Dumb question about boiling eggs
- ipsedixit May 30, 2011 11:59 AM
No, this isn't a post about why it's so hard to peel boiled eggs.
My question is, why do old eggs tend to crack -- even explode on me -- when I boil them?
Happens only with old eggs, not fresh ones.
And, no I don't drop cold eggs into warm, much less hot, water.
I usu. let the eggs come to room temp (or I just leave them out), then put them in cold water straight from the tap, and then bring the whole thing to a boil.
Somewhere along in that process, some of the eggs tend to crack or even explode, giving me essentially shredded poached eggs. Not a good thing.
(If this has been an oft-discussed topic, and my rudimentary search skills have failed me, then just point me to the search links and I'll be on my way.)
I don't know the answer to your question, but I will tell you that I haven't experienced any problems with hard-boiling eggs since I switched to the method I saw in Cooks Illustrated, which is: add eggs to cold water, bring to boil, turn pan off and let sit for 10 minutes. Perfect eggs every time I have made them, which has only been three times, but so far I'm batting 1000.
It must have to do with the larger air pocket in old eggs. I can tell you from experience that, counterintuitive as it seems, it's better to put cold eggs into boiling water than to use more gentle heating - as long as you puncture the large end first. The first time I saw Jacques Pepin's program on eggs, I missed the part about starting them in boiling water. So for months I punctured the end with a thumbtack, put the egg into cold water, and brought it to a boil before turning off the heat and timing 11-13 minutes. Virtually every time, they exploded. Since I have boundless respect for M. Pepin, this was disappointing. Then I saw the repeat episode and, wincing, began plopping the pricked eggs into boiling water. Hardly ever a crack in the years since. Hairline cracks already present in eggs will foil whatever precautions we take.
The cracking is caused by the air inside the shell expanding. Whether it's the quantity of air or the integrity of the shell that causes the problem, you can avoid it by pricking the eggs before cooking. Stick a thumbtack into the large end and the air vents harmlessly. Sometimes a bit of egg white will ooze out, too, but it's much easier to deal with than an exploded egg.
Ok, alan. But when I have fresh eggs, straight from the market or a week or less old from the market, never happens. Maybe just law of averages hasn't caught up to me yet?
I think the real cause of why "old eggs" tend to crack or burst more often than fresher eggs is because there is more air inside the shells. As I understand it, as the eggs age, the albumen evaporates, thus creating air pockets ... this is also why older eggs tend to float and not sink in water.
Your question isn't stupid, just baffling. That has never happened to me, so I'm wondering if you are using white eggs, which have a thinner shell than brown ones. All we get here in New England are brown eggs, except at Easter, when everyone wants white for dyeing. I have noticed that the white ones are wimpier, so when I boil them for dyeing, I handle them very carefully, bringing them to a boil very slowly and then turning them off and covering the pan.