You'll Be Eggstatic When You Learn This Handy Tip

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Gordian knots. Mysteries of the universe. The shells of hard-boiled eggs. What do these things have in common? They are all tremendously difficult to resolve, but the first two won't make you late for work while navigating an already hectic morning. Whether you're in a rush or not, you'll be relieved to know there's a method that makes peeling hard-boiled egg shells easy, and it starts with the proper cooking technique.

Very Hot Water Temperature

Start the eggs in boiling water. Not simmering, but a full rolling boil. It likely works because the proteins in the albumen quickly coagulate, pulling away from the membrane before they have a chance to stick.

Cooking Time

Cook the eggs for a total of 11 minutes: 30 seconds at a rolling boil and 10 minutes and 30 seconds at a gentle simmer. Dropping the water temperature after the outer albumen coagulates produces a fully cooked white, a tender outer yolk and a soft, yet fully cooked, inner yolk. Adjust the time accordingly if you live at high altitude.

Use an Ice Bath

Place the eggs in an ice-water bath immediately after cooking. You can't overestimate the effectiveness of lowering the eggs into an ice-water bath. Without it, an egg will continue to cook, resulting in a rubbery white and a mealy yolk.

The Takeaway

  1. Take cold eggs from the refrigerator, and drop them in the the water after it has come to a full boil. Use a slotted spoon to protect the shells from cracking.
  2. Boil for 30 seconds, and then lower to heat to a gentle simmer.
  3. Cook the eggs for an additional 10 minutes and 30 seconds.
  4. Place the eggs in an ice-water bath, and allow them to stand for 15 minutes. Peel under cool running water.

Baking Soda Misconception

Harold McGee, in his chef d'oeuvre, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, states that, "If you end up with a carton of very fresh eggs and need to cook them right away, you can add a half teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of water to make the cooking water alkaline (though this intensifies the sulfury flavor)."

This works by increasing the alkalinity of the water, which helps unbind the membrane that sticks to the interior of the eggshell. However, as McGee indicates, this works with very fresh (farm-fresh) eggs, or eggs one to two days old, not the eggs you typically find in the supermarket. Baking soda will not help with the peeling of supermarket eggs.