The 3-Step Method for Easier-to-Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs

published Jan 6, 2017
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Every Sunday I make a batch of hard-boiled eggs and stash them in the fridge to turn into quick breakfasts, lunches, and snacks throughout the week. Cooking the eggs is no problem, but peeling them can be a tedious chore. Over the years, I found that three factors make an egg easier to peel: the age of the eggs, the cooking method, and the cooling method.

Here are my steps for easier-to-peel hard-boiled eggs.

Step 1: Choose older eggs.

“What do my egg choices have to do with easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs?” you might be wondering. Turns out older eggs peel more easily. I’m not suggesting that you dig through the egg case for the oldest lay date, because a week’s difference in supermarket eggs won’t make a noticeable difference in the peeling of your hard-boiled eggs. But if you typically source your eggs from the farmers market or your neighborhood chickens (lucky you) than you’ll want to let those eggs sit in the fridge for a week.

As eggs age they gradually lose moisture through the pores in their shell, and the air pocket at the tip expands. The pH of the egg’s outer membrane (a thin layer of protein between the shell and the egg white) also changes, going from a low pH to a relatively high pH, which makes them adhere less strongly to the shell.

Step 2: Steam your eggs.

Two unconventional methods will give you easy-to-peel hard-cooked eggs, and both involve steaming. The first is a simple stovetop steam, where a few inches of water is brought to a boil and a steamer basket of eggs is lowered into the pot. Let the eggs steam for 20 minutes.

The second method is pressure steaming. The eggs are cooked on a steamer basket or rack inside a stovetop or electric pressure cooker. Reportedly, in both cases, the steam vapor enters the shell, loosening the membrane that is responsible for hard-to-peel eggs.

If you prefer to boil your eggs, but still want them to be easy to peel, start them in boiling water. This goes against our favorite method for perfect boiled eggs, which starts in cold water. Unfortunately, a cold water start actually binds the egg’s membrane with the egg white as the water and eggs slowly come to temperature together. That being said, if you love the texture of eggs started in cold water, then using older eggs and shocking them using the method below will still give you easier-to-peel hard-boiled eggs.

What about adding baking soda or vinegar to the water?

Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking, is the source of this science-based tip. The idea is that adding an alkaline or acidic ingredient to the water softens the eggs membrane by changing its pH. We’ve tried both tips with no noticeable improvement in peel-ability.

Step 3: Cool the eggs completely.

Shocking hard-boiled eggs — that is plummeting them into a bowl of ice water — right after boiling also makes an easier-to-peel egg. The rapid cooling of the eggs contracts the egg whites, releasing them from the egg’s membrane. It also firms the egg white proteins, making them easier to peel. Cool the eggs for at least 15 minutes for even easier peeling.

What are your tricks for easier-to-peel eggs?