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Jul 9, 2002 10:59 AM

Poking holes in hard-boiled eggs?

  • t

I have been making a lot of hard-boiled eggs lately. I used to poke a little hole in one end, just because that's what my mom does, but I became frustrated with the fact that some of the eggs always leak out a thin stream of white. It yucks up the water and diminishes the egg inside its shell. So I started boiling them unpoked, and they seem to do fine.

So why /do/ we poke holes in eggs before boiling them? Do I run the risk of exploding eggs with my method? (Hasn't happened yet!) Or are they turning out more watery without the little escape hatch, or something? I'm curious.

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  1. j
    Josh Mittleman

    I do it to prevent the shell from cracking while the egg cooks. It also seems to make the shell separate from the egg more easily. I haven't tested either belief scientifically, though.

    1. Poking a tiny hole in the fat end of the egg acts like a little escape hatch so that the pressue can equalize in the egg quickly and prevent the egg shell from cracking. I really like this method and have had less cracked eggs with it than when I hard cooking eggs without a tiny hole.

      Make sure you poke the hole in the wide end of the egg. Also, what are you using to poke the hole? I use the tip of a small safety pin, or a small basting pin used to hold seams and hems in place while sewing.

      Are you putting your eggs directly into boiling water? I've had great luck with shells not cracking or whites not seeping out the hole by bring the water to a vigourous boil, turning it completely off and then lowering the eggs into the water. Since the water isn't rapidly boiling you can actually see little tiny bubbles escaping from the pin hole. I then put the lid back on the pot and let the eggs sit in the hot, hot water for 18-20 minutes, then drain. The eggs are cooked, and you don't get that nasty green ring around the yolk because of iron oxidation.

      And lastly, I have noticed that the times I did have whites leak out of the pin hole was with eggs that weren't exactly very fresh. The egg white does deteriorate with age and become looser, which might make it easier to ooze out a small hole.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Gayla

        Generally, one should not *boil* an egg for the very reasons you describe (it is for these reasons that so many people boil lousy eggs). The bath you describe is usually preferred, or at most at a low simmer.

        1. re: Karl S.

          I've had the best luck starting the eggs in cold water, turning off the heat when it comes to a boil, and waiting 12-15 minutes to let the eggs cook. They never crack that way, and I've never poked holes in them.

          1. re: Karl S.

            My nan always said that *boiling* a "hard-boiled" egg is what causes the greenish patina that forms around the yolk.

            She taught me to boil water, turn down the heat to below the simmer (or off), and lower fresh eggs into the water for 12 minutes. She never taught me the pinhole technique, but now that you mention it I do crack a lot of "boiled" eggs.

            Do you guys salt the water before you boil eggs?

            (Do you add a bit of lemon juice to the water for poached eggs? Another of Nan's tricks. It keeps the eggs from spreading out everywhere.)

        2. This is what I do and I've never had a problem with over-cooked eggs or with eggs that crack when you're cooking them.

          First off, they're "hard-cooked," not "hard-boiled":

          Start with room temp eggs and room temp water. Put the eggs in the pot of water, bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Let stand off heat 15 to 18 minutes. That's all there is to it.

          To peel them easily, I crack them and peel them under cold running water.

          Also, the fresher the egg, the more likely it will stick to the shell when you try to peel it. I have the best and neatest shell-peeling results from using eggs that have been in my fridge for about a week or so.

          1. I just boiled some eggs tonight breaking all the rules below: I put cold eggs (no holes) in cold water, no salt, brought it to a boil, turned down the heat to a gentle simmer, and cooked for about 12-15 minutes, rolling them occasionally. I did the old spin & stop trick on one of them to make sure they were hard then placed them in cold water. They were perfectly cooked, no green around the yolk, whites perfectly set and not rubbery. That's the way I've done it for years and the only time I've had cracked eggs is when I forgot to turn down the heat and the eggs banged against each other in rolling boil.

            Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the big science in making hard-boiled/cooked eggs.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Sonia

              You mean you made eggs following all the rules. That's why you have no problems.

              1. re: Sonia
                Stanley Stephan

                Here's a previous post about boiling eggs. Actually there is a science to it if you read Harold McGee's book "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen"


                1. re: Sonia

                  Could you explain that "spin & stop trick" you mentioned?

                  1. re: C. Fox

                    About 12-15 minutes of cooking, I take one out with a pair of tongs and set it on my kitchen floor. I give it a good spin then stop it on top with my hand. If it comes to a dead stop, it's done (hard). If it moves slightly, that means there's still some liquid inside so keep cooking. Works like a charm every time. I think I saw it on a cooking show many years ago and have been using it ever since. This trick is probably not reliable if you're making soft-boiled eggs though. I only like my eggs hard.

                    1. re: Sonia

                      Have you ever found one that wasn't done after 12 minutes?

                      I don't simmer mine, I turn them off and cover the pan when it starts to boil. I always use extra large eggs. I only cook them for 10 minutes after the boiling startes. I live above 5000 feet. But I've never had one turn out less than hard cooked.

                      1. re: Bruce H.

                        I never time it exactly--I just guess about 12 minutes or so. I have had to put eggs back after the spin trick because they were undercooked. I also simmer with the lid open, which may be why it takes a little longer. I do this because I like to roll them around occasionally so that the yolk will be centered.