23 September 2011

Why hard-boiled eggs are more difficult to peel

I've noticed this recently; I used to hard-boil eggs, then crack them and remove the shell in 5-6 pieces.  Now it typically involves  pick-pick-picking at little fragments and pockmarking the egg in the process.  Here's an explanation from an old Wired Science article:
The best guarantee of easy peeling is to use old eggs!” wrote Harold McGee, in his monster 800-page tome, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. “Difficult peeling is characteristic of fresh eggs with a relatively low albumen pH, which somehow causes the albumen to adhere to the inner shell membrane more strongly than it coheres to itself.”

McGee also suggests an easy cooking chemistry solution. “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),” he wrote...

A 1998 report by the agency found that big consolidated chicken egg facilities, which wash and package the eggs on-site instead of sending them to a separate processing location, could reduce the time from farm to store from 100 hours to 53 hours. And, according to Cal-Maine’s SEC filings, the industry continues to centralize, squeezing out the old facilities in favor of the new ones.


  1. I haven't peeled an egg by picking off pieces in years:

    Hold the egg in one hand, with the long axis of the egg parallel to your fingers. In the other hand, hold a short kitchen knife. It doesn't have to be razor sharp, and you may prefer, for your own peace of mind, that it not be. This works fine with a dull knife, but I've never cut myself this way or even come close. If you have average reflexes, you won't either. This works fine with a dull knife. Now give the egg a sharp rap with the knife, aiming for the knife to stop about halfway through the egg. The egg will divide easily with the knife penetrating only part way. Now use a spoon to scoop out the egg halves. A little finesse will keep you from picking up any small shell fragments that the knife left near the edge.

    This takes much less time to do than it does to describe.

  2. Thank you, Wayne. I take eggs when I'm hiking and typically don't have a knife with me, but I'll try your technique at home. :.)

  3. I'm really glad to see this as I was just complaining to my husband last week that I have been having the same problem. I used to be able to tap a hard boiled egg gently on the counter, roll it around to crack the whole shell, and then unwind the shell in one to three or four pieces. Now it seems that the shell is glued to the egg no matter what I do. I thought I was just losing my touch.

    Wayne's tip will be good for general egg extraction, but if you want to make old fashioned pickled eggs, you need intact hard boiled eggs. Any other tips that don't affect the flavor of the egg would be welcomed.

    You have the most interesting posts!

  4. Let them sit in a pan of very cold water as soon as you are done cooking them, until they are fully cooled. Works for me.

  5. I like Wayne's idea. I may have to give it a try tomorrow with my new bandsaw.

  6. There's something elegant about a perfect peeled egg!
    Here's my method:
    When the eggs are done, I drain off the boiling water and immediately dump a tray of ice cubes on them in the pot, then add cold water. In 5-10 minutes, you can lightly whack the cold egg against the sink, then gently roll it to fracture the shell all around.
    It's the quick cold, I think, that slightly shrinks the egg itself. The shells often come off in one piece.

    (Hmm, seems like Easter egg shells never had to be picked off. I mean, KIDS peeled those eggs, and they were easily done. Was that cuz they were thoroughly cooled by morning...or because they were room temp...or were eggs often fairly 'old' back then?)

    Gawd, I love a good mystery! ☺

  7. Similar to Marlys, I cool mine in the fridge and then roll them on wax paper. After you roll them enough to thoroughly crack the shell, you can peel it off in one or two long strips. I also give them a quick rinse to be sure there are no tiny bits of shell.

  8. I like to automate the process as much as possible and then, when it's time to peel, there's a need for speed (because, generally, it's time for a dozen deviled eggs and who wants to wait around for deviled eggs?)


    1) Hard-boil eggs (about 20 mins in roiling boil for a full dozen)

    2) Move pot (do not drain) to sink, run cold water approx 1-2 minutes and grab an egg

    3) Drop egg vertically with largest end down onto paper towel over plate or counter - egg should sit there (bubbles form only on this end) then turn to side and gently roll such that shell cracks

    4) Slip egg out of shell and shell membrane (I've found that the membrane always holds the shell together, providing that the shell fragments were not embedded in the hard-boiled whites) - have not noted any difference between fresh/older eggs

    5) Collect/discard shell and proceed to the next egg

  9. As some have suggested, for some time now I've been draining the eggs immediately after cooking and putting them in an ice water bath for several minutes, but this still does not insure an easy peasy peel. *sigh*

  10. Started 2 eggs in cold water, brought to boil, turned off stove and waited 9 minutes. Placed eggs in saline freeze bath.

    Tried Wayne and Z Constantine on one egg (smashed end and hit with knife).

    Impression, much impressed. like their tricks and think practice makes perfect. The whack and the slam are fun and Wayne's whack doesn't matter. Hard boiled eggs self-heal.

    BTW, needed ice tea so threw tea bags as I cooked eggs. This makes it easy to identify eggs if you refrigerate. Tea is fine and white of egg not stained.

    Now, the real problem. How do the Japanese ramen noodle shops peel soft boiled eggs. I think that deserves another TYWK... page.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...