Why does my shell stick to my egg?
August 31, 2012 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Simple question. How to hard boil an egg so that it peels easily. After 30 years of cooking for myself, I have lost my mojo and ability to do this. I just want to be able to peel my hard boiled boneless chicken without the shell sticking to the white and creating pock marks on my whites.

I am actually a good cook. I swear. I know I am asking a question one step above how do I boil water. My problem is whenever I am making Deviled Eggs I have to hard boil about twice as many as I need because the damn shell always sticks to the egg white and I end up with cosmetic mess of an egg. I have tried many methods. I have googled it. After the google reading I settled on this method.

In short, I put my eggs into a pot of cold water and let them sit for a few minutes until the water and the egg are approximately the same temperature. I then put them on the stove and bring the water to a vigorous boil at which point I turn off the burner, cover the pot and let the eggs sit in the water for 15 minutes. I then dump the hot water down the sink and add cold tap water. I run the tap water until I am pretty convinced the eggs have cooled to a point they are no longer cooking. I then add ice to the water and let the eggs sit for about 20 minutes. Then I try to peel, and I get a friggin mess.

Please give me your method for hard boiling eggs so that the peel comes off easily. Or correct what I am doing.

Much appreciated.
posted by AugustWest to Food & Drink (38 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
This way!
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 8:43 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Peel them while submerged in cool water.

I still get some dud eggs that refuse to cooperate, but peeling underwater reduced that by a significant percentage.

Longer version:
I put my eggs into a pot of cold water and put them on the stove and bring the water to a vigorous boil at which point I turn off the burner, cover the pot and let the eggs sit in the water for 15 minutes. I then dump the hot water down the sink and add cold tap water. I run the tap water until I am pretty convinced the eggs have cooled to a point they are no longer cooking. I then begin peeling under water.
posted by vegartanipla at 8:43 PM on August 31, 2012


Old eggs work better than totally fresh eggs, and supposedly one can replicate this aging of the membrane by adding a spoonful of baking soda to the water when you boil fresh eggs.
posted by aimedwander at 8:46 PM on August 31, 2012 [25 favorites]


Use old eggs. I find the most success using eggs with only a few days "left" on the expiry date.
posted by saradarlin at 8:47 PM on August 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've been using your egg-boiling method for a while, and have also been struggling with the peeling—even when using old eggs and/or peeling them under running water. But! I recently started putting the eggs into the pot only when the water has reached a rolling boil (on the advice of my husband), and although I was extremely dubious at first, it's totally fixed the problem.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:53 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Steam them, don't boil. Even better: pressure cooker.
posted by supercres at 8:53 PM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, I also find that, for me, organic eggs have shells that seem to cling much tighter.
posted by tyllwin at 8:53 PM on August 31, 2012


I crack the egg multiple times all around, then roll it around on the table a little to crack it further and loosen the shell -- it peels practically in one pull, like I'm peeling a tangerine, regardless of how the egg was cooked.
posted by Pwoink at 8:54 PM on August 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I follow your method, but cook the eggs for 20 minutes. I'm in denver, so at a bit of altitude, but not sure that makes a difference.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:55 PM on August 31, 2012


yes, use old eggs. the fresher the eggs, the more impossible to peel them.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:56 PM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I get them real cold right after boiling and they peel okay.
posted by roboton666 at 8:58 PM on August 31, 2012


Do this.

A followup for uncooperative eggs is this.
posted by bearwife at 9:28 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I usually leave my eggs out for a few hours or, better, overnight, first. My mom always did this and none of us have died yet, anyway, and I seem to have much less of a time peeling them than lots of people I know.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:30 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is an easy one. Immediately put them in cold water when you take them out of the boiling water. That will create steam under the eggshell and allow it to come off easily.
posted by Dansaman at 9:44 PM on August 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


I also boil the water first and have no problems peeling them. And most eggs I have are likely to be very old indeed since I get about 18 at a time from my chicken owning neighbors and only eat about 2 a week max.
posted by fshgrl at 9:49 PM on August 31, 2012


When you are at the point of pouring the hot water out, give the pot a couple of good shakes before adding the cold water. This will crack the shells, let the cold water in, and make the shells easy to remove.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:59 PM on August 31, 2012


"Roll" the egg with your hand on a hard counter so the shell is broken into small pieces. Then break/peel off a small piece of shell (with the skin underneath) at the top of the egg, then run cold water into it under the tap of your sink while peeling the rest. The egg will be comfortable to handle thanks to the cold water, and you everything should come right off.
posted by halogen at 10:46 PM on August 31, 2012


If you and you alone are going to eat them, get the egg out without peeling it.
posted by dobbs at 11:15 PM on August 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


2nd Older eggs.
posted by pompomtom at 11:27 PM on August 31, 2012


I always had this problem, using the method of bringing the eggs to a boil, cutting the burner and letting them sit for 15 minutes, and then rinsing with cold water. So I switched to bringing them to a boil and boiling for 10 minutes, and then rinsing with cold water. And it totally worked! Until it didn't. And since other people have found success with the opposite formula, it's likely that we failed to account for the one hidden variable that was actually controlling our peeling success or failure: the age of the eggs.
posted by eddydamascene at 12:18 AM on September 1, 2012


I'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet: add a bit of vinegar to the water before you start boiling. I can peel eggs like no-one's business now that I've learned that trick.
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 12:36 AM on September 1, 2012


Peel the eggs before putting them in ice water, not after:

cool water -> boil -> rest -> cold water -> peel -> ice water
posted by nonspecialist at 1:10 AM on September 1, 2012


Nthing pressure-cooking them. It's much faster and the shells almost come off in one piece.
posted by SillyShepherd at 1:29 AM on September 1, 2012


Another one for peeling while submerged in a pot of cold water straight after boiling. The shell slips right off.
posted by pink_gorilla at 2:29 AM on September 1, 2012


+1 for adding baking soda to the water
posted by colin_l at 3:03 AM on September 1, 2012


What BitterOldPunk said: Finish boiling in hot water; pour it off; lid on the pan and shake around firmly so the shells crack up; add cold water and some ice and let them sit. Shells slip right off.
posted by Cocodrillo at 3:45 AM on September 1, 2012


Thirding adding baking soda. Amazing the difference it makes.
posted by saladin at 4:31 AM on September 1, 2012


I ran into this problem just this week. While others have some great suggestions above for making a batch of hard-boiled eggs in future, if you're having to deal with an intractable shell *right now*, here's a trick I use: crack the top of the shell as though it were a soft boiled egg, and slip a teaspoon under the shell. Use the spoon to slide around between the egg and the shell to loosen it. You might not get an absolutely perfect egg, but it will be considerably less pock-marked than if you tried to peel it with your fingers.
posted by LN at 5:27 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I usually slide a knife under the shell and loosen it that way.
posted by capricorn at 5:34 AM on September 1, 2012


Mr. Corb came up with this, not me, but it has revolutionized my egg-peeling.

Boil in roiling boil. When they are done, take them individually (with a spoon) to the sink and run them under cold water until you can bear to grasp them in your bare hands. Then kind of...squeeze them gently, while still running them under cold water. It cracks up and peels off so easily. Ideally you want to do this while the egg is still kind of warm and it's easier.
posted by corb at 6:24 AM on September 1, 2012


So much voodoo! I haven't had a dud in months using relatively fresh farm eggs (nowhere near expiration), steaming them for ~15 minutes. I rinse them afterwards, but it's relatively mild - I don't drop them in really cold water or anything. I tried all sorts of tricks when I was still boiling them with varying degrees of success, but I'm convinced that steaming is just all around the best option.
posted by heresiarch at 8:12 AM on September 1, 2012


I make really good hard boiled eggs. Bring water to boil, add eggs(room temperature so they don't crack), cook at rolling boil for 12 minutes, drain water, add cold water until the water no longer feels warm to the touch, let the eggs cool in the cold water for a few minutes. If you use high quality eggs, these will be perfect, not overcooked, easy to peel eggs.
posted by zebraantelope at 8:15 AM on September 1, 2012


Harold MacGee had an article in Lucky Peach #4 where he bathed eggs in an acidic solution to make the shell thinner, then dunking it in a base solution for an hour to increase the PH of the egg.

Increased PH makes for easier peeling. Any egg with a PH over 9 peels easily, but fresh farm eggs normally have a PH of 7.5. He said wrote that it would take a few weeks in a refrigerator or days on the counter in room temperature to let the PH climb far enough.

Here's a Wired link.
posted by flippant at 9:41 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I poke a hole in the larger end of the raw egg with a safety pin just before putting the eggs in the water. IIRC, this is a Mark Bittman trick that I saw on YouTube at some point.
posted by catlet at 12:05 PM on September 1, 2012


Nthing older eggs peel better. Smitten Kitchen shares her egg theories here.
posted by gillianr at 4:58 PM on September 1, 2012


Old eggs definitely work better, but I often have newer eggs because I....forget I have to buy a bunch of eggs for my deviled eggs until like three days before. I think you're cooking them a wee bit too long -- I put mine in 12 minutes like zebraantelope does and it seems to work better.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 7:25 PM on September 1, 2012


Thanks for all the tips and suggestions. I purchased 4 dozen eggs today to try some different technique and to age some of the eggs although the ones I made yesterday that precipitated the question had an expiration date of September 4th, so they were pretty aged. Perhaps Countess is correct in that I may be cooking them too long...
posted by AugustWest at 9:01 PM on September 1, 2012


The mister's hard boiled eggs peel very easily so I asked him how he boils the eggs:

Put them in a pan and cover them with cold water with about an inch of water covering the tops. Heat them to a boil, let them boil for ten minutes and then let them cool in their own water (half an hour or so) and then put them in the fridge. To peel them crack them like Pwoink says, roll them around and the rest of the shell easily comes off. Once in a while there is a dud, but that's maybe one egg out of a dozen.

The age of the egg doesn't matter and eggs are directly from the fridge.
posted by deborah at 11:41 PM on September 1, 2012


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