Easy peel hard-boiled eggs are best made with eggs two weeks old (or more) eggs. Super fresh eggs straight from the farmer are tougher to peel, though most grocery store eggs are at least 30 days old. The key to making the eggshells easier to peel is thermal shock. Boiling or steaming the eggs before peeling will shrink the egg whites away from the shell. Another key is to shock the eggs in ice water, right out of the boiling water or steam.
While there isn’t a 100% fool-proof way to make the eggshell separate from the white every time, the thermal shock method yields the best result. In the restaurant world, we use a perforated hotel pan and place the eggs in a commercial steamer for 11-13 minutes before placing them straight into ice water.
Common Myths Demystified
- White vinegar-Adding vinegar to boiling water only works if the egg cracks while cooking. It helps the egg white set up but doesn’t help remove the eggshell. Save the vinegar for pickling the eggs.
- Salt and Baking Soda-Adding salt to water increases the boiling point due to boiling point elevation. Essentially, adding any non-volatile solute (such as salt, baking soda, or sugar) to a liquid decreases the liquid’s vapor pressure. Adding salt/baking soda is an excellent idea if you live at a high altitude since the boiling point of water is lower due to the lack of atmospheric pressure. However, the salt/baking soda does little to separate the shell from the egg. If adding salt/baking soda works sometimes, it is because of the age of the egg, not the salt/baking soda in the water. Cooks in my kitchen may see me add salt to the water, but this is only because I live and work above 4500 ft.
- High-Pressure Cookers-While cooking in a pressure cooker is faster than boiling or steaming, cooking the eggs at a high temperature and pressure is not advisable. The egg whites are often overcooked before the yolk has set.
- Ever try to make deviled eggs and find the egg yolks are off-center and too close to one edge? Then, the night before you prepare them, rotate the eggs to the horizontal position in the carton. This will center the yolk, leaving plenty of egg whites all the way around.
- To minimize the dimple at the bottom of a boiled egg, use a small pin or thumbtack to poke a tiny hole at the base or broader end of the egg. The air sack there gets more prominent as the egg gets older. Gently poking a pin in this area will reduce the pressure while cooking. Shocking the eggs in ice-cold water will help reduce the size of the dimple even more.
- Don’t overload the pot with too many eggs. Boiling them as they bang into one another will increase the chances of the eggs cracking.
- Poached eggs are best with super fresh eggs, while older eggs are best for boiled/steamed eggs. To test an egg for freshness, add it to a water container. If the egg floats straight up and down, the egg is older. If the egg floats on its side, it’s fresh.
Why do Americans Refrigerate their Eggs while Europeans don’t?
In the US, farms do not vaccinate chickens for salmonella. Instead, eggs are washed to strip the cuticle or outer protective layer, preventing contamination outside the shell. Without the cuticle, eggs must be refrigerated to combat bacterial infection inside. Conversely, it’s illegal to wash eggs in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Instead, farms vaccinate chickens against salmonella. With the protective coating intact, refrigeration can cause bacteria growth and mildew.
Easy Peel Hard Boiled Eggs
- medium sized pot
- silicone or wire egg rack, or steamer basket
- large bowl for ice bath
- 1 cup water for steaming method
- 4-5 cups water for boiling method
- 5 whole eggs, preferably certified organic store-bought and cold
- 1-4 tbsp salt (use only if you live at high altitude, see instructions)
Steaming - Best method!
- Using a medium-sized pot with a tight-fitting lid, add the egg rack/steamer basket and 3/4 inch of water (just below the egg rack/steamer basket). Place on medium to high heat to bring the water to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, add the cold eggs to the egg rack/steamer basket reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover. Cook for 12-13 minutes or see optional cooking times below. (Note: The most common home-style hard-boiled/steamed egg is 13 minutes, the white is set and the yolk is set and opaque yellow all the way through. However, if you take the egg beyond 13½ minutes, the yolk starts to become overcooked and grey.)
- While the eggs are cooking, prepare an ice bath. Make the ice bath deep enough for the eggs to be submerged in the water by adding two cups of ice and four cups of cold water.
- At the end of the 12-13 minutes of steaming, remove the eggs using a set of tongs and place the eggs straight into the ice bath. Allow the eggs to completely cool before peeling the shell.
Choose cooking time as follows
- 3-4 minutes: The white is fully set, but the yolk is very runny. The famous 5 minute soft boiled/steamed egg: The white is set but still a little runny in the middle. This is what is commonly seen in finer restaurants served with toast points. 6 1/2 minutes (Jammy Eggs): The whites are set and the yolk is thick like jam. 8 minutes: The white is fully set, and the yolk is set, but tender. 11 minutes: The white is set and the yolk starts to become opaque yellow. 12-13 minutes: This is the most common home-style hard-boiled/steamed egg. Just beyond 13.5 minutes: The yolk starts to turn grey and is overcooked at that point.
- In a medium-sized pot over medium-high to high heat, bring 7-8 cups of water to a boil. If you live at high-altitude use the following formulas: Add 2 tbsp of salt per cup at 3,000-5,000 feet. Add 3 tbsp per cup at 5,000-7,000 feet. Add 4 tbsp per cup above 7,000 feet.
- Lower the eggs into the boiling water one at a time using a skimmer or large kitchen spoon. Reduce the temperature to a simmer or low heat. Cover the pot's lid and cook the eggs for 11-13 minutes (or use the cooking time options specified above).
- Once the eggs are cooked, drain the boiling water and add the eggs straight into the ice bath to shock them and stop the cooking process. Allow eggs to cool completely before peeling.