Knowing how to properly hard-boil an egg is a life skill you should always keep in your back pocket, especially this time of year when you need to make perfectly un-crackled Easter eggs.
As Kenji noted in this Food Lab column (his very first Food Lab column!), there is a precise volume of water you should use to hard-boil eggs, and that magic volume is 1.5 quarts (for cooking one to six eggs).
Start with cold water, bring it up to a bare simmer, then immediately shut off the heat so the water temperature drops to below 170 degrees just as the central yolk temperature reaches 170 degrees, thereby guaranteeing a perfectly cooked egg each time. The best part about this method is that even if you accidentally forget about your eggs and leave them sitting in the water, there is no chance they'll overcook. Why? Ah, the wonders of science. By the time the egg is done (about ten minutes), the water temperature has dropped far enough that the egg will stop cooking.
Even if you don't intend to eat your decorated eggs, you can confidently know that if you did, they'd have perfectly-cooked yolks and whites inside their shells.
How to Dye Eggs, Sans Storebought Kit
If you want to go au natural with dyes (no offense Paas—we had many good years together on the kitchen countertop), all you need are a couple beets, some ground turmeric, and a head of red cabbage.
- Beets (Red): Take 1 to 2 beets (about 3/4 pound) and roughly chop. Combine it with 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid for dyeing.
- Turmeric (Yellow): Heat 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt in a saucepan. Add 6 tablespoon ground turmeric and stir well. Simmer for just a few minutes until the turmeric dissolves.
- Red Cabbage (Blue): Take 1 large red cabbage and shred it. Combine in a saucepan with 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid for dyeing.
Simply soak the eggs in the liquids (primary colors above) until they are the desired colors. At first, the colors will appear quite pale and they won't all work equally well. The red dye sets very quickly as does the turmeric, but the blue needs a few hours of soaking. Using this primary colors guide as a jumping off point, you can mix yellow and blue to make green, or red and yellow for orange.