the eggs on the counter and cooking them from room temp is a factor?"

                                    You are correct. Not cooling your eggs is a major contributor to the ring around the yolk.
                                    You can use an ice bath or cool using running water for about 5 minutes.

                                    1. re: dave_c
                                      Funwithfood RE: dave_c Aug 1, 2011 01:27 PM

                                      I run cold water on them after cooking, but *start* cooking from room temp.

                                      1. re: Funwithfood
                                        Altarbo RE: Funwithfood Aug 3, 2011 02:37 AM

                                        A question: after you run water over an egg, if you hold it for a bit does it warm back up? If so, then your cooling the outer portion (whites) of the egg and the middle (yolk) is staying hot.

                                        That would be simple to fix; you'd just have to cool them more thoroughly. A fridge is cold, but the air doesn't transfer heat well. (That's why stuff thaws out so quick in bowl of water even if the water's cool.)

                                        Good luck. :)

                                        1. re: Altarbo
                                          Mr Taster RE: Altarbo Aug 3, 2011 08:06 AM


                                          Ice bath. Ice bath. Ice bath!

                                          There's no other method of chilling available to the home cook which is as fast and thorough.

                                          Mr Taster

                                        2. re: Funwithfood
                                          Mr Taster RE: Funwithfood Aug 3, 2011 08:12 AM

                                          Why do you leave your eggs at room temperature?

                                          My understanding is that unless you have access to fresh, unwashed eggs, such a practice is a potential health hazard. Something about how the natural outer membrane of the eggs seals out potential
                                          contaminants, but US law requires all eggs to be pre-washed before sale.

                                          Mr Taster

                                          1. re: Mr Taster
                                            Funwithfood RE: Mr Taster Aug 3, 2011 04:09 PM

                                            This was an entire thread 'treatise' a while back!

                                            Many believed that older eggs were easier to peel and that leaving them at room temp (upside down) on the counter for a few days accomplished this.

                                            1. re: Mr Taster
                                              FoodFuser RE: Mr Taster Aug 21, 2011 11:01 PM

                                              Why room temperature? Reduces the time temperature gradient. Same as with brownimg meat, cooking steaks, etc.

                                              1. re: FoodFuser
                                                Funwithfood RE: FoodFuser Aug 22, 2011 11:00 PM

                                                The thread discussed how older eggs were easier to peel and that keeping them on the counter a few days sped up the "aging" process...another theory!

                                                1. re: Funwithfood
                                                  John E. RE: Funwithfood Aug 23, 2011 09:05 AM

                                                  To make your hard-cooked eggs easier to peel You always should 'age' the eggs in the refrigerator. Leaving them out at room temperature is increasing the risk for bacteria growth and is not neceesary to achieve the desired results.

                                                  1. re: John E.
                                                    greygarious RE: John E. Aug 23, 2011 09:26 AM

                                                    Supermarket eggs are washed, which removes the natural protective barrier that's on the exterior of the shell as it is laid. If you buy unwashed eggs from a local farm, they can safely sit at room temperature for many days. After all, when the hen is incubating her clutch, the eggs are kept very warm without bacteria getting through and harming the chicks!

                                                    1. re: greygarious
                                                      John E. RE: greygarious Aug 23, 2011 09:45 AM

                                                      I would bet that most Americans are buying washed supermarket eggs. We occasionally get fresh eggs off my cousin's farm, but not to often. It is not realistic to compare a fertized egg that a hen is incubating to an egg to be consumed by humans. Even a farm fresh egg should be refrigerated to slow down the growth of any bacteria that may be present.

                                                    2. re: John E.
                                                      Funwithfood RE: John E. Aug 23, 2011 01:23 PM

                                                      Okay, they are now in the refrigerator :).

                                                      1. re: Funwithfood
                                                        FoodFuser RE: Funwithfood Aug 24, 2011 05:56 AM

                                                        Eggs to the counter
                                                        not just for room temperature
                                                        but set on their side
                                                        to balance the chalaza

                                                        Be ye not scared
                                                        by microbial police.

                                        3. FoodFuser RE: Funwithfood Aug 21, 2011 11:04 PM

                                          More on ferrous sulfide and the dreaded green ring:





                                          1. mnosyne RE: Funwithfood Aug 24, 2011 08:59 AM

                                            I grew up not knowing that hard boiled eggs didn't come with that grey coating!

                                            1. m
                                              MrCurlyhead RE: Funwithfood Jan 8, 2013 07:18 PM

                                              From the Victorian Egg Marking Boards book by Peter Clarke.

                                              Bring the water to the boil, let it cool to a simmer and put in room temp eggs. Simmer for 12 min, then put them straight into cold running water. Crack the shells all over and put them back into cold water and then shell them. The shell will come away easily if you do this. When they are shelled put them back into cold water until they have cooled down. This will prevent a grey ring forming around the yoke.

                                              If you get the ring it is because you over cooked them or you didn't put them in cold running water and shell them as instructed.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: MrCurlyhead
                                                John E. RE: MrCurlyhead Jan 8, 2013 09:44 PM

                                                Since I last saw this thread, another came up that described a way to steam eggs. I tried it and it works great.


                                              Show Hidden Posts