ask the kitchenista: perfectly peeled hard-boiled eggs

Dear Kitchenista;

The last time I tried to make Deviled Eggs they went to Hell! What is the trick to cooking hard boiled eggs so the peel comes off easily and I don’t end up with eggs that look like the surface of the moon?   — Sick of Egg Salad In Seattle, Ann G.

Dear Ann,

I feel your pain. I know that sinking feeling when you start to peel a boiled egg and you just know it’s going to play hard to get.  You’ll be there forever, picking off one tiny chip of shell at a time, instead of it just slipping off nice and easy like a slinky nightgown. (Why am I using sexy metaphors for hard-boiled eggs? Must discuss with therapist. Must get therapist.)

Getting perfectly peeled eggs was a hit-and-miss mystery to me until I went to culinary school and we had to do a classic Nicoise Salad in our Level 1 class, with all it’s composed elements. I learned the hard facts and tried-and-true techniques for getting the eggs right:

1. Don’t Use Fresh. This is one time you don’t want farm fresh. If you only have fresh eggs to work with, try adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the cooking water, (to change the pH of the albumen), but continue to follow the rest of the directions below, as well. In all cases, bring eggs to room temp if you can before boiling, or let the eggs sit in room temp water for 5 minutes before heating.

2. Start eggs in cold water, then boil. Place the eggs in a medium to large pot so that they are not too crowded and can be submerged in cold water, covering them by at least an inch. Bring the water and eggs to a rapid boil, uncovered. Turn off flame and cover the pot. Allow the eggs to sit in the hot water for 11-12 minutes. While the eggs are sitting, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice, then filling the rest of the way with water.

3. Transfer the hot eggs to iced or very cold water. The cooking method gets you perfectly cooked eggs, but it’s the shock of the cold water that gets you eggs you can peel effortlessly. The ice water forces the membrane surrounding the white and the egg itself to shrink instantly and detach from the shell. You’ll still have to crack the egg, and gently tear through the membrane in some cases, but once you do the peel should come away easily.

4. Peel under water. Crack the egg by gently rolling it along a hard surface, shattering the shell into many small pieces. Hold the egg under the cool water in the ice bath, or under cool running water while peeling. The water helps by getting under the membrane and helping to separate the shell from the egg more efficiently.

If all else fails. Make egg salad.