Looking for single-serving protein bites? No need to rely on pre-packaged bars or protein-powder energy balls. Nature already has what you need: eggs. And thank you, chickens of the world, for giving us this versatile superfood. Not only do they bind together delicious baked goods and create all kinds of breakfast dishes (Omelets! Fritattas! Stratas, oh my!), but they can also be whipped into meringues or creamy condiments.

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But why make things so complicated when the simple, humble boiled egg is already a thing of beauty? Hard-boiled, it’s the perfect protein on-the-go snack. Soft-boiled, it can convert an English muffin into a decadent morning meal with the runny yolk acting as a built-in "special sauce."

But here’s the issue: It’s super easy to miscalculate the cooking time on boiled eggs. (If only those shells came with a preview window!). And it’s almost tragic to break into an egg hoping the yolk will be appropriately runny, only to find it entirely solid—or vice versa. Never fear, we have the ultimate guide to perfectly boiling your eggs every time, every way.

The Technique

How to Make the Perfect Boiled Egg, Every Way, Every Time Step one: Place the eggs in a pot with cold water. Make sure there’s an inch of water above the eggs and don’t crowd too many in the pot. (Tip: Add vinegar to the water so eggshells are easier to peel post-boil.)

Step two: Place the pot on the stovetop over high heat.

Step three: When the water starts lightly boiling around the eggs, cover the pot and move it to a burner that’s off or onto a potholder on the countertop.

Step four: On your mark... Get set... Hit the timer! See below for eggs perfectly boiled to your liking.

The Timing

Three minutes: Whites are soft and slightly gloopy. Yolks are completely liquid.

Four minutes: Whites are set but soft and floppy. Yolks are still runny but a little more solid.

Six minutes: Whites are soft but firm. Yolks are smooth and pudding-like.

10 minutes: Whites and yolks are totally firm, but yolks are still creamy.

15 minutes: A completely solid, hard-boiled egg.

Post-boil, dunk these suckers in an ice-water bath for a minute. Tap ‘em on the counter to gently crack and peel them open. Voilà! Your perfect egg!

A Question of Freshness

Now, eggs are only delicious if they’re fresh. (There’s a reason rotten eggs are the stuff of playground taunts.) If you’re not sure whether your eggs are ready for eating or past their prime, dunk them in a glass bowl filled with water and compare them to this handy visual.

How to Tell if Your Eggs Are Fresh

On the bottom of the bowl: 100-percent fresh and at peak flavor.

One corner lifted: A week or so old. Entirely edible!

Standing on a point: A couple weeks old. Eat stat.

Floating at the top: Super old! Do not eat!

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