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.
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.
Simple Salmon Kedgeree
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.