Removing the shell from a hard-boiled egg can be quick and simple…or frustrating and difficult. So let me get to the yolk of things and share my method for perfectly peeled eggs, every time.
Why can the shell be so difficult to peel?
The main culprit: an egg that’s “too fresh.” In terms of egg composition, an egg consists of three main parts: a yolk, a white and a shell (the actual name of the ‘anchor’ is the ‘chalazae’). There is also an ever-important membrane that lines the inside of the shell and forms an air pocket in the bottom of the egg. As an egg ages, it loses density and moisture. This moisture loss increases the size of the air pocket. While I am clearly not a scientist, this suggests that a very fresh egg will have a stronger membrane that’s better able to keep the shell and egg intact. On the other hand, an older egg that is losing some of its moisture and density leads to a weakened membrane, and this makes it easier to remove the shell. Our carton has its best before date, and that is what I go by, but unless you have your own hatchery, controlling the freshness of eggs is pretty much out of our hands. Knowing this, there is a factor we can control – cooking method.
The best way to boil an egg
There are various ways to cook a hard-boiled egg, but two things are certain: If you undercook it, it will be a soft-boiled egg, and if you overcook it, a greenish-grey halo will form around the outside of the yolk, ruining it’s beautiful orange-yellow colour. And, overcooking an egg, and letting it sit while hot in its shell will make it very difficult to peel.
I am guilty of enjoying far too many egg salads in my time, and my love of a good-old devilled egg has never waned, so here is the method I believe results in the easiest-to-peel eggs.
- Place eggs in a thick-bottomed pot. Egg shells are fragile and a pot with a thick bottom better tempers the heat from the burner. Choose a pot that suits the number of eggs you are cooking – you don’t want too much space in the pot for fear they may bump and crack. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a rapid boil.
- Boil eggs for 7-8 minutes.
- Remove eggs and plunge into a bowl of very cold water. Let cool for 5 minutes.
- Immediately crack each egg (in the water against the inside of the pot) on the top, bottom and two sides. As soon as all the eggs are cracked, get peeling. The sooner you peel your eggs, the better your odds are of getting the shells off successfully.
After all this egg talk, you must give it a try. I am sure there are lots of tips floating around amongst Chatelaine readers and we look forward to hearing them. Eggs make a fantastic snack – they’re nutrient dense with 70 calories and 14 essential nutrients in a large egg. So get peeling!
If you feel like getting creative, try our Tuscan style devilled eggs (pictured above).
Originally published February 12th, 2012.