What a mess.
I am a lover of hard-boiled eggs. I make them 4 or 5 at a time to have on hand for breakfasts, or just to salt and pepper and eat out of hand. They are an excellent source of protein, they go with almost anything, and they taste good. What’s not to like?
What’s not to like is that this time of year, with really fresh pasture raised eggs, they’re almost impossible to peel. I get my eggs from Hadji Paul’s Chicken and Feed who come to the Farmers Market at Garden Shop Nursery on Sundays.
“There are two peculiarities associated with hard-boiled eggs. One is the occasional difficulty encountered when peeling the egg. It turns out that peelability is affected by the pH of the egg white, and so by the egg’s freshness. If the pH is below 8.9 — in a fresh egg it is closer to 8.0 — then the inner membrane tends to adhere to the albumen, whereas, at the figure typical after three days of refrigeration, around 9.2, the problem no longer exists. Exactly what the chemistry involved is, no one knows, though some cooks claim that salt in the cooking water helps.”
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, Chapter 2: Eggs
Joy, the egg lady says that to peel, the eggs must be 10 days old. The mangled egg above was one of three I kept for 10 days. Well there you go. But I hadn’t read Harold McGee and didn’t salt the water. Maybe that works.
In the meantime, I wanted a hard-boiled egg for breakfast to go with leftover broccoli and fresh cheese curd. As I was standing at the counter with an egg in front of me, I remembered making a “poached egg” in the microwave.
I didn’t much like that, and haven’t “poached” an egg that way since. But what if I left the egg in the microwave longer? Say 35 seconds. The worst that can happen is it will explode and make a mess. I did it.
It looks like a hard-boiled egg, except for the shape — which is weird — and tastes like a hard-boiled egg. That’s good to know. But you can’t cut it into wedges or slices like a regular egg-shaped egg. I have a gadget for that. It also has a pricker to prick the egg bottom.
“Carefully piercing the air cell with a pin may allow some of the cooking water to leak between the membranes and so ease their separation from the egg… Modern Science generally agrees with the empirically derived advice given by the 14th -century Menagier de Paris: ‘Item, whether they be soft or hard, as soon as they are cooked put them in cold water: they will be easier to peel.’”
My cooking method is to pierce the bottoms of the eggs, cover the eggs with cold water in a saucepan and cook over high heat, covered, until the water just boils (about 5 minutes in San Francisco, 6 minutes in nearly mile-high Reno). Set the pan off the heat and let stand, covered, for 12 minutes. Plunge the eggs into ice water. Crack all the eggs and put them back in the water. Peel.
And so; my current crop of eggs is 10 days old, today. I only have two, but let’s have a go at it, incorporating my new knowledge.
Success. But not easy… never easy… look at the size of those shell peelings. Nevertheless, a good hard-boiled egg is worth some effort.
Sometimes we wait at least a week and sometimes two before hard boiling eggs that we get fresh from our chickens.
Occasionally, when we have a bit of a surplus, I set aside a dozen eggs, label and date the carton, and wait. Then those are the eggs we use for egg salad, deviled eggs. etc. But, when you want to make a lot of HB eggs it will almost drive you to buying the cheapest eggs you can find at the supermarket because you KNOW those are more than a week old…often much older.
If a week in your fridge doesn’t do the trick, your fridge might be very tight, so just leave a few (fresh!) eggs out in a bowl on the counter at room temp for a couple of days, which will allow more air to get to them to help change the pH and dehydrate the whites so they aren’t pressed against that inner membrane so hard.
Here is my method, developed over years of trial and error:
– get eggs out or refrigerator and let them come to room temp (10 min or so)
– large sauce pan, cover with cold water
– bring water to boil, then down to simmer
– cover pan and simmer for 17 minutes
– when timer goes off, immediately take pan to sink fill pan with cold water, over-flowing until the water in the pan (with the eggs) is cold.
– let eggs sit for a while, then place in refrigerator
– process of quick-cooling the eggs separates the shells from the egg enough that they should be VERY to peel. (at least it works most of the time for me).
– eggs can also be peeled right out of the pan as well, once they have cooled down.
Incredible how something so simple as hard boiling an egg can some times be so frustrating. I think we’ve all had this experience more than once. Thanks for the science behind the solution.
My Gilroy farmer friends recommend that if you decide to leave them out (unrefreigerated) as a way to prepare them for hardboiling, don’t wash them. And if you want to ensure that the egg yolk is in the center of the egg for defiled egg preparation, wrap a rubber band around the carton and place it on its side.