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I'm steaming eggs, rather than hard-boiling (I want the same effect), because it's convenient as I'm using the steam from some boiling chickpeas underneath.

But I can't seem to find a definitive estimate for how long to keep them steaming.

One source says 20 minutes. http://www.communitychickens.com/2012/08/the-best-way-to-hardboil-eggs-is-to.html#.Uk0oAX-aejs

I imagine that's too long.

Another source implies 7 minutes. http://whatscookingwithkids.com/2011/05/27/forget-hard-boiling-eggs-steamed-eggs-are-easy-to-peel/ (In the comments.)

And then there is the usual time for hard-boiling, which is 10 minutes.

I don't want to cook them any longer than necessary.

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As an experiment, I took one out after 11 minutes, and another one after 16 minutes. The one after 11 was clearly not hard boiled yet, and the one after 16 was almost there (except it's not a good experiment since I interrupted the process by taking out the earlier egg). All this was using the lowest heat of the smallest gas burner, generating a small amount of steam, so it probably took a long time to warm up. –  Evgeni Sergeev Oct 3 '13 at 9:06
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In general, steaming takes much longer than cooking. While I haven't done it with eggs, times of 20 min and upwards sound normal, even with more steam. And there is no "boiling longer than necessary": eggs can be boiled partway, or completely. A hard boiled egg is completely boiled, and if you leave it for longer, there are no more changes happening inside it than if you had left it for the minimal amount of time it takes. (unlike soft-boiled eggs, which continue on their way to hard boiled if left longer). –  rumtscho Oct 3 '13 at 10:16
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@rumtscho The grey/green edge around the yolk you sometimes see (and is generally considered undesirable) is a direct result of boiling longer than necessary, and the texture of the egg takes a hit too if overdone. Eggs boiled too long become rubbery. –  Jolenealaska Oct 3 '13 at 13:21
    
@Jolenealaska I agree with what you say, but in my experience, the yolk only gets through after the outside has become rubbery and the blue layer has occured, so, to my knowledge, you can't have hard-boiled eggs any other way. I don't like them that way, but for people who want the yolk firm, I don't think it can be avoided with conventional cooking/steaming methods. –  rumtscho Oct 3 '13 at 20:16
    
@rumtscho Oh no! The yolk gets perfectly solid well before the grey/green ring and long before the whites get rubbery. Read the comments to post meridiem's response. Steaming gives a pretty wide margin for complete success. I'll post a picture tonight or tomorrow. One thing that I have found to be key is to bring the eggs to room temperature before you cook them, whether by boiling or steaming. –  Jolenealaska Oct 4 '13 at 3:16
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2 Answers

I like to follow Alton Brown's approach: steam for 12 minutes, drop into ice bath. Always turns out perfectly for me this way (and as a bonus, they're much easier to peel than boiled eggs).

Here's the video from Alton's show, with some extra information in it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUHKpHek2E8

And while unrelated (since you want to steam them), if you want to know everything there is to know about hard boiled eggs, this Food Lab edition on Serious Eats has you covered: http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/10/the-food-lab-science-of-how-to-cook-perfect-boiled-eggs.html

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I love Alton, but as a part of my experiment I steamed for 12 minutes because that's how long I've always left them in water that has been brought to boil. At 12 minutes (without disturbing the lid) I got a decidedly soft-boiled result. That's a large egg brought to room temperature before steaming. 20 minutes gave me perfect "hard boiled" results 2 times in a row. –  Jolenealaska Oct 3 '13 at 16:26
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Does anyone know what could cause this rather large 8 min. difference? I'm close to sea level as well, so steam temps are the same. Egg temps would be very close. If I steam for 20, I get chalky, green-ringed yolk. Maybe organic vs. regular eggs (the shell might be more permeable for the former)? –  post meridiem Oct 3 '13 at 16:53
    
My eggs are non-organic, refrigerated, unpasteurized, USDA large, brought to room temp just before steaming. At 20 minutes there isn't a hint of green/grey and there is a very slight translucency at the very center of the yolk - I mean perfect. I have the water just at the boiling point, do you have yours boiling harder than that? –  Jolenealaska Oct 3 '13 at 16:59
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The temperature of the steam would be the same at a rolling or low boil, but the density of the steam would be different, making the ambient temperature inside the pot different. Just for giggles, I'll try it again at a rolling boil. My eggs were packed on Julian Date 255, Sep 12. –  Jolenealaska Oct 3 '13 at 17:19
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And the answer is: Hard boil vs barely boiling! I did it again, this time keeping the water at a hard boil. This time the 12 minute egg was just fine, the 20 minute egg was fine too - no green, texture was fine.There was a difference between the two eggs, but it was negligible. –  Jolenealaska Oct 3 '13 at 18:29
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20 minutes is perfect. I brought a large egg to room temperature and steamed it over gently boiling water in a tightly covered pot. After exactly 20 minutes I plunged it into ice water, waited one minute, then peeled. It was as perfectly "hard boiled" as I've ever seen or tasted. For what it's worth, I'm at sea level.

It makes me want to do deviled eggs! I think I'm going to do it this way from now on.

Be sure to read the comments on post meridiem's answer.

Here's a perfect "hard-boiled" egg, brought to room temperature, steamed over rapidly boiling water for 13 minutes and then plunged into ice water.

steamed egg

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In my case, also over gently boiling water, the steamed eggs were harder to peel than is usual for hard boiled eggs, given the same post-cooking treatment (wash in cold tap water for about 10 seconds, then leave in the pot with cold water). I wonder what exactly is different... temperature? –  Evgeni Sergeev Oct 5 '13 at 12:57
    
I hope that no-one interprets that "tightly covered pot" in the wrong way. There should always be some vents, otherwise it might explode. (Unless we're talking about pressure-cookers, but that's a different story. They have special pressure control mechanisms.) –  Evgeni Sergeev Oct 5 '13 at 13:06
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