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What causes hard to peel eggs?

VAfoodie Dec 7, 2009 04:26 PM

DH says I overcooked the eggs, but I boiled them according to the only thing I learned in Home Ec.

  1. bushwickgirl Dec 7, 2009 04:28 PM

    Really fresh eggs are hard to peel.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bushwickgirl
      care11 Dec 7, 2009 05:05 PM

      Always was taught the same thing...the fresher the egg, the more difficult to peel.

      1. re: bushwickgirl
        jeneats Dec 7, 2009 05:06 PM

        Yep. That's why people with chickens set aside eggs to age them for hard boiling. To determine if your eggs are "too fresh", chuck them in a bowl of water. Fresh eggs will lay flat on the bottom, and older eggs will sit more upright/on a slant (because of the air pocket that forms as an egg ages). If they just float outright, I'd toss them.

      2. j
        just_M Dec 7, 2009 05:03 PM

        My Gran taught me to bring my eggs up to a boil with a little vinegar, turn them off and let them sit for 15 min for perfect yellow yolks. I've played with how to peal them especially since we got chickens and have found that doing the boil per Gran is good but to peel I run a little cold water in the pan just to bring them to a temperature I can handle. Tap the top and bottom of the egg and all around on the sink. Splash under temperate water and peel/rub the shell with your thumb starting by pinching off the top or bottom. Usually it all comes off clean. If the eggs get too cool run them under hot water so the egg will separate from the shell.

        1. e
          Evilbanana11 Dec 7, 2009 05:05 PM

          Shock them in cold water. Heat of the eggs + cold = steam which separates the egg from the shell.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Evilbanana11
            goodhealthgourmet Dec 7, 2009 05:13 PM

            only do a quick shock. if you leave them in the cold water too long that membrane will shrink back up, and it adheres like nobody's business!

            1. re: Evilbanana11
              alanbarnes Dec 7, 2009 09:09 PM

              When the eggs don't cooperate I go a step further. Shock them in ice water, then return to the boiling water for 10 seconds or so, then back into the ice water. Seems to make a difference.

              1. re: alanbarnes
                jfood Dec 8, 2009 04:17 AM

                Good point A.

                There was one PIE (Pain in the Egg) the other night. Jfood was able to get the membrane broken on the flat end but then he encountered some resistance. He ran hot water into the opening and the membrane slowly started to release from the white.

                1. re: alanbarnes
                  danieljdwyer Dec 8, 2009 07:58 AM

                  That's the standard technique Julia Child gives for treating boiled eggs.
                  This might be my imagination, but I also find eggs which have been pricked before cooking to be much easier to peel.

              2. jfood Dec 7, 2009 05:34 PM

                although jfood has read on and on about older eggs, jfood makes 12 hard boiled eggs every weekend and he uses the eggs straight from the store. Each week (except on) all 12 came out perfect. The one week that he trouble (oh boy did little jfood let him have it) with the eggs he used those that were in the fridge for a week.

                So this may not qualify for a perfect experiment but the fresh rom the store have worked perfectly for jfood for months.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jfood
                  wendy8869 Dec 7, 2009 05:59 PM

                  Interestingly enough, the USDA rule is that the packing date of the eggs must be no more than 45 days before the sell by date on the egg carton. So even if that date on the eggs that you buy at the store is a week or two away, those eggs are likely at least a month old already.

                  Just an interesting fact. :-)

                  1. re: wendy8869
                    jfood Dec 7, 2009 06:04 PM

                    thanks W. the eggs jfood cooked yesterday had the date on the carton of dec 28th. would these be new or old eggs?

                    1. re: jfood
                      wendy8869 Dec 7, 2009 07:02 PM

                      I have no idea what age would be required for easy HB peeling, whether yours are considered new or old. It would be an interesting experiment to get eggs that are different ages and see which week starts the easy peeling. I just thought it was interesting that we could all be buying month old eggs at the grocery store. The first time I heard that in my food safety class at university it stuck in my memory. Also, the packing date could depend on the packer... usda says no more than 45 days at max to the sell by but the egg packer could technically put in something less than that. Another thing is that the USDA recommends we use the eggs within 3 to 5 weeks after we buy them, regardless of that date. So having two month old eggs in the fridge is probably considered definitely old. :-)

                2. r
                  rettoc Dec 7, 2009 05:36 PM

                  Certified Becky Home Ecky teacher here...the cooking process causes the membrane under the shell that holds the egg and yolk together to shrink away from the shell.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: rettoc
                    yakitat jack Dec 7, 2009 09:34 PM

                    A trick to have nice yellow yolks, not ugly green things. Use a push pin and make a hole on the big end of the egg. Lets the gas out that makes yolks green. Works every time.

                    1. re: yakitat jack
                      rettoc Dec 21, 2009 05:50 PM

                      A trick to have nice yellow yolks, not ugly green things. Use a push pin and make a hole on the big end of the egg

                      The green ring in the yolk is cause by cooking the egg too long and causing a chemical reaction that releases the sulfur in the yolk. That rotten egg smell is sulfur dioxide.

                    2. re: rettoc
                      jfood Dec 8, 2009 04:20 AM

                      McGee actually had a few paragraphs inhis book about the color of the yolk having to do with the length of cooking.

                      Likewise there was a thread a few weeks ago that related to the type of feed the chicken ate and the relationship to the yolk color. You may want to do a search on that topic if it is of interest.

                    3. RetiredChef Dec 7, 2009 09:55 PM


                      A lot of wives tales and kitchen lore here.

                      I can take a freshly laid egg (we have 6 layers) and hard boil and peel it very easily. There is a little truism to the fact that fresher eggs are harder, but you can overcome that with a magic ingredient – shhhhhhhh, don’t tell anybody, salt, add it to your simmer water (since we don’t boil eggs right). Older eggs float right – why, because the protein/water cap has evaporated away and the membrane has shrunk just a wee bit. It is that membrane that clings to the egg that makes it hard to peel. Eggs shells are porous; by adding salt to you cool simmer water (we start eggs like potatoes in cool water- right) it will draw most a lot of the protein/water cap out, this will simulate aging of the egg in less than a couple of the minutes. Fresh egg dilemma solved with salt.

                      Second problem is that most people overcook the eggs; this will cause the inside to expand and push that membrane into the shell. This is probably the most frequent reason why you have problems peeling your eggs, since most of you don’t have chickens at your house.

                      So let presume that you have poached/simmered your eggs for the right amount of time the next step is to drain off the water, take the pan and toss the eggs into the air and let them slam down back into the pan. Crack, crack, crack. Do it a couple of times if you need to and then fill the pan with cold water and start peeling. Don’t wait too long, peel as soon as you can handle them and viola, easy to peel eggs.

                      I’ve made hard boiled eggs this way and had them easy to peel literally 30-60 minutes after they have been laid.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: RetiredChef
                        bushwickgirl Dec 7, 2009 11:22 PM

                        "shhhhhhhh, don’t tell anybody, salt"

                        Actually, I think the real secret is cracking and peeling right after cooking. I think that's why you have such sucess with your very fresh eggs. It's a real important step that is often put aside for later. I used to use salt back in the day, wondered about using it, did some research and found it wasn't necessary. It's assumed that fresh egg shells are porous but they gradually become clogged during storage and then salt has little effect.

                        See this Harold McGee link for his opinion and an explanation of why eggs seem to be getting harder to peel:


                        Yes, place room temperature eggs gently (so as not to crack) in pan of cold water with 1 inch water to cover, bring to a boil, cover the pan, turn off the gas and let set for 12-15 minutes depending on egg size, (this is called coddling the egg, rather than boiling, it does not toughen the white,) drain, run cold water over (this creates steam between white and shell which will allow for easier peeling,) while rolling and cracking the egg shells (crack all over the egg) on edge of sink, peel eggs within 10 minutes of cooking.
                        90% of the time they peel very easily. but occasionally I have a difficult dozen and believe me, I'm not getting really fresh eggs from my supermarket (or maybe I am.) So then I just muddle through and make egg salad.

                        For everything I've read about hard-boiling eggs, both professionally and for home cooking: no salt; it makes the white rubbery, use older eggs or let your store bought eggs rest a week in the fridge before using, boiling, rather than coddling, and overcooking will cause the dreaded green ring around the yolk, piercing the shell is not recommended, as bacteria can be introduced into the egg, eggs should be peeled shortly after cooking under cold running water, as the cooling causes the egg to contract from the shell, all of it works.

                        1. re: bushwickgirl
                          jfood Dec 8, 2009 04:22 AM

                          "peel eggs within 10 minutes of cooking"

                          That is jfood feeling on how to get 100% cooperative eggs as well.

                          1. re: bushwickgirl
                            RetiredChef Dec 8, 2009 04:42 AM

                            When I moved to the proverbial country and we got our chickens the first thing I notices was a problem peeling just laid eggs (less than 12 hours old) from the hen house. It stymied me since I have cooked eggs for over 45 years, used the cracking technique/cold water and have never had a problem. So I did what most city folk never would do, I asked one of those silly little country bumpkins and she looked at me and smiled and said “You all salting the water right? Can’t peel a fresh one without salting the water, why everyone knows that.”

                            I didn’t believe it but I do what I always do, I went home to “prove” her wrong. Next morning to the hen house I went and retrieved 4 fresh eggs. Back home, two pots, one with salt one without. Temperature of water the same, eggs weighed so size was factored out and then I started the experiment. Identical heat, both pots came to a simmer within 10 seconds of each other, pots removed at the same time, cracked and put under water and then the peeling began.

                            Salted eggs, shells slipped off easily, darn, must be a fluke. Unsalted eggs, arghhhhhh, shells sticking to the membrane, parts of the white ripping off, this couldn’t be happening, say it ain’t so. 45 years of professional cooking, apprenticeships in France and Austria under top chefs, worked in America under some of the biggest names in the business, opened my own restaurants and this country bumpkin knows more than I do about hard boiled eggs!!!!!

                            I truly didn’t believe it so I preformed this little experiment 4 more times and each time the same result, never salted the water before, but never used this fresh of an egg before. When I read your post and link all of the reasons for the use of salt are there. Plus a university did a study on this kitchen myth and found it is valid, but I can’t find the link right now – dang it.

                            >>>It's assumed that fresh egg shells are porous but they gradually become clogged during storage and then salt has little effect.

                            Right after the eggs are laid the shells are very porous that is when salt is most effective.

                            From the article

                            “As an egg ages, it loses some carbon dioxide through tiny pores in the shell, making the egg white more basic. At the same time, it loses moisture, which increases the size of the “air cell” at the bottom of the shell, between the inner and outer membranes. The dynamics of this process are, in the words of a University of California, Davis agriculture publication, “not completely understood,” but the combination of these changes makes an old egg a lot easier to peel than a one that is fresh out of the bird.”

                            In the University study I read they agreed with this, but what they found was soaking a fresh egg in salt water for less than 15 minutes, faster if the water was heated (hmmmm what are we doing) caused the egg to become lighter through extraction of moisture. They measured the weight of the egg before and after and found a detectable weight loss, you articled stated:

                            “As an egg ages, . . . it loses moisture, which increases the size of the “air cell” at the bottom of the shell, between the inner and outer membranes.”

                            Resulting in

                            “these changes makes an old egg a lot easier to peel than a one that is fresh out of the bird”

                            According to the USDA quoted in the article they concur

                            “As the contents of the egg contracts and the air cell enlarges, the shell becomes easier to peel,”

                            Conclusion: Fresh eggs placed in salt water and weighed after 15minutes show a measurable loss of weight (internal moisture). Moisture that is loss caused the egg to contract and the air cell to enlarge.

                            The second thing the university study found is that soaking the eggs in salt also increases the egg’s pH. According to the University of California study:

                            “The difficulty you may be encounter removing the shell of fresh hard cooked egg has been associated with the low pH of the albumen.”

                            So when you have very fresh eggs it seems that salt extracts moisture thus enlarging the air cell and raises pH. These are the two critical elements that happen as the eggs age and both of which are the reasons that older eggs are easier to peel. Salt in water very quickly mimics the aging process, so a just laid egg that is cooked in salt water is actually acting like a much older egg.

                            Well that’s all the long-winded science, the easier way is to get 4 fresh eggs from the hen house and do what I did, cook 2 in the salted water and 2 in the un-salted and then peel. After you are satisfied that it works, the next time you see a country bumpkin give a smile and a nod, they may not know much about the science but they know what works and what doesn’t and they can still teach us highly educated city folk a thing or two.


                            1. re: RetiredChef
                              jfood Dec 8, 2009 04:54 AM


                              TY very much as a weekly egg peeler.

                              The pH levels were something McGee had in his section on eggs but jfood is in the office and the book is at home. Do you know if your post is in sync with his conclusion.

                              For the record, as jfood was reading his theory on the sheeling he shook his head because jfood had found contradictory evidence in his hands-on research. He may try the salt in the water theory when he makes his next batch.

                              Thanks again.

                              1. re: RetiredChef
                                bushwickgirl Dec 8, 2009 03:32 PM

                                "So when you have very fresh eggs it seems that salt extracts moisture thus enlarging the air cell and raises pH. These are the two critical elements that happen as the eggs age and both of which are the reasons that older eggs are easier to peel. Salt in water very quickly mimics the aging process, so a just laid egg that is cooked in salt water is actually acting like a much older egg."

                                Yes, I agree with you on these findings, and have read about raising the PH in super fresh eggs, either by using salt or baking soda or waiting a week for the eggs to "age" a bit. Then there's also the warning that cooking eggs in salted water makes the white rubbery. What to do...

                                I think we are in agreement that really fresh eggs are hard to peel, which was my original statement.

                                For the average consumer who doesn't have a hen house out back, eggs purchased at the supermarket will have enough age on them not to need salted water. This is where I purchase my eggs, I personally haven't salted in years and rarely have peeling problems.

                                As much as I'd like to have laying hens (and used to when I lived in the country) in my backyard in Brooklyn, where they are legal to keep, I think my landlord would have a bird if I did, no pun intended.;-)

                          2. VAfoodie Dec 8, 2009 05:55 PM

                            Wow--you are true egg scholars, and guess what? The eggs in question came from a coworker who raises chickens. They were no more than two days old, and after reading this thread, I won't be buying eggs anywhere else!

                            1. FoodFuser Dec 8, 2009 07:43 PM

                              Some really interesting replies, empirically based.

                              Has anyone done salt AND vinegar, versus a control group of H2O only?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: FoodFuser
                                Scrofula Dec 8, 2009 09:17 PM


                                1. re: Scrofula
                                  FoodFuser Dec 9, 2009 05:49 AM

                                  That's a great link for calibrating the range of albumin and yolk setting under different temperature regimes. Thanks.

                                  Anything out there that you've found about salt as a peeling facilitator?

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