the secret to easy-to-peel boiled eggs

the secret to easy peel boiled eggs salmon kedgeree

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 the secret to easy-to-peel boiled eggs

how to boil and peel an egg

1. Place eggs 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

_______________________________________________________________

Very excited to announce that I have a guest post on Zen Habits at the moment – How to Master the Art of Mindful Eating – check it out for a killer 5 ingredients | 10 minutes recipe for super simple broccoli with chickpeas & tahini sauce.

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While preparing a meal with ingredients you have sourced from the garden and Mudgee region, you will sample a range of estate grown varietal olives and oil. We will then venture to the grove to select olives to be processed and later sent to you. Lunch will be served at long tables under the olive trees and stunning vista of the Mudgee Hills. Experience the basics of wine companioning while you enjoy the fabulous repast that you have created, with local wines by Robert Stein Winery.
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{ 115 comments }

Sam March 25, 2010 at 4:10 pm

found you on Zen Habits

jules March 25, 2010 at 4:12 pm

hi sam
thanks for dropping by & taking the time to say hello

Laura M March 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I’ve never heard of that before! Thanks for the post. I will pass this along to my partner as he doesn’t get along well with peeling boiled eggs.

Blu486 March 25, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Here’s a way that generally works for me – when it comes to the peeling part. Let the eggs cool in a pan of water. When time to peel, tap them and break the shell all over the entire egg. Then while holding under the tap with cold water running, semi-gently roll the egg between your palms. This allows the water to enter where the membrane is broken and the rolling helps separate the egg from the membrane. You’ll be able to feel the difference once the shell is free. Then peel – usually comes off in one, messy piece!

Lorena March 25, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Not sure if this makes a big difference but seems to work for me: I immediately tip the eggs (quite roughly – so the shells crack) into cold water. Not only does this halt the cooking process but does seems to help the egg let go of the shell.

It’s been exciting watching you transition into full time blogger/writer etc, and I’m loving the 5 ingredients | 10 minutes recipes.

Mark @ Cafe Campana March 25, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Very nice, I have never heard of blowing a cooked egg out of its shell but it sounds nifty.

another outspoken female March 25, 2010 at 5:45 pm

I’m a huge kedgeree fan It always seems to be on the menu in cafes in NZ. I think it’s the kiwi passion for smoked fish. I’ve made versions of kedgeree with canned red salmon, a vego one with smoked tofu but I am faithful to my homeland with my love of smoked fish. Smoked trout is fine as you don’t need to cook it first, just flake through at the end. I like fresh coriander instead of parsley as well. Though I suspect the best ones are where there is extra butter and a decent amount of salt stirred through at the end.

Tracy Willans March 25, 2010 at 6:31 pm

You can also start the eggs cold bring them to the boil then turn the power off and pop a lid on and leave the eggs for the same amount of time you normally would. So for hard boiled I leave them for 10 mins. Saves electricity.

Erin March 25, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Great post, Jules. I’m going to try it with the canned wood-smoked salmon.

tigerfish March 25, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Lovely photos. I usually immerse the boiled eggs in cold water before I peel them. Oh, and I heard the white membrane inside that hard-boiled egg – can be used as a nose mask to remove black-heads! I have not tried it though. :P

Laur March 25, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Cold water does the trick for me too. I can’t even remember the last time I had to struggle with the peeling.

What I wanted to say though is this. I grew up in the country side, and we always had fresh eggs for breakfast. My grandmother, however, would always let eggs stand for one day – she said that having them too fresh is not good for you. I just thought I’d share – and if anyone knows the reason, I’d love to hear it.

Oh yes, I’m new around here. Hi. Lovely blog, by the way :)

mcpixelchick March 25, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Thank you Jules!

I found you through Zen Habits. Food is one area of my life I need inspiration and simplicity.

So I’m really delighted to have found your work.

Alison March 25, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Hey! I’m another newbie who came by from Zen Habits; I think I have a new blog-crush! And this looks like tonight’s dinner… Yum, and thanks! :)

Judy March 25, 2010 at 9:50 pm

From someone who has chickens and fresh eggs daily, I can support the theory that the fresher the egg, the harder it is to peel. It is true that the membrane does adhere to the egg white much more when the eggs are fresh. I had not heard of the bicarb soda theory-will try that today. When we want to hard-boil eggs, I usually buy eggs from the store!

Rick Roberts March 25, 2010 at 10:51 pm

I never “boil” my eggs. I cover with cold water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover, and set timer for 15 minutes. Perfect eggs every time.

Monoko March 25, 2010 at 11:26 pm

I just saw Jacque Pépin do a segment on his show about hardboiled eggs last night. He recommended peeling under water as well. I find that starting to peel at the “fat” end where the big air bubble is can help a bit too.

Jacqueline March 26, 2010 at 12:02 am

Great news about the baking soda- it makes good sense and I will try it as well. I also found you through Zen habits and love the look of the brocolli chickpea recipe- will definitely give it a go with a little brown rice pilaf on the side!

Mandee Jo March 26, 2010 at 1:55 am

Fresh out of the chicken eggs are very hard to peel. If I need pretty looking whole egg whites I have to buy store eggs or set some aside in the fridge ahead of time.

Jennifer March 26, 2010 at 2:43 am

Found you through ZenHabits as well and am absolutely LOVING your blog!

Something I picked up from the Food Network one time for boiling eggs…bring your pot of eggs to an immediate boil (set burner on high), then let simmer. Once you’ve boiled the eggs, drain the hot water and give them a COLD water bath. Peeling has been so much easier for me ever since.

The blowing method kind of grosses me out. I don’t want to eat someone’s egg salad if I knew the person who made it breathed on every stinking egg. I guess it’s just a mental thing with me.

Nathalie March 26, 2010 at 3:39 am

Hi :)
I’m a new reader of your blog (stumbled upon) and i love it!
a big hello from Luxembourg, Europe

Trish March 26, 2010 at 3:51 am

Just wanna to say I recently stumbled on this blog and I’m totally hooked. I’m a student who lives alone and I often cook just for me, and using the best ingredients you can as simply as possible just makes sense. Thank you!!

Moushka March 26, 2010 at 4:42 am

Another new devotee who surfed in from Leo’s blog. Love your philosophy of eating well, which echoes my own. Am in the process of changing my heating habits to promote healthy weight loss and am enjoying your lovely, simple recipes, even if I can’t try them out quite yet. Will give the bicarb soda idea a try. Thank you.

e l k March 26, 2010 at 6:16 am

stunning photos . simple food …

Julie March 26, 2010 at 6:32 am

great blog, jules. like Blu486, i’ve never had a problem with peeling hard boiled eggs, after cooling them slightly, then cracking the shell all over, peeling it off under cold running water. you don’t even need the baking soda in the water that way (:

Amy Knutson March 26, 2010 at 7:00 am

My ex-mother-in-law gave me a great tip, which works almost all of the time (doesn’t work if I’m not paying attention and don’t get the timing right): Bring eggs to hard boil, then immediately turn the heat off, cover the pot, and let sit on the stove for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes is up, immediately rinse in cold water and let them sit in cold water until they cool. Refrigerate.

C. A. March 26, 2010 at 7:05 am

Hi Jules! I apply the blowing technique only if I’m boiling an egg for myself. I agree th Jennifer that the blowing method creates a disturbing mental image.
By the way, to prevent and an egg from cracking and the white from leaking out during the boiling process, the best thing you can do is to add a few drops of vinegar in the water before it gets too hot. Even if the shell cracks, the vinegar will seal it.

herhimnbryn March 26, 2010 at 7:22 am

Many years ago (over 40), my Dad showed me how to peel a boiled egg and his way has never failed. Knock the boiled egg on the side of the pan, find a teaspoon with a rounded end to the handle. Slip the rounded end of the spoon handle under the shell and the membrane and peel….always works!

Hanz Gueco March 26, 2010 at 9:16 am

According to Herve This(pronounced toss) book ‘Molecular Gastronomy’ the secret to a perfertly center egg yolk is to continually move the egg once cooking. He discover that the yolk will float to the surface upon cooking.

Kath Lockett March 26, 2010 at 9:24 am

I’ve just come back from a run and haven’t had breakfast yet and your kedgeree looks absolutely delicious!

The other way to crack an eggshell is to fill it with chocolate – see here:
http://gonechocco.com/?p=1767

And I think that I might be lucky enough to meet you in Sydney next week at the Lindt Lovers event??

Nikki March 26, 2010 at 10:29 am

That recipe sounds amazing – I’ve never tried that before and now will absolutely have to!

This is my new favourite food blog. I have just recently resigned from my job to focus on my home business. And since I aim to spend as much time as humanly possible on my business, and I also adore cooking and food, using your recipes will be a wonderful way to ‘have it all’.

Thank you :)

Chris O'Byrne March 26, 2010 at 10:31 am

I’m glad to see no one mentioned my trick. I use a pushpin and poke a hole in the broad end of the egg before boiling. The shells don’t crack and and the eggs peel like a dream!

Mark Scarbrough March 26, 2010 at 10:45 am

Great egg tip–but I’ve always been chicken to try it (as it were). Now if someone can just figure out an easy way to peel a soft-boiled egg!

Terri March 26, 2010 at 11:20 am

I enjoy both Zen Habits and Stone Soup blogs. Both support my quest for a simple life. Keep up the good work!

Jeni March 26, 2010 at 11:24 am

I use a tip from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”–punch a tiny hole in one end of the egg (I use a push pin/thumb tack) and cool in a bowl of ice water.

jennifer March 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm

My namesake said it all for me – I’m a bit of a hygiene freak in the kitchen and imagine passing on/being inflicted with every imaginable horrible contagious disease if too many people decided this was the way to go!!!

noobcook March 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm

found u thru zen habits. love your minimalist approach and beautiful photography. Thx for the tips for peeling eggs, it will come in handy =)

jules March 26, 2010 at 6:46 pm

thanks for all the comments everyone – and welcome zen habits readers

I can understand where some people have hygiene concerns with the blowing method. It’s up to you really

And for those who punch a hole – according to Harold McGee studies have shown that it doesn’t make much difference which is why I didn’t try it. And to be honest I’m a little over eggsposed at the moment – so I think I’ll be waiting a while before I continue my own investigations.

kath – unfortunately I’m out of town next week so we won’t get to meet. have fun.

herhimnbryn – thanks for the ‘spooning’ method tip – I will add it to my list to try -

pamkenn March 26, 2010 at 8:12 pm

found you through Zen Habits and I’m delighted as simple living and good eating are two of my passions. Lately I have been using my vegetable steamer to steam eggs for about 8-10 minutes. Then I empty the pan and place the steamer with eggs back in to run cold water over them – once the pan has cooled and the water stays cool I usually leave them in the cold water a while. Timing is not my strength and I do live someplace where water usage is not an issue

Scelza March 26, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Nice article. I use the same cold water-to-boil for 8 minutes, then a cold dip to cool. I take my eggs out, crack and roll (gently) on the counter top, which makes peeling quite easy.

Melissa Schmalenberger March 27, 2010 at 3:50 am

Hi, found you on Zen Habits as I am trying to learn to do things the easier way! As a lawyer turned professional organizer some habits I find are harder to get rid of then others! Thanks for the great blog and I am now a follower!

Andrew Ford March 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

Hey…made the Broccolli con Chickpeas from ZH and turned out pretty good, but sauce turned into a soup instead of a sauce. (I did use yogurt instead of the fancy stuff) Any edits for your Argentine friends without fancy health food stores?

af

Conor @ HoldtheBeef March 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm

surely the problem with peeling a hard boiled egg is as old as the chicken or the egg question? :)

lately the only time I’ve been boiling eggs is when I do it in advance to make my ‘party eggs’ for something, and I’ve been refrigerating them unpeeled overnight. I’ve noticed this makes peeling them the next day easier, though of course this may just be a happy coincidence.

Interesting to read everyone’s hints following on from your research. Seems we all have our own little techniques!

Kim M March 27, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Used to have to boil and peel hundreds of eggs a week in a restaurant. Start the eggs in cold water with a bit of vinegar. Bring to a boil. When done immediately pour off hot water and fill pot with cold ice water. Just enough col water to cover and add ice, lots. Allow to cool until ice has melted and the eggs are cold. Grab the egg smack each end to break and roll the egg across the counter with you hand to shatter the shell on the egg. The egg shell will now easily peel off without sticking.
I do this now at home without thinking and have had more than one friend ask me how I learned to do this. Egg after egg peels easily.

Johanna GGG March 28, 2010 at 2:11 am

useful post – I don’t like eggs but am starting to cook them for my little baby girl so I am thinking about how to do them – I did used to love helping my mum in the kitchen and rolling them over the corrugated sink. My mum has recently got some chooks in her backyard so if I get the chance I will do some experimenting with boiling those eggs and those from the supermarket – interesting stuff!

nazarina March 28, 2010 at 3:41 am

Beautiful pictures indeed and very useful tips. Last year, I boiled the eggs in advance and stuck them in the refrigerator. I too boil them in vinegar. This year, I shall give that bicarbonate of soda a try, Thanks!

Jessica March 28, 2010 at 6:12 am

I found you on Zen Habits and I really like your blog. As for eggs, I guess I have always used the cold water trick and works for me. I may try this new way in the future. Love the recipe!

Kenneth Sundby March 28, 2010 at 6:38 am

There is actually an extremely easy (and truly minimalistic) way to do this. Leave the eggs out for 15 minutes or so. Apart from the other added benefits of this (more of the stuff that’s good for your body stays intact), it makes the peeling process extremely easy after boiling.

another fan of easy recipes March 28, 2010 at 10:54 am

Hi, found you in the Google results for cooking fish with a fan-forced oven :-)

Love the minimalist approach – it’s been exactly what I’m looking for! Like to eat home-cooked food, but prefer recipes to be super simple and healthy. Busy, single professional and all that :-)

Oh, and a tip I’ve been taught since childhood for peeling boiled eggs: after they’ve been cooked, place in a bowl of cold water to make them cool enough to touch, and then roll them around your hands or on the table for a minute or so.

The rolling action gently separates the egg from the walls of the shell. After that, crack the egg shell and peel it off – should come off without taking chunks of the egg with it!

Dina March 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm

that’s a great tip! I’ll be sure to try it the next time I boil some eggs!

birgit March 28, 2010 at 5:07 pm

since i found you on zenhabits i use your blog for inspirations
i love your broccoli with chickenpeas
i love your fotos and recipes because i love minimalism since i read zenhabits
very much love in this post giggle
kind regards from the middle of germany birgit

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