It’s been over a year since my last post, and I’m feeling pretty guilty about that. It’s not that I haven’t had ideas of things to write about that has kept me from posting- an idea springs to mind at least once a week. What has kept me from posting has actually been photography to go with the posts. I don’t want to steal or borrow images from online sources, but I don’t have very good image editing software to get my own photos cleaned up and re-sized easily. So yeah, that needs to be dealt with. In the mean time, I’m not going to let the lack of photos stand in the way of me sharing stuff with you. And since Easter is right around the corner, what better subject to kick things back off with here than the secret to making hard boiled eggs that peel easily and nicely?
There are actually 2 secrets to Perfectly Peelable Hard Boiled Eggs, and neither have anything to do with how you cook them.
First, the eggs need to be fresh, but not too fresh, and second, if you cook them the day before you will be peeling them and refrigerate them overnight, the peeling will go much more easily!
So now that I’ve spilled those secrets, here is why those 2 factors make all the difference…
Between the egg shell and the egg that we eat, there’s a layer called the membrane. If you’ve ever done battle with peeling hard boiled eggs, I’m sure you’ve seen it. It’s a transparent skin that *should* come off with the shell… when the eggs are behaving, at least. In addition to the shell, the membrane, and the egg, there’s a pocket of air inside the shell. The membrane and the air pocket are the reason these 2 secrets work.
When an egg is fresh from the chicken, there is very little air inside of the egg shell, but as the egg ages, the air pocket grows. If an egg is only a day or 2 old, the air pocket will be virtually non-existant, and the membrane is not matured to the point that it will work with you to take the shell off nicely. For this reason, it’s best to go with eggs that are at least a few days old.
As an egg ages, the air pocket expands and the white begins to shrink. The membrane also grows tougher. If you’ve ever peeled an egg and it’s had a flat spot at the bottom, that’s because it was old and the air pocket had grown. Eggs have a pretty long shelf life, and if you’re cracking them when they’re raw, then they’re fine when they’re older. If you’re looking to make pretty, round, hard-boiled eggs, though, you probably don’t want that flat spot at the bottom. For this reason, it’s best to go with eggs that are less than 2 weeks old.
So, for the age of the egg- and this is for the amount of time it has been outside of the chicken- you should be shooting for 3-14 days old. Personally, I think the ‘sweet spot’ is 5-10 days, but a few days in either direction won’t make that much of a difference.
Now, you might be saying, “But, Zoe! I buy my eggs at the grocery store! How in the heck am I supposed to be able to tell how old they are???”
For those facing that dilemma, there is a simple test you can do. It’s called the ‘float test’, and you can google/web search the details on how to do it. In my experience, the best eggs for boiling are going to sit pretty flat and even at the bottom of the bowl of water when you do the float test. If you are buying eggs from the grocery store, or even a farm, odds are very slim that you’ll end up with eggs that are less than 2 days old. That means you need to be more focused on making sure they’re as fresh as possible. If you put the egg in the water and the wider end is noticeably higher than the narrow end, that means it’s got enough of an air pocket to make the egg bouyant, and that means it’s on the older side- the higher the wide end floats, the older the egg is.
Okay, so that’s all been explained, now we move on to why the best technique is to boil the day before you peel- and this will help even if you’re using eggs that are a little older.
Basic level science tells us that most things shrink when they get cold. This is true of the eggshell, membrane, and egg. The egg will shrink a bit more than the membrane and shell, though, which causes it to pull away from the membrane. This shrinkage makes refrigerated eggs much easier to peel than room temperature eggs, because it does some of the work for us. So when we crack the egg shell, the membrane wants to stick to the shell more than the egg.
And there you have it. Two secrets to ensure your hard boiled eggs peel easily and prettily. Viola!
(If you’re looking for the best way to actually cook the hard boiled eggs, I do not recommend boiling them because it usually results in an overcooked egg- the white ends up rubbery, and the yolk gets that yucky grayish-green ring. Instead, I suggest you look into coddling them. And you really don’t need to add salt, vinegar, or anything else to the water.)
NOTE: If you plan to grow tomatoes, then save those eggshells! Your tomato plants will love it if you add a bunch of crushed eggshells into the soil when you plant them, and you’ll be helping them to fight off certain diseases, like blossom end rot!