Thank you, all dozen of you, who wrote me in response to last week’s column on cooking hacks to share your methods for producing easy-to-peel hard-cooked eggs.
I now have three —count ’em, three — new foolproof (and I don’t use that word lightly) ways to turn out perfect hard-cooked eggs that peel like a dream. We’re talking fresh eggs I just bought hours before.
This after how many decades of cooking on my own? After how many batches of deviled eggs? I’d be embarrassed to admit this if I didn’t know that so many other people have shared the same egg-peeling frustration.
So what are these miracle techniques?
We’ll start with steaming. Several readers steered me to the April edition of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Based on their meticulous experiments, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen assert that it isn’t the age of the eggs, after all, that causes the shell to stick like glue or peel straight off.
I’ll hold off on the science for now and just share their new favorite method:
Fill a saucepan with 1 inch of water. Bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Place a steamer basket inside, and carefully add refrigerator-cold eggs in a single layer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook eggs 13 minutes.
Shortly before eggs are done, combine 2 cups cold water and 2 cups ice cubes in a bowl. Using tongs or a spoon, transfer cooked eggs to ice bath. Let sit 15 minutes and then peel – or refrigerate to peel later.
The test kitchen got equally good peeling results from adding eggs to already-boiling water. I’m pretty sure this is what my mom did those many years ago. But somewhere along the line the culinary gods declared that you must start with cold water, and that method became the norm.
According to the folks at America’s Test Kitchen, starting in cold water actually gives the outermost proteins of the egg white more time to bond with the membrane that lines the shell. Exposing the eggs quickly to hot steam or boiling water “denatures” those proteins, causing them to shrink, and in turn causing the white to pull away from the membrane.
There’s your science.
In their emails to me, readers shared several variations on the boiling-water method, all of which I tried:
▪ Add eggs to boiling water. Cover and boil 10 minutes, then remove to a bowl of ice water and let sit 10 minutes.
▪ Add eggs to boiling water. Cover and boil 15 minutes, then remove to bowl of ice water until cool.
▪ Add eggs to boiling water. Cover and boil six minutes, remove from heat and let sit 11 to 12 minutes. Drain off hot water and add cold water to the pot until both pot and water are cold.
All three of these methods, and the steaming, produced eggs that peeled with absolutely no problem.
However, I found that boiling the eggs for only 10 minutes left the yolks a bit less done than I like.
All of the eggs were free of that awful green on the outside of the yolk.
I probably liked the steaming method best.
Readers also suggested shaking the cooked eggs in a jar or cracking them all over against the side of the sink to ensure easier peeling.
In the same April article, Cook’s Illustrated suggests the shaking-in-a-jar method (with water) if you’re in a hurry; doing this, they were able to peel six eggs in 41 seconds.
That’s impressive, but a few seconds here or there don’t matter to me. I’m just thrilled to know that I no longer have to plan ahead to have old eggs on hand. Spontaneous batch of deviled eggs? Coming right up!