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The Secret to Easy-To-Peel Boiled Eggs

the secret to easy peel boiled eggs

Ever struggled with the supposedly simple kitchen task of boiling and peeling an egg?

A few weeks ago I was at my brother’s lovely new house in the country and had been inspired to make a salmon kedgeree for dinner. Which meant boiling up and peeling a few eggs. I didn’t really think much of it, although it had been a very long time since I’d boiled an egg.

But when I came to the peeling part, I found it very perplexing. I banged each egg on the sink to crack the shells and while some peeled effortlessly, almost in one piece, others were seriously stubborn. These ended up pockmarked where some bits of the white had been peeled away with the shell. Poor eggs.

So when my brother asked me the secret to peeling boiled eggs, I had to share my frustration with him. It was time to do some research.

The Research Results

Ages ago I’d seen a blog post by Tim Ferris where he ‘blew’ the egg out of its shell. So there was one option.

And Harold McGee had some good advice. Apparently super fresh eggs are difficult to peel because the pH of the white is low which causes it to adhere to the shell membrane more tightly. Two solutions here – use older eggs or add a little bicarb soda to the cooking water to increase the pH.

If you’re having a problem with off centre yolks or flat bottom whites (something I saw in my very old eggs) this is just a result of aging – who knew eggs had so much in common with people. The only solution is to use fresh eggs.

Stephanie Alexander’s preference is to place the eggs in cold water then slowly bring to a simmer to prevent cracking. She then boils for 8 minutes, drains and cools under running water. Stephanie recommend tapping the eggs to break the membrane for easy peeling.

My Own Experimentation Results

So I’ve been having egg sandwiches for lunch all this week – the lengths I got to for stonesoup – and I’ve learned a few things about boiling and peeling eggs.

Tim Ferris must have some mighty big lungs. Try as I might, I couldn’t get a single egg to pop cleanly out of the shell like he does. But I did find that the blowing helped separate the membrane from the white and made it a little easier for hand peeling.

I tried eggs of different ages. Unfortunately I couldn’t get my hands on any straight from the chicken coop so didn’t have access to super fresh eggs. I didn’t notice any real difference between fresher and older eggs. The only really challenging egg I came across was very very old – like a few months. So I think there is a limit.

I did find that the bicarb soda made both the younger and older eggs marginally easier to peel so am going to stick with that tip from now on.

I’ve been a convert of the old add-the-eggs-to-cold-water trick for a while. And I can’t remember the last time I had an egg crack and white leak out. Highly recommend this.

the secret to easy peel boiled eggs

How to Boil and Peel an Egg

1. Place eggs (at room temperature) in a saucepan large enough so they can be well covered with water.
2. Cover with cold water and add 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
3. Bring to a gentle simmer
4. Cook at the gentle simmer for 8 minutes
5. Drain and transfer to a bowl filled with cold water. Allow to cool.
6. Bang each end on a hard surface to crack.
7. Remove a little circle of shell from each end
8. Put your mouth to one hole and blow really hard
9. If the egg hasn’t popped out, use your fingers to gently separate the shell and membrane from the egg itself.
10. Admire your handiwork and possibly give the egg a little rinse if someone else is going to eat it.

salmon kedgeree

Simple Salmon Kedgeree

serves 4

Inspired by the dynamic pioneer of Australian cooking, Margaret Fulton.

Kedgeree is a traditional British dish usually made with smoked haddock and served for breakfast. But I prefer this milder version with canned salmon as a simple dinner.

This is one of those fish dishes that isn’t actually fishy at all. The curry powder seems to almost mask the salmon flavour and leaves you with a lovely gentle spiciness – without being overtly curry-like. We’re talking simple comfort food.

I used brown rice for the photo because I like it’s nuttiness and fiber bonus but any type of rice would work well here.

large knob butter
3T olive oil
2 brown onions, peeled & diced
3 ribs celery, finely diced
3C cooked rice (450g or 1lb)
3-4t mild curry powder (I used Keens)
1 large can salmon (400g or 14oz)
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked, optional
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled & halved lengthwise

Melt butter in a large frying pan. Add oil, onion and celery. Cover and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until soft but not browned.

Stir though rice, curry powder and salmon. Taste, season and allow to warm through.

Remove from the heat and stir through parley if using. Top with eggs.

salmon kedgeree

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{ 146 comments… add one }
  • Anne 26 February, 2012, 4:33 pm

    To get centered yolks, spin the eggs on their “sides” before boiling. Especially good for eggs that have been sitting a long while. While the white will change consistency over time, the yolk remains intact. Spinning will move the yolk to the center. I do love deviled eggs! Thanks for the blog

  • Courtney 3 March, 2012, 12:29 pm

    If your not in a hurry…
    Put eggs in cold water
    bring to a boil
    turn off heat and cover for 15 minutes
    Run luke warm water until you can touch
    roll on the counter to get the middle to crack
    peels apart in 2 pieces

  • Lynn Brown 11 March, 2012, 5:42 am

    I have chickens and very fresh eggs- Here is how to make hard boiled eggs so they won’t stick

    Bring you water to a boil and carefully add eggs to water with a slotted spoon or something similar

    Boil for 20 minutes.
    Gently remove eggs from water and place in a bowl filled with ice and cold water to chill completely. Let sit for another 15 minutes or so then remove, dry and store in your fridge.

    Putting the eggs in the cold water causes the egg to shrink slight and pull back from the shell making it easy to peel- Works every time.

  • elise oras 12 March, 2012, 5:34 am

    If you need to peel all your eggs at once (which I like to do) I use the “bumper egg” approach. You can literally peel a dozen eggs in about 2 minutes. http://www.elisesaidso.com/2012/03/how-to-make-perfect-hard-boiled-eggs.html

  • C Kitson 15 March, 2012, 2:02 pm

    I have found the answer. It goes against everything that everyone has told you since childhood up-but it works. Every time. Every egg. Easy peasy as my kids would say.

    Bring a big pot of water to a full rolling boil, then, with tongs, carefully place your eggs into the water, one by one. One may make a popping noise and distressing egg-whites might come out a bit-especially if any had hairline cracks. It’s totally worth it. Boil away for 13 minutes. Remove from water.
    At this point you can do what you wish. Cold water bath. Cold dry storage. Bring to room temp. Eat hot right away. Any way you want it it will be simple to peel.

    I learned this trick about 5 years ago, and I am now the envy of the devil’s egg world. Or I would be, if there were such a thing :)

  • Sandy 21 March, 2012, 11:52 am

    My dear sister taught me to bring the eggs to room temperature..then place in cold water and bring to a boil. After cooking place in ice cold water and peel. This works even for fresh eggs.

  • Megan 23 March, 2012, 2:34 pm

    My grandma always poured the boiling water out and put cold water over to cool. Then when you are ready to peel tap on counter and roll 1/4 roll. Then either in your bowl of water or under running cold water peel. It should come off in almost one piece or a few big pieces but you will not damage your egg or have any little shells left on the outside.

  • Alisa 30 March, 2012, 12:56 pm

    You’re supposed to wait or day or so AFTER you boil them, then they’re super easy to peel =)

  • Trixie 30 March, 2012, 2:12 pm

    Here’s my secret to easy-to-peel, perfectly cooked, hard-boiled eggs. (Although, I admit I still do occasionally find a stubborn one)

    Place eggs in pot and fill 1/2 way with cold to tepid water. Gently bring to a boil, then remove the pot from the heat immediately. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let them sit for 15 minutes. Then, remove the eggs from the hot water and set into an ice bath for 5 to 10 minutes to stop the cooking (this is why the yolks turn greenish – overcooking), and you’re ready to peel and eat. I think I’m going to try adding the soda with my next batch though, just to make sure I catch that stubborn one that pops up here and there. Thanks for the tips.

  • Mary 3 May, 2012, 7:18 am

    I always boil my eggs and when they are done I pour the hot water off and run cold water in the pan, crack the eggs and put them back in the cold water and let 5 or so minutes and even with fresh eggs I have no problem peeling them.

  • Mary Lou Vaskus 3 June, 2012, 8:42 pm

    I buy eggs 1 week before hard boiling, this does help. I use x-lg eggs.
    I place room temperature eggs in pot of cold water 1″ above eggs, add salt, when water comes to full boil turn off, put lid on and let sit for 15-20 min., then drain and put eggs in a bowl of ice water, let sit for about 5-10 min.
    Works great!

    P.S. Rachael Ray, after draining hot water, keeps eggs in pot then bounces them around until they are all cracked. I tried this once but I think I over bounced them, I will try this again being more gentle. : )

    • jules 6 June, 2012, 6:52 pm

      Thanks for sharing Mary Lou :)

  • Amy 4 June, 2012, 10:10 am

    I had this problem just today! My friend suggested peeling the eggs under a steam of cold water, and it worked like a charm!

  • Kittymama 25 June, 2012, 8:10 pm

    This is a marvelous list of different ways to handle all the little problems like peeling, yolk centering for deviled or stuffed eggs, etc. In the U.S.A., most people expect their boiled eggs to be very hard, and they don’t even mind the gray or green ring around the yolk — the ones in your kedgeree photos would be considered undercooked. (A soft egg is a different dish altogether.)

    I boil eggs most often when they’re going to be decorated for Easter. If they’re kept cool and clean through all the festivities, they can be eaten later, so my preference is for the shells to be intact until then. I find that changing the water temperature very gradually (both heating up at the beginning and then in cooling them afterward) helps them not crack before I intend them to. I use a lot of salt, and I can tell when someone else has “donated” boiled eggs to our party because they are often more difficult to peel.

  • Joan 12 July, 2012, 3:52 am

    I just read an article on putting your eggs in a muffin tin and baking for 30 minutes in a 325 degree oven, sounds like a plan! Just hope it works!

    • jules 16 July, 2012, 2:46 pm

      wow Joan
      never thought to bake whole eggs.. could be interesting
      Let us know how you get on!
      Jx

  • Bex 29 August, 2012, 3:57 am

    If you bake your eggs instead of boiling them they peel better. Put eggs in muffin tins. Bake at 325 F for 30 mins. Put cooked eggs in a bowl of cold water for a few mins. before peeling them. Not one ding or gouge this way. Perfect eggs. I’ve done it once as I just learned this on Pinterest the other day!

    • jules 15 September, 2012, 3:32 am

      Interesting idea Bex!
      Will have to give it a go

  • Krista Scalise 30 August, 2012, 5:49 am

    So I totally got the blowing trick to work :) So cool!

  • Rodney 23 November, 2012, 5:25 pm

    Dished this up tonight for fussy Irish man, added some left over cabbage from the colcannon i cooked earlier in week and some spinach. Poured us a glass of Chardonnay and got a big kiss for my efforts. Jules u know how to make men happy.

    • jules 26 November, 2012, 2:55 pm

      So glad your efforts we well rewarded Rodney!

  • Shy 29 November, 2012, 1:06 am

    Easiest way to peel an egg:
    Drain water from pot as soon as you pull it off of the stove.
    Keep eggs in pot and gently pop them around the pot so they crack a little bit all over.
    Let cold water run in pot as you peel each egg under the stream of water.
    It works!!!

  • nessa 29 January, 2013, 2:33 pm

    The secret to peeling a perfect egg is the egg temperature. You have to peel it when it is still warm. This keeps the membrane from socking down against the egg white and thus a perfect egg. It is simple science. Go to you-tube and watch what happens when a empty 50 gal container is heated and then has ice put on it. Same thing happens to an egg!

  • Kelly 30 January, 2013, 2:51 pm

    Try this foolproof method of cooking the eggs… I learned this from my dear mother in law..
    Put your eggs in cool water in a pan, bring to a boil,
    Ermine from heat and place a kid on the pan. Let them sit 10 minutes. Run cool water over them and drain… Put the lid back on the pot and shake them up to crack the shells all over… Then peel.
    They NEVER overcook! :-)

  • Gael 24 February, 2013, 4:57 pm

    To easily get the shell off a boiled egg, once cool after running under cold water, I gently tap it all over with a butter knife or similar & it creates cracks on the shell you can then peel – just be sure to create big cracks when tapping with your knife as it will be easier to peel

  • Gram Sandy 8 March, 2013, 3:10 am

    Here’s my foolproof method of easily peeling eggs. Choose eggs a few days old. Place eggs in cold water. Bring to boil, remove from heat. Cover pan and let stand for 15 minutes. Pour hot water off eggs. Bounce eggs gently in pan to crack shells. Run cold water over eggs in pan for few minutes. Pour most of water out, then cover with ice cubes and add water. Let stand for 15 minutes. Pour out cold water, then easily peel eggs. Shell will almost slip off!

  • Pat 13 March, 2013, 11:25 am

    When I hard boil eggs I put them in cold water with a dash of salt and cover the pot. I bring them to a boil and then turn the heat off. I leave them sit for 10 minutes. Then I drain the water off and run them under cold water to cool them. I do find fresh eggs are harder to peel even with this method, but I never get the green edge around the yolk. I just bought these things called Eggies. Open them up, crack the egg into it, close it back up and boil the egg in them. No peeling necessary then :) Just open them and the hard boiled egg falls out.

  • Sherry 16 March, 2013, 8:15 am

    I also start eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, turn off heat, cover pot and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Tap eggs on counter top, gently roll in your hands to loosen membranes. Now….Take a teaspoon…holding egg under running water, turn the spoon curved-side-down and run the spoon just under the eggshell. The curve of the spoon works near perfectly under the shell. Just move it around the egg & “voila”. A peeled egg.

  • Sher 17 March, 2013, 5:12 pm

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned vinegar. Put about a 1/2 cup of vinegar in the water before you boil it. I too, do the above method of boiling, turn off, sit 15 or so minutes then cool quickly with cold water. Never have trouble peeling new or old eggs! Happy Easter everyone.

  • sandee 21 March, 2013, 5:17 am

    Tyler Florence says to poke a hole in the round end of egg before boiling
    I do this and never a problem getting the shells off. I use a push pin and it works terrifically

  • Chris 24 March, 2013, 9:22 am

    I boil them for about 8 minutes or so, then drain the water, run cold water over the eggs, tap to make a crack, pull the membrane and run luke warm water between the membrane and the egg and the shell will slide right off almost every time.

  • candy 25 March, 2013, 2:55 am

    My mom taught me to put a few drops of oil in the water with the eggs. This trick and allowing the eggs to cool in a pan of cold water have always served me well.

  • Janie 26 November, 2015, 12:56 pm

    I have a fool proof…never fail…easy way peel boiled eggs. The trick is in the boiling. I put room temp eggs into already boiling water…or you can start from cold water…your choice. Let the eggs boil about 6 minutes then crack the shells. I use a potato masher. Let them continue to boil until done … another 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat…let cool a bit. The shell will almost fall off by itself.

  • Steve 15 June, 2016, 9:19 pm

    The “how to boil and peel an egg” blow the egg trick worked. My egg was one day old from the coup and to be honest as I blew from one end of the egg I thought ‘this is a wind up’ but it worked.

    Thanks for ever

  • Ajithkumar 21 August, 2016, 12:46 pm

    Jule, your egg peel tip was fantastic. I tried it successfully.
    Thank you

  • Ajithkumar 21 August, 2016, 12:47 pm

    Jule, your egg peel tip was fantastic. I tried it successfully.
    Thank you
    Ajithkumar
    India

  • Shirley 13 September, 2016, 7:51 am

    I read once that if you crack a boiled egg on the end that has the most empty air space, (air pocket) the shell comes off without cracking in small pieces. It actually works. Make sure your eggs are cooled.

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