No, seriously, how do you peel an egg?
May 13, 2009 9:19 AM   Subscribe

What can you do ensure that the shell of a hard boiled eggs comes off easily every time?

Lately things have been really hit or miss when I peel hard-boiled eggs.

Here's what how I peel them: I crack the shell by rolling them on a hard surface with a bit of pressure so that the entire shell is cracked. Then peel off the shell. This method has literally worked for decades, except for the past month. Using the procedure described above, sometimes the shell comes off easily, sometimes not, it's been about 50/50. When the shell is hard to peel, I literally have to take off each cracked piece, which tends to pull off bits of the actual egg. There hasn't been a pattern that I can find as why this occurs.

The eggs have been from different stores.

They've been different sizes (Large or extra large).

The variation in the ability to peel them has varied even among eggs in the same damn carton, but trends towards either an entire cartoon being hard or not.

Nothing has changed about the way I cook them. Just boil for 10 minutes, take them out and put in a big bowl of room temperature water to cool off for several minutes, then eat one or two, put the rest in the 'frig.

1) Any ideas on why this is suddenly happening?

2) What can a person do ensure that the shell of a hard boiled eggs comes off easily every time or even 90% of the time?
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I know that eggs that aren't as fresh peel a whole lot better. I buy them, keep them for about a week, and then peel them. I'd say they have at least a 95% easy-peel rate. I'd be interested to hear what the scientific reason is for this phenomenon?
posted by dirtmonster at 9:21 AM on May 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

Are you starting with cold water? The eggs and the water should start out at the same temperature for optimum peelability.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:22 AM on May 13, 2009

You could try this method: How to "Peel" Hard-Boiled Eggs Without Peeling
posted by nbSean at 9:24 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've had great luck with putting adding a lot of salt to the water the eggs are cooked in. A lot of salt.
posted by rafter at 9:24 AM on May 13, 2009

Dirtmoster is right - old eggs are better for boiling/peeling. Fresh eggs, not so much.
posted by robinpME at 9:26 AM on May 13, 2009

Response by poster: Are you starting with cold water?

The batch I tried last night started with cold water and two of two have been unpeelable. Yet for batch from several days ago that turned out easy to peel, the water was boiled first and then the eggs were plopped in. I know this because a few of the eggs cracked, letting out a little egg white into the water and looking slightly mutated around the cracks, but man they were good. Lemon pepper is awesome with eggs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:28 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: This previous AskMe might help.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:30 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: I never have problems peeling hard boiled eggs. Start with cold water, boil slowly for 10-15 minutes, while that is going on, prepare a large bowl about half-full with ice and water... make this as cold and slushy as you can make it. When the eggs are done boiling, drain the hot water out of the pan, and quickly and gently move the eggs into the ice water bath. Let sit for 5 minutes. Crack the eggs against the side of the bowl, still underwater.

The immersion in the ice bath immediately stops the eggs from cooking. This prevents the yolks from getting that layer of grey uck, and also encourages the eggs to pull free of the shell. Cracking by smushing the egg against the side of the bowl lets the still pliable egg sort of smush a bit, freeing and lubricating the last stuck bits. The shell usually comes off in large chunks held together by the membrane.

Works with 99% success.
posted by hippybear at 9:39 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I go with Julia Child's advice, from The Way to Cook: eggs in cold water, water to boil, cover pan and take off from heat, let set 17 minutes. Move eggs to ice water, chill for 2 minutes, dip back into boiling water for 10 seconds, peel.

The above always gets me perfectly cooked and easily peelable hard boiled eggs but it does drive me a little crazy to have to wait so long.
posted by jamaro at 9:40 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I used older eggs (at least a week from purchase) start them in cold water, after it reaches a boil I kill the heat and let them sit covered for 10-15 minutes. Then I plunge them in cold water for a few minutes (this helps firm up the egg white and makes it stronger). I peel them by tapping the round end (where an air bubble is likely) till it cracks and then gently roll the egg on a hard surface to crack the rest of the shell. Then I do the actual peeling under running water, or in a large bowl filled with water. The water helps the eggshell flake away easily and sink away from the egg. No tiny flecks left on your tasty eggs.

I have not found salt to be helpful or detrimental to peeling an egg.
posted by Science! at 9:47 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: Cooking: place in cold water, bring to a boil in a covered pot, then turn off the heat, leaving the covered pot on the same burner for exactly 10 minutes for hardboiled, 3 minutes for cooked white and a runny yolk.

My technique for peeling is a little different from hippybear's. I put the eggs in cold water after cooking, roll and crack them IMMEDIATELY so that water gets in between the shell and the egg, let them sit a couple of minutes until they've cooled down enough to handle, and peel them perfectly after that brief period of soaking.

This technique always gives perfectly cooked eggs with no grey around the yolk and I get the eggs fast without burning my fingers.
posted by maudlin at 9:50 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: What always works for me is that I take them off the stove, pour as much of the boiling water into the sink as I can without the eggs falling out, fill it up with cold water, empty it immediately, fill it up again, empty it immediately, and I keep doing this until the water no longer feels warm if I dip my hand in for a second.

Then I let them sit a minute -- literally, about a minute. Then I take one out, tap it on the counter in a few places, and crack some more big chunks of the shell gently with my hands. Rolling it on the counter seems like it would press that inside skin against the egg and make it harder to peel, but I don't know for sure. I do know that with the few cracks I make, that inner skin is slightly raised off the egg in places already, so it's very easy it pull it back. I never break the shell into tiny pieces; bigger chunks come off easier, in my experience.

Oh, and I hold the egg under cold running water while I peel it. The water pushes the shell-skin back off the egg more gently than fingers can.

If you put them in the fridge you're going to have hell peeling them later. I can never peel them when they've been in the fridge.

I want to say this is similar to what Alton Brown does but I can't entirely remember.
posted by Nattie at 9:52 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: Nthing the use of older eggs. I use a method similar to Science!'s, and I don't have too many problems, but have found that fresher eggs have been more problematic to peel.

Also? This little guy is amazing. Just sayin'.
posted by alynnk at 9:55 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Chilling immediately seems to make the difference. I pour out the boiled water, the pour in cold water with a few ice cubes.

I don't know if this matters, but I usually cook hard-boiled eggs for 20 minutes, per this recipe.
posted by ignignokt at 9:58 AM on May 13, 2009

I have heard that cooling the eggs rapidly helps make them easier to peel. Perhaps cool them in ice water rather than room temperature water.
posted by dreadpiratesully at 10:01 AM on May 13, 2009

What dirtmonster said. Fresh eggs don't peel well no matter what I've tried.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:09 AM on May 13, 2009

Just blow the shell off. It takes I bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, this method really does work.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 10:13 AM on May 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Place the eggs in boiling water and when cooked to your liking, immediately rinse the eggs in cold tap water. My homemade theory is that the cold rinse takes the temperature of the egg down enough for it to shrink and separate from that lining that's on the inside of the shell.
posted by spoons at 10:22 AM on May 13, 2009

You want older eggs. When we get them fresh from the neighbours' hens, they're buggers to get the shell off. But yummy.
posted by dowcrag at 10:23 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: If you're buying eggs from the store, see if you can find a brand that has a packed-on date, rather than a sell-by date. When I collect eggs from my chickens, I always pencil the date on the shell for the sole purpose of knowing which to boil and which not to. I never boil eggs that are less than a week old. There's no point -- you lose too much of the egg along with the shell. Ten days old or more is optimal.

All the other advice about putting eggs into cold water is good too, but it's the age of the egg that makes the most difference.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:29 AM on May 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all!

I'm thinking it's a combination of too fresh eggs that aren't being cooked long enough and will up the time to 15 minutes and look for eggs that give a packed-on date. I don't think it matters whether the eggs and water start out cold or whether the eggs are plopped in boiling water, as I haven't noticed a consistent pattern there.

I think the base problem is that lately I've been eating more eggs ( to replace meat protein at times), so rather than buying eggs and having them sit in the 'frig for a week or so before boiling, some are being cooked within a day or two of being brought home.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:40 AM on May 13, 2009

Just peel them under running water from the tap. Works perfectly for me everytime, regardless of how the egg is boiled, whether the egg is new or old, hot or cold, whatever.
posted by randomstriker at 11:06 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've heard that the reason older eggs peel easier is more air in the shell. A new egg has no or little air pocket. Your eggs should have enough air in it to lift one end up off the bottom of the pan. If your eggs is floating on the surface, it probably is too old.
posted by fhqwhgads at 11:13 AM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: By placing eggs in cold water and slowly bringing them both up to the boil, the whole egg has a chance to get heated through at a good speed. By plopping them into hot water, you require a longer cooking time at high heat to get the whites to set. They become much more rubbery that way and you're way more likely to get that gross green-gray ring around the yolk.

The membrane around eggs is very strong when they're first laid. Over time the membrane weakens and an air pocket develops. Put them into a glass or bowl of water. If the egg floats, it's too old to eat. If the egg is flat on the bottom, not tilting, it has no air pocket and is too fresh to hardboil. If it is tilting upwards or is on one end, it has a good airpocket and the membrane has weakened. Boil away!

- suitable cold eggs (or room temp eggs) in pot
- don't layer them
- cover with cold water by about an inch -- too much water screws up the cooking time
- bring to boil
- cover pot and remove from heat
- let sit:
-- 15 minutes for hardboiled
-- 6-8 minutes for medium. I find medium-boiled eggs firm-up enough in the fridge to use as you like and they are MUCH better tasting than the crumbly hard-boiled eggs but your taste may differ.
- plop in ice cold water and peel away. The cold water makes a layer of steam under the shell which helps remove the peel. People who crack the egg under the water are releasing that steam and replacing it with cold water, which does help sometimes.

If that's too time consuming (it is for me), still use the cold water covering the cold eggs by an inch, bring to a boil for about 7 minutes and plunge into ice water. YUM.
posted by barnone at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I poke through the larger end of the shell with a pin before putting the eggs in the water. Can't remember if I learned this from one of Mark Bittman's books or just as offhand observation of someone else boiling eggs, but it does help. If the water is hot enough when I lower the raw eggs in, there's no trailing string of hardened egg white in the cooking water.
posted by catlet at 1:52 PM on May 13, 2009

Response by poster: Clearly, there should be some testing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:51 PM on May 13, 2009

Or a renactment of Cool Hand Luke
posted by randomstriker at 3:13 PM on May 13, 2009

Best answer: when I was making egg salad for a sandwich joint we would either rap them with a paring knife, just hard enough to pierce the shell, or else bang them against each other until one cracked, at which point the cracked one went in the pot and the victor went to another battle. The second method is more fun because sometimes you will get a champion egg (72 hits once, I think?); the first is cleaner. Brought the water to a boil with the eggs in it, turned them off when enough of a big scummy mess of escaped white hit the top of the water level. The water gets between the shell and the egg, and they peel a lot better than they do unmolested. Never messed with ice water, just dumped all the eggs into a big colander and then would start peeling in a bowl of lukewarm water, which also helped loosen them.

It was always kind of a nightmare, though, since we went through so many eggs that they never got to sit more than three days.
posted by felix grundy at 3:39 PM on May 13, 2009

Response by poster: First egg was placed in a pot with room temperature water. Once water started boiling it was cooked for 15 minutes, then removed from water and placed in a big bowl of room temperature water allowed to cool for about 5 minutes. Peeling it was easy and the yolk was bright yellow.

A second egg was placed in the already boiling water (it cracked slightly and bit of white foam came out) from above and cooked for 15 minutes, then placed in a big bowl of room temperature water and allowed to cool for about a minute (what, i'm hungry). The shell practically slide off this one and the yolk was the similar bright yellow temperature as above.

The second egg was definitely softer in texture. Both were delicious.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:41 PM on May 13, 2009

Well, the second was softer because it didn't cook as long. It was easier to peel because it cracked.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:13 PM on May 13, 2009

Second egg was softer because it didn't cook as long. Really decrease your cooking time if you're putting it in cold water to start. I just boiled some eggs for lunch after reading this thread. They were totally done after boiling for about 7-8 minutes.
posted by barnone at 8:31 PM on May 13, 2009

Yeah, I boiled eggs a couple days ago. Started cold, let boil for one minute, covered and turned off the heat. They were perfect after ten minutes of sitting in the covered pan.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:35 PM on May 13, 2009

A little vinegar in the water will keep them from oozing out if one cracks (and it reduces the chance that they will crack in the first place). Definitely use the older eggs too.
posted by midwestguy at 9:31 AM on May 14, 2009

Response by poster: The ooze is cool, 'cause then you get mutant looking eggs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:03 AM on May 14, 2009

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