Once upon a time I was a child bride who didn’t know very much about cooking. Actually I sucked at it and some things I still have no talent making. In particular I am a boiled egg failure. As much as hubs and I love deviled eggs I never got those beautiful perfectly peeled eggs I see at church luncheons. As much as I enjoy eggs in a variety of recipes I have not enjoyed the headache of getting an egg to peel cleanly. With that in mind I headed to my Facebook page and asked for advice. How do you boil your eggs so they peel easily? The responses were varied and very informative. I experimented by trying out the suggested methods and am no longer a boiled egg failure.
I read my FB responses and found that some added vinegar to the water, some added baking soda, some added salt, some added a combination of baking soda and salt or vinegar and salt. Several recommended using room temperature and/or aged eggs but another said she used farm fresh eggs with no problem. Many recommended an ice water shock after boiling the eggs or using a commercial steamer. One reader shared a video of someone shaking a boiled egg in a small jar. I decided to do some experiments to find a method I could use successfully. But first I’d like to share my very first horrible egg experience with you. It’s embarrassing, but you will understand why I feel it necessary to try the egg experiments.
Hubs and I were enrolled in college together and living in a garage apartment a half block off campus. Our grocery budget was small and eggs were cheap so I decided to boil a dozen eggs to keep in the fridge as snacks, salads, and side dishes. I got up early and put a dozen eggs in an aluminum pot full of water and set them on a burner at high heat then dashed into the bathroom to take my shower and get dressed for an early morning class.
I was running a bit behind schedule so when I got ready I grabbed my books and pretty much jogged the half block to class. As soon as class was out I made it back to our apartment where hubs was sitting in the car waiting to drive me to my part time job keeping books and helping customers at a carpet store. He had more classes and at the end of the day he picked me up from my job. We were chatting happily like newly weds do when we pulled into the drive way and stepped out of the car. We both looked at each other and wrinkled our noses and at some awful smell and commented that there must be a skunk in the neighborhood. As we walked up the steps that led to our apartment door the smell became stronger and it became obvious it was coming from inside our apartment. It was awful! As hubs opened the door he commented it smelled like rotten eggs.
OH. MY. GOSH. It hit me. I forgot to turn off the burner under the eggs! There was no smoke. The apartment had not burned down. However, the pan on the stove was black and bowled up in a rounded shape. There were no eggs in the pan either. They had exploded all over the ceiling and walls! We opened all the windows and used a broom then a mop to clean the ceiling and walls. We sprayed some air freshener and lit some candles. It did not help the smell. We left the apartment and went to the only place open, the grocery store. We walked up and down the isles then sat outside until late in the evening. When we could not stay out any longer we fell asleep in the still not so sweet air of our bedroom, rose early and went to school again the next morning. It was better by the next evening but I have yet to live that cooking experience down. Now days I set a loud timer for everything I cook and I don’t own an aluminum pan. I haven’t left anything in the oven or on the stove top since that day but I have burned a few things occasionally.
Now that I’ve fessed up to why I am so reluctant to boil eggs I’ll share with you how the experiments turned out.
I put a carton of eggs on the counter to warm to room temp. I then put them in a non aluminum pot and covered with cool tap water. I added 1 Tablespoon each of salt and baking soda and brought the water to a boil over medium high heat. When it boiled I put a lid on, turned off the heat and let them sit for 15 minutes. Next I drained the water and put the (still hot) eggs in a bowl of water & ice. Only a minute later I took a small Kerr jar and added just about an inch of water and one of the eggs. Holding it over the sink and covering the opening with my hand (yes the water escaped) I shook it vigorously. It worked! the peel separated from the egg all by itself! The egg is tender and has a perfect yellow center. There is no taste from the soda or salt either.
- aged eggs
- room temperature eggs
- add vinegar and salt
- ice water shock
The first two experiments were so successful it led me to wonder about the difference. I decided to try peeling the way I had always done (unsuccessfully) in the past. Picking up an egg from the baking soda/salt group I cracked the eggshell on the counter in several places. When I picked off the first small piece it stuck. So did the next several attempts. I then picked up an egg from the vinegar/salt group and tried again. Same result. How odd, I thought. Next I put one of the partially peeled eggs in the jar with water and shook it. The rest of the shell came away pretty well. Now I’m wondering if it’s not the additives but perhaps the peeling or the ice water that makes the difference. I drove to the store, bought more eggs to try again. BTW, How do you know how old they are? The eggs I bought had a little sticker on them with 4/8. What does that mean? I called the store manager to ask. He told me they get eggs three days a week. The sticker indicates a “sell by” date. He also indicated USDA eggs have the packaged date. 001 means the first day of the year, January 1. 365 means the last day of the year, December 31. Cool, right? I also learned eggs are good when kept refrigerated for about 4-5 weeks and that they shouldn’t be left out of the fridge more than a couple of hours.
- fresh eggs
- cold from the fridge
- tap water, no additives
- Hot egg - At the end of 8 minutes I drained the hot water In the “before days” I’d let them sit until they cooled or stored them in the fridge before needing them but today I ran some cool tap water over them until I could handle them without burning myself. Next, while the egg was still hot but cool enough to handle, I tried the old peeling method of cracking the shell and picking it off. It actually peeled pretty well. But what if I don’t want to peel it hot?
- Cooled completely at room temp – the shell stuck. However, since I started at the end and saw it was not letting go of the inside membrane I turned it over and pecked away another piece then blew into the smaller hole. The membrane let go of the shell and peeled nicely. The jar shaking method also worked.
- Ice bath – Again when I tried to crack the shell and peel it wanted to stick. But both the blowing method and jar method worked.
- Cooled in the fridge for a day – Same thing as before, it needed help releasing the membrane from the shell.
My conclusion is that although the additives reduced the time it took for the water to boil, and an ice water bath stopped the egg cooking and preserved the pretty yellow color of the yolk, the real clincher in getting a beautiful perfectly peeled egg is getting the membrane to separate from the shell either by blowing into a hole in the shell or shaking in a jar.
If you have additional hints, please leave a comment. I’m not an expert egg peeler, just learning how to get some deviled eggs worthy of a church luncheon.