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May 6, 2002 01:32 PM

hard boiled egg not peeling right [moved from General Chowhounding]

  • w

Does anybody know why is it that sometimes a hard boiled egg is easy to peel and sometimes it comes out like a moon rock full of craters?

I like my hard boil egg not overly cooked, so the yolks are just set. Could that be it, too undercooked?

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  1. w
    wow i'm a dog

    Your eggs are *too* fresh - makes 'em hard to peel. Try peeling them under cold water. Sometimes that makes it easier.


    12 Replies
    1. re: wow i'm a dog

      What is too fresh? I have had these eggs for over a week in my fridge, and who knows how long in Safeway before I picked them up.

      I know egg keeps for a long time in the fridge...but wow, this is certain news to me.

      1. re: Wendy Lai
        Stanley Stephan

        That sort of blows apart McGee's 3 day statement. Safeway certainly doesn't have hens laying eggs in the back of the store.

        Maybe they were'nt cooled quickly enough?

        1. re: Stanley Stephan


          Do try all the usual advice - organic eggs, older eggs, a bit of vinegar in the water, plunging immediately into an ice bath, etc. - and it may work for you.

          But...just wanted to let you know that there are times when no matter what I try I can't get the shell off cleanly.

          And a soft boiled egg served hot with a clean-peeling shell - sometimes just impossible.

          I am an experienced cook and I suspect that there is just a change in the nature of eggs. I don't get these problems as often when I boil eggs in France - including ones from the chain supermarkets that are not not even refrigerated by the way.

          So despite your best efforts those shells may still stick.

          1. re: Louisa Chu

            There's somebody telling the truth. All these urban myths about the age of the eggs, temperature of the water, etc. are nonsense. I've boiled eggs that were so old they were in danger of going bad, and they STILL had their shells stuck on them. You'd think in all of science and the Internet somebody would figure this out once and for all, but all I see are unproven hypotheses. Just like sugar makes kids hyper - no, it doesn't. At least science bears that out.

            1. re: tttt123ghmyttf

              I have to agree with you, while it may be true that very fresh eggs are harder to peel, I don't think that's the issue that most people have. I get my eggs from a regular old grocery store, and I've hard cooked eggs and had some from the same batch peel just fine and other get mangled trying to get the shell off. I will say since I've started steaming instead of boiling, I haven't had that problem. I won't swear that it's foolproof, but it's been working so far.

          2. re: Stanley Stephan

            Actually, they weren't. This time I let it sit in the hot water because I didn't have time to take them out, and they cooled in the hot water. Perhaps the cooling right after cooking is the key. I will give that a try next time.

            I do always put eggs in cold water and bring everything to a slow boil together. My mom always told me the eggs would explode if you drop them into boiling water. I don't know if that's true, but why temp fate?

            1. re: Wendy Lai

              They wont explode. I often cook them by dropping into boiling water. It might cause cracking and leaking more? I tend to do this when cooking them along with potatoes for potato salad.

              1. re: Atahualpa

                It seems counter to what others have said, but if I run cold water over them, they're hard to peel. If I let them cool on a plate for a few minutes, they peel easily. You gotta break that clear membrane skin and peel it with the shell.

          3. re: Wendy Lai
            wow i'm a dog

            I would be interesting to know the answer though.

            1. re: Wendy Lai

              Eggs from a grocery hit your fridge at about 4 weeks of age. Amazing, huh?

            2. re: wow i'm a dog

              I've heard others say the eggs are 'too fresh' nonsense. I used to have a farm and love
              fresh eggs. I didn't raise chickens but I had neighbors who did and used to make plenty of Chef's salads, egg sala, egg-potato salad, and deviled eggs in my time, along with the usual hardy breakfast specialties and killer hollandaise. I'm a pro, if I do say so myself, and I know eggs.

              To answer someone else, the Navy keeps eggs on board ships for a month - UNrefrigerated!

              Unless I miss my guess, there is something very different in the chicken feed being used currently that would likely account for the chunks of cooked white sticking to the shell while peeling. More calcium makes a harder shell - ?.

              I find it somewhat easier if you start with a tap at the pointy end and make a strip straight to the round end and then peel sideways from there.

              I've never seen this issue before, and being a conspiracy theorist at heart, I fear it may also have to do with all those aggressive amateur inventors 'out there' with their egg cookers, crackers, and trays.

              1. re: salmonlover

                I grew up on a farm. My mother grew up on a farm and so did her mother. It was explained through generations that eggs can remain safe to eat when unrefrigerated if they have not been washed. When the hen lays the egg a clear mucous coats the egg. Once the egg has been washed it is now porous and dangerous to eat if left unrefrigerated.

                Hen's would lay eggs throughout the day, usually in the morning and it would be hours before we could collect them. I can't help on the peeling question, I'm here because I'm having the same problem, but maybe some of you have wondered about unrefrigerated eggs.

            3. Cooks Illustrated had a feature on this a while back. They recommend:

              1) bringing the water to a boil, then letting the egg sit in water for 15 minutes

              2) plunging egg into ice water and letting it sit for 15 minutes

              3) rolling egg on counter (under your palm) once or twice.

              I don't know why this works but it does--it produces perfectly cooked, easy to peel eggs.

              1 Reply
              1. re: susanb

                I believe this works because when you place them in the cold water after cooking a thin layer of steam forms between the egg and the shell creating a space which makes them easier to peel.

                This method works for me 95% of the time. Very good, but not fool proof.

              2. I think the ice bath is the key.

                I put the eggs in a cold pot of water. Bring it up to temp. Once it boils, wait 7 minutes. Then take out of the water and ice them down.

                No green colored yolks. No problem peeling.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Tugboat

                  Yes, the ice bath is the secret. I made a pot of hard boiled eggs this morning, and as soon as they were done, I took one out to peel. It was the worst experience peeling an egg I've ever had. Even running cold water over it did not help separate the shell from the egg. I put the rest in an ice bath for 5-10 minutes and they peeled perfectly. Thanks for the tip.

                2. cold water is the key as stated by the rest of them. The key is that there is a membrane on the shell that keeps the shell in one piece when you tear at the egg. When its hot the membrane is stuck to the egg white and hence forms a kind of glue btw the shell and the egg white. Putting them in cold water cools the egg and shrinks it such that the membrane can no longer hold on to it. The only experiment that is to be conducted is maybe the eggs of diff color have different kinds of structure that could be better for boil *shrugs*.

                  The best way to boil eggs is to my knowledge to bring the water to a boil with the eggs inside slowly, this is because if you dump the eggs in boil water (esp if your eggs are in the fridge) the shell would crack and hot water will seep in making the peeling process extremely difficult later on.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: icecold

                    Another good reason to use your method, assuming you turn off the heat when it comes to a boil: boiling toughens protein.

                  2. Food Tv (sara moulton) always says to use not so fresh eggs. I don't know.. I don't have much of a choice as I don't raise chickens and neither I nor my wife lays them so I go with what I find at the store.

                    I have been using the Julia Child method and have not had a bad egg for years. Generally they peel just fine. If I have a problem I sometimes will put them under tap water for a second. Although I believe Julia has abandoned the last step (in and out) these days I find it still works for me (old dowg - no new tricks syndrone I guess). Anyway here is what I do.

                    How to make a Hard Boiled Egg

                    These eggs turn out perfect every time. No green part at all. I don't always use the second boil and ice bath routine because they seem to deshell pretty easy.

                    Julia Child Method. Add eggs straight from fridge in a single layer to a saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch at least. Slowly bring water to a soft boil. Once water is at a soft boil, cover and remove from heat and begin to time them.

                    Small Egg - 14 minutes
                    Large Egg - 17 minutes
                    Jumbo Egg - 19 minutes

                    Remove from pan and plunge into ice cubes and water for 2 minutes. Bring the water back to a boil while the eggs are in the ice water. Return to pan and bring to boil. Boil 10 seconds. Return to ice bath. Whole boiled eggs can be kept in fridge for a week.

                    Note: To ease the shelling try cracking the egg on the wide end of the egg and under a little running cold water to remove the shell. It tends to push the shell out.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: DavidH

                      After a little thought, there is one more point I want to make. I don't buy the less fresh egg approach. Yes, it is possible the eggs may peel better but I may die of samanella or the end product may not taste as good. All chefs say to buy the freshest ingredients always and my feeling is that this applys to eggs as well. I always check the expiration date on everything I buy and it is not uncommon to find somethng on the shelves that are beyond this date.

                      How to tell if an Egg is Fresh

                      Put the eggs in a pan of water. If it's a fresh egg, it will lie on it's side on the bottom. If it's a few days old, one end will tip upwards. If it's stale, it will stand on one end. If it's rotten... it will float. Also, when you crack an egg, the higher the yolk stands,the fresher it is.

                      1. re: DavidH

                        I think chefs seek "freshest" with produce, but I don't think the same applies to animal products.

                        For instance, I believe Morimoto insists the best quality sashima tuna sits for two days to be perfect.

                        I understand most meats for that matter need to sit a while.

                        1. re: Uncledave

                          I usually hard boil the eggs that have sat in the fridge for the past week - right after buying a new carton.