How to Boil Hard-Boiled Eggs Without the Shell Sticking to the Egg

How to Boil Hard-Boiled Eggs Without the Shell Sticking to the Egg. (Image: HandmadePictures/iStock/GettyImages)

Fighting with hard-boiled eggs that don't want to give up their shells is one of the more frustrating exercises in the kitchen. It doesn't have to be. Follow two simple steps for perfect eggs every time no matter which cooking method you use.

Two Hard and Fast Rules

Ask three cooks the best way to hard-boil eggs, and you'll probably get three different answers. All three begin with eggs and water, but the methods may diverge wildly from there. But, two hard and fast rules apply no matter which method you use to hard cook eggs.

Shells stick more often on fresh eggs. If you plan on hard-boiling your eggs, check the sell-by dates on the cartons in the grocery store for eggs that have been on the shelf longer. Or, buy your eggs at least a week in advance and keep them refrigerated.

Always plunge the eggs in cold water at the end of their cooking. Have an ice bath ready (ice cubes in a bowl of cold water), or run cold water over them. This stops the cooking process and makes for easy peel boiled eggs. Leave the eggs in the cold water for at least 15 minutes.

Hot or Cold Water?

There are three schools of thought as to the temperature of the water when boiling eggs. Should you start them in cold water, add the eggs after the water is simmering, or bring the water to a full boil before adding the eggs?

Boiling the eggs can produce a rubbery white if you're not precise in your timing. It's better to use cold water, so the egg cooks slowly as the water heats up. If you're in a rush, bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer before you add the eggs. Even though the actual cook time remains the same, you'll shave a few minutes off the total preparation time.

Use enough water to cover the eggs by one inch, and don't crowd them in the pot.

How Long to Cook?

Once the water starts to simmer, cook the eggs for exactly 10 minutes. If you're starting with simmering water and the water stops simmering when you add the eggs, start the timer when the water returns to a simmer.

Water is simmering when the temperature is just below boiling. The water should be moving gently with only a few small bubbles breaking the surface. Boiling water bubbles vigorously.

Remove the eggs from the heat and immediately pour cold water over them, or place them in an ice bath. Leave the eggs in the cold water for 15 to 30 minutes.

Alternate Methods

Put the eggs in a pot and cover with water. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bring the water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, remove the pot from the heat. Let the eggs cook in the hot water for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs. Remove the eggs from the hot water and plunge them into cold water.

Make easy peel eggs with baking soda or vinegar. Add a teaspoon of baking soda or a tablespoon of vinegar to the water. This changes the cellular structure of the shell, making it easier to remove. Follow your preferred cooking method and cool the eggs when they're done.

For a method with no cleanup, place one egg in its shell in each section of a muffin tin and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and plunge the eggs into cold water.

Add water to a pressure cooker and suspend the eggs in a basket above the water. Lock the lid and bring the cooker to low pressure. Cook for 6 minutes, remove from the heat and wait for the pressure to drop. Remove the eggs from the pressure cooker and plunge them into cold water.

Peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs

Once the eggs have cooled, rotate them as you gently tap them against a hard surface. Roll the egg between your palms until it's evenly cracked. The shell should slip off. If you find the shell sticking to the white membrane between the shell and the egg, peel the membrane back.

Return the eggs to the empty pot and roll them back and forth until the eggs are evenly cracked. Peel the eggs.

Put an egg in a small glass with a little bit of water. Cover the glass with your hand, and shake the glass until the eggshell is evenly cracked; then peel the egg.

Crack the egg once and slip the end of a spoon into the crack. Roll the egg, leaving the spoon in the crack to remove the shell.

Rinse the eggs after peeling them to make sure no little bits of shell are left.

Why Does the Yolk Turn Green?

A green ring around the yolk of a hard-boiled egg is harmless, though it may not be aesthetically pleasing. It's usually caused by over-cooking but might, in rare instances, be caused by high iron levels in the cooking water. Use bottled water if your water contains high levels of iron.

The green ring forms when sulfur from the white of the egg combines with iron from the yolk. You can avoid this by not overcooking the eggs and by plunging them into cold water at the end of the cook time.

Hard-Boiled Egg Recipes

  • Deviled Eggs. Halve the eggs from top to bottom and scoop out the yolk. Mash the yolks and combine them with mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper. Spoon the yolk mixture into the whites and sprinkle with paprika. Some cooks like to add pickle relish, capers, plain yogurt (as a substitute for mayonnaise) or vinegar.
  • Egg Salad. Chop the hard-boiled eggs and add finely diced celery and onion. Dress the eggs, celery and onion with mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve in a sandwich or on a bed of lettuce.
  • Gribiche. Gribiche is a dressing for meat or vegetables made from chopped hard-boiled eggs, olive oil, vinegar, capers, cornichons, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper.
  • Potato Salad. Hard-boiled eggs appear in most cold potato salads and in warm preparations like German potato salad. For basic cold potato salad, peel, cube and cook potatoes. Combine the potatoes with hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. German potato salad is made from sliced cooked potatoes, sliced hard-boiled eggs, bacon and a vinegar-based dressing.
  • Pickled Eggs. Eggs pickled in vinegar with herbs, garlic, salt and pickling spices can be eaten whole, used as a garnish or added to salads.

Easter Eggs

In 2018, Americans bought 180 million eggs for Easter. Most are dyed and hidden for kids participating in Easter egg hunts.

Make sure the eggs are free of cracks before you hide them, and put them in places where they won't get dirty or might be found by curious pets. Keep in mind that the eggs can't be consumed if left unrefrigerated for longer than two hours.

Easter egg coloring kits are readily available in the spring, but they aren't required for decorating the eggs. You can use food coloring, or make your own dyes from natural products like beets and turmeric. Make sure the dye you're using is food safe.

Start with chilled eggs if you're dying them and use the cooked eggs within one week.

Uses for Eggshells

Grind the eggshells to a fine dust and add it to your compost or sprinkle it on the garden. A coffee bean grinder works well for grinding the shells.

If you grow earthworms, a practice known as vermiculture that helps create enriched soil for the garden, add ground shells to your worm bin.

Use a large piece of eggshell or crushed eggshells to cover the drainage hole at the bottom of a houseplant pot. The calcium carbonate in the shell strengthens the plant's cellular structure.

Let the hard-boiled egg cooking water cool and use it on your plants rather than throwing it away. It won't be as strong as crushed shells, but it will add some calcium to the soil.

Egg Safety

Only buy eggs that have been kept in a refrigerated case when buying from a store. If you're buying eggs at a farmer's market, ask if the eggs are washed. If they've been washed, then they should have been refrigerated because the washing process removes a protective layer that keeps out salmonella.

Check the sell-by date, and open the carton to inspect the eggs for cracks. Run your fingers along the tops of the eggs. They should shift in the carton. If one of the eggs doesn't move, it may be stuck to the bottom of the carton because it's cracked. Don't buy cracked eggs.

Eggshells may be contaminated with salmonella. Wash your hands with warm water and soap after handling eggs.

Raw eggs in the shell will keep in the refrigerator for up to five weeks. Once the eggs are hard-boiled, they're good for a week in the fridge unpeeled. Don't freeze hard-cooked eggs.

Once the eggs are cooked, refrigerate them within two hours.

Humane Eggs

If you're concerned about how the chickens that lay the eggs are treated, look for the word "pastured" on the carton. Cage-free means only the chickens haven't been kept in small cages. The same is true of free-range eggs, though free-range chickens must have some access, no matter how small, to the outside. Pastured chickens live outdoors with access to grain and insects.

The phrases "no added hormones" and "antibiotic-free" are generally meaningless since the FDA outlaws hormone use in chickens, and antibiotics aren't transferred to eggs.

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