When did boiling eggs become so complicated? When I learned to hard boil eggs, I was taught a hard and fast 10-minute rule, and it seemed to work just fine. Sure, there may have been a little graying around the outside edge of the hardened yolk, but once the yolks were mixed with mayonnaise for deviled eggs or chopped for egg salad, it wasn't noticeable.

Soft boiling eggs doesn't seem so difficult either. Try 5 minutes? 6 minutes? It just depends on how runny you want your yolk.

But now, the various instructions online on how to boil the perfect egg make it seem incredibly complicated. The directions all vary. Can they all be the perfect way?

Now, Science Alert says that science, or more specifically one scientist — quantum physicist Charles D.H. Williams — has discovered the truly perfect way to boil an egg by using quantum physics. Williams' formula and explanation of all the variables that need to be understood to reach perfection are on the University of Exeter's website.

How many variables are there when you're trying to boil an egg? More than you may think. You need to take the size, weight, and temperature of the egg into consideration, as well as the altitude where the boiling is taking place.

Then, you need to know if you want a soft-boiled egg or a hard-boiled egg. If you want the yolk soft, how runny would you like the yolk? Williams found that the perfect soft-boiled egg should be cooked at 149 degrees Fahrenheit, and the perfect hard boiled egg should be boiled at 170.6 degrees F. You have to keep that temperature steady, which isn't easy on a stove top without having a thermometer in the water at all times, and even then it can be tricky.

The formula for perfection

quantum physics calculation If you're good at these types of calculations, you'll have a better chance at boiling the perfect egg. (Photo: Labutin.Art/Shutterstock)

Once you know all your variables, you need to plug it into Williams' formula.

t = m * K * log(ywr * (Tegg - Twater)/(T - Twater))

  • t = time
  • m = mass
  • K = thermal conductivity of the egg
  • T = temperature between white and yolk
  • Tegg = egg temperature
  • Twater = water temperature
  • ywr = yolk-white ratio

If your head is spinning right now (as mine is), don't worry. Another quantum phycist, Milosz Panfil, has created an online egg boiling calculator so you don't have to crunch the numbers yourself. You do still need to know your variables.

(And I'm beginning to wonder: Do I really want perfect eggs?)

I don't know what the altitude is where I live. I know I'm fairly close to sea level, but that's it. Figuring out the temperature of an egg before I boil it could be tough.(Although the online calculator allows you to simply put in room temperature or refrigerator temperature if you don't know.) And, do I really want to be standing over my stove, adjusting the burner knob a little to the left, then a little to the right the entire time the egg is cooking to ensure the temperature stays even the entire time?

I know there are many people who will want to experiment with this formula and see if it works for boiling eggs to different degrees of soft or hard. Some may want to do it as a science experiment and some may want to be as precise with their cooking as possible.

I am not one of those people. I really like eggs. They're a good, quick way to create a healthy meal. As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to boiling eggs using this method, perfect would be the enemy of good.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.