The newly denatured proteins unfurls and seeks other denatured proteins. Next, they link together to form a three-dimensional matrix. In cooking terms, that means the egg white and yolk are turning from translucent and gelatinous to solid. This same process happens in fish, chicken, and meat.
The higher the temperature and the more heat you apply, the more tightly denatured proteins enmesh themselves, forcing out any water. That’s why overcooking an egg or a piece of meat causes it to become dry and rubbery. In order to perfect your hard-boiled eggs, you need to apply heat gradually and gently.
Now that you understand the science behind cooking eggs, let’s cover the steps to making perfect hard-boiled eggs and how to easily peel them.
Step 2Add Baking Soda to the Cooking WaterBecause older eggs have more alkaline, you shouldn’t add vinegar to the cooking water, though some recipes recommend it. Adding about a teaspoon of baking soda to the cooking water increases the alkalinity, which will make the eggs easier to peel later on.
A really old-school method to centering yolks involves twirling the eggs. According to Corriher, Cordon Bleu students in London are required to do this for several minutes before cooking. Thankfully, there is an easier way.
Over at ChefTalk.com, food stylist foodnphoto stirs the eggs clockwise for several minutes as they boil, then stirs counterclockwise for several more.
Luc-H points out why this works: “The yolk is held in the middle of the albumen (white) by 2 spring like strands at each end called chalazas. If the egg sits still in any position, the yolk will sag down but by spinning and twirling it, it will center itself. In boiling water it’s only a question of waiting until the egg white congeals around the yolk to keep it centered.”
Either way, this will make it easier to remove the shells without also removing large chunks of egg white later on.
Others argue that pricking the shell makes the structure weaker and more likely to crack under the pressures of cooking. It’s up to you. This is where cooking gets fun—experimentation.
Step 6Start with Cold Water
There are fans of the method where you lower eggs into boiling water, but that requires more steps and the results aren’t as reliable. Starting with cold water is less fussy.
Besides, as J. Kenji López Alt of Serious Eats points out, “if we drop the eggs directly into boiling water, the exterior heats up much faster than the interior; by the time the very center of the yolk reaches 170 degrees, the white and outer layers of yolk are hopelessly overcooked.”
Step 10 Remove from Heat & Wait
Remove the saucepan from heat and cover it with a lid. Wait 10 to 12 minutes. I don’t like draining water from a pot of hardboiled eggs—I’ve gotten hit by the spatters or had the eggs roll into each other and crack before I could properly chill them, making them harder to peel.
Step 11 Give Them Their Ice Bath
I remove eggs from hot water one by one with an ice cream scooper and lower them into the ice bath. Wait until eggs are completely cool before you peel. As Russ Parsons of the L.A. Times points out, eggshells are porous and the shock of plunging them into ice water will help separate the shell and membrane from the flesh of the egg.
Step 12 Peel Those Hard-Boiled Egg Pain-Free
Now, there are lots of recommendations for ways to perfectly peel an egg, but I like Yumi’s recommendation of cracking, rolling, and then peeling the egg underwater. Others recommend a similar method. Some things are classics for a reason.
How to Make Your Hard-Boiled Eggs Even Better
If you want to go a step further, after you’ve cooked and peeled them, turn the hard-boiled eggs into heart-shapes for a more decorative snack (and don’t forget to save those eggshells—you can reuse them for other things later). You can also try out the “Golden Egg” method, which is basically scrambling the egg in its shell before you boil them. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s definitely on my bucket list.
What’s your favorite way to cook, crack, and peel an egg?