October 31st, 2012

How to peel eggs

I love deviled eggs. They’re easy to make except for one thing: you have to peel them successfully for them to look right. If that pesky little membrane adheres to the white, you’ll get a pock-marked egg that is completely unpresentable.

I’ve read all the instructions about how to insure that the membrane will separate nicely; for example they can’t be super-fresh, but that’s not ordinarily a problem since I buy them at the supermarket and not the farm, and don’t cook them right away.

But every now and then I get a batch that just will not cooperate no matter what. This has always puzzled me until I read this, which explains that a certain percentage of eggs are processed in a manner that means their membranes will never be free.

By the way, when I make deviled eggs I don’t use one of those fancy implements to make the yolks all swirly:

No, the old-fashioned stuff-with-a-spoon method is good enough for me:

So, why was I making deviled eggs the other day? I figured it was good power-outage food—an already-cooked protein source that doesn’t have to be heated up. And who needs an excuse, anyway?

36 Responses to “How to peel eggs”

  1. cornflour Says:

    Modern pressure cookers are really easy to use, and are supposed to be the best tool for making a batch of easy-peel hard boiled eggs, though I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve lately become a pressure cooker enthusiast, hence the evangelism.

    Here’s a link for those curious about eggs under pressure
    http://www.hippressurecooking.com/2011/04/hip-modernist-soft-medium-and-hard.html

  2. T Says:

    Neo,

    Like you I prefer the old reliable spoon method. It makes them look less “processed.” In the past I have used Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise because I prefer that slight vinegary flavor.

    Any left? I’ll be right over!

  3. Sam L. Says:

    Bad link to Slate; I get a 404 (CDIV in Roman) error.

  4. southpaw Says:

    Ditto Sam’s comment. I’m interested because I make them all the time and never figured out what I am doing wrong.

  5. Roman Says:

    When I make hard boiled eggs, it is hit and miss. Sometimes more miss, than hit. Last time (for potato salad), 12 for 12 easy peeled. When I really want good looking ones, then the miss happens. Can’t see any pattern I may be able to duplicate. Glad I was so much help?

    Good to see that Sandy didn’t disrupt you too much.

  6. Jim Sullivan Says:

    I don’t make ‘em. I just eat ‘em.

    Mmmmmmmmmm

    My favorite special occasion food. One Thanksgiving, when I was still in college I ate about 18 – 20 eggs (I count both halves) over the course of a six hour family gathering (plus the turkey and mashed potatoes). Man, was I stupid. But they’re sooooo good.

    Except when made with Miracle Whip. Yuck. I can’t stand the stuff.

  7. Paul A'Barge Says:

    yeah, link still bad … 404.

  8. Paul A'Barge Says:

    By the way I have found that stale eggs peel with more difficulty than fresh eggs. And my secret is:
    (1) boil the eggs
    (2) pull after 10 minute
    (3) immediately pour out the hot water
    (4) immediately run under cold tap water
    (5) fill the pan with ice and then top with cold tap water
    (6) wait a bit and then peel

  9. John Dough Says:

    Sam L said….

    “I get a 404 (CDIV in Roman) error.”

    Sam, do you realize that there is only about 18 people left in the world that can read Roman Numerals?

  10. John Dough Says:

    Neo-neocon,

    After reading this I told my wife that i was filing for divorce and hoping to marry you. The only thing I ask of you in our new relationship is for you to make me an unlimited supply of deviled eggs every week. This would be a marriage made in heaven as I too like Miracle Whip… as a bonus, I would hire a sous chef to peal all eggs alleviating your aggravation.

    Old-fashioned stuff-with-a-spoon method is fine with me too.

    I await your reply…

  11. carl in atlanta Says:

    Paul’s cold water treatment is what my wife does, and I guess it works.

    I don’t worry all that much about presentation , but hers usually turn out tasting good.

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    Sorry about the broken link. It’s fixed now.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    John Dough: a very tempting offer.

    Alas, though, I’m not a Miracle Whip gal. Would you accept mayo (perhaps even low-fat mayo) mixed with mustard?

  14. carl in atlanta Says:

    Hey, I just looked closely and don’t see any sweet pickle relish in that photo of Neo’s deviled eggs!

    Or is that ingredient only found in the southern variation?

  15. roc scssrs Says:

    “I figured it was good power-outage food”

    You and my wife. We didn’t get a power outage, but we’ve still got the eggs!

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    carl in atlanta: never heard of pickle relish in deviled eggs. The sweetness is taken care of quite nicely by the mayo. The “deviled” part is the mustard, and maybe a drop of Tabasco.

  17. carl in atlanta Says:

    Try it; you’ll like it!

  18. lethargic Says:

    Foolproof boiled egg procedure:
    (1) Cover eggs in pan with 1 inch of water. Put on range on med-high; when water begins rolling boil, turn off heat.
    (2) Wait 10-15 minutes.
    (3) Put ice in a mixing bowl, then fill halfway with water.
    (4) Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs from hot water into ice water. Save the pan of hot water.
    (5) Wait a couple minutes, then transfer egg back into hot water for a minute. Remove egg from hot water and peel effortlessly.
    (6) Repeat step 5 for the rest of the eggs.

    I know thiis looks unnecessarily complicated, but it really does loosen that shell and it makes the peeling eeeeeeeasy. After you’ve done this a couple times, it is not a cumbersome as it sounds today. Bon appetit!

  19. Mr. Frank Says:

    carl in atlanta is correct. A bit of sweet pickle relish is common in Mississippi.

  20. Paul A'Barge Says:

    Paprika.

    What’s the matter with you people? You gotta have a dash of Paprika on the top of those deviled eggs.

    And yes, the sweet relish is in the mix as well… along with salt, pepper and a dash of Tabasco.

  21. Roman Says:

    Use pickle relish, yellow mustard, celery salt and a bit of balsalmic vinegar.

  22. Ann Says:

    Ever made them with hard-boiled eggs first pickled in beet juice and vinegar? Lovely to look at and very tasty.

  23. parker Says:

    My wife makes great deviled eggs. She puts the eggs in boiling water, sets the timer for 10 minutes, and then quickly pours out the hot water. She runs cold water over the eggs for a few minutes and then fills the pan with crushed ice. After about 10 minutes she asks me to help peel the eggs, usually they are easy to peel but sometimes we end up with a few raggedy eggs. Her filling includes mayo, spicy mustard, a little rice vinegar, salt, and dill. Yummy.

  24. Sam L. Says:

    John Dough, I got it here:

    http://www.robertahoyt.com/ComicX.html#Strip

  25. southpaw Says:

    Neo thanks for the link. So all we need to do is soak them in a sodium bicarbonate solution for a few hours, and maybe we’re good to go? Worth a shot anyway.
    Did anybody mention adding some deviled ham? Somebody suggested that to me and it turned out to be a winner. Also some diced Jalapenos. The Texas variation.

  26. carl in atlanta Says:

    Everyone agree that paprika is a sine qua non?

  27. Oh, Bother Says:

    I recently discovered the joys of horseradish mustard from New York (I’ve been using Wegman’s brand). The basic mix is half mayo, one-quarter plus spicy mustard, and one-quarter minus horseradish mustard. Dill is pretty on top. We don’ need no steenkin’ paprika. I boil fresh eggs by submerging them in salted water, heating to a rolling boil and then removing the pan from the heat and covering it. When the water has cooled I pour water and eggs into the sink and peel under running water. This works better than anything else I’ve tried.

    Hmm, balsamic vinegar . . . .

  28. Jim Sullivan Says:

    Pickle relish? In devised eggs?

    I think I just threw up, a little bit, in my mouth.

    Blechhh.

  29. Kurt Says:

    Wow, cornflower, that is an interesting suggestion about the pressure cooker. Lately I’ve been steaming eggs, and have been thrilled with the results. Mostly they have been pretty easy to peel this way, too, but it depends on factors like the freshness of the eggs and whether they are organic or not. In my experience, organic eggs sometimes don’t peel as well, perhaps because the shells aren’t as thick or the membrane is thicker. There are various websites that explain techniques for steaming eggs, I just found this video clip through a quick google search.

  30. The Accidental American Says:

    Easiest method of filling deviled eggs is to place filling into a non-pleated ziploc bag. Cut one corner and away you go. Sure, I have the fancy pastry bags but that would require cleanup.

    Oh, and the most surefire way I’ve found to produce easy to peel eggs is to leave the eggs at room temperature overnight. Heat eggs and room temperature water to boil and boil the heck out of them (30 minutes). Turn off heat and let them cool down in the hot water until they are easy to handle (at least a few hours). Peeling them under (the now cooler) water helps too.

    And you do know about the pocket trick, right? To prevent unsightly cracks in the egg whites while peeling, tap both ends of the boiled eggs. One end will dent in easier than the other side. When egg protein is denatured (cooked), it will “shrink” and leave a pocket. Start peeling your eggs from the pocket to produce smooth looking eggs. I’m sure there is a culinary term for this that evades me at the moment.

    Oh good Lord, now I’m giving egg-peeling advice to some random stranger.

  31. expat Says:

    southpaw,
    I had the same thought about the sodium bicarb. It’s certainly worth a try. The first tryer should send results to neo so she can pass on the info.

  32. Charles Says:

    Deviled eggs: Yes, to what others have said about less-than-fresh eggs, miracle whip (not mayo), and dry mustard (I always use Coleman’s), and, of course, sprinkled with paprika.

    But, I do have to ask what makes them a power-outage food? I get it that if you don’t have a way to cook they are a good idea; but, aren’t you afraid that they will go bad sitting at room temperature with the dressing on them? Or are you somehow or other keeping them on ice?

  33. neo-neocon Says:

    Charles: You’re right that the eggs don’t keep all that long. But I figured I’d eat a whole bunch of them right away if the power went out, cause they don’t need cooking. Plus, if the weather is fairly cold, I can take some stuff out of the fridge and put it outside (for example, in the trunk of the car). I also had a cooler ready to go, plus ice, and I was going to fill it if the power went out.

  34. davisbr Says:

    Lordie, how did I miss this yesterday?

    …I guess I was busier cogitating stuff even more than usual.

    Agree about paprika: de rigueur.

    Totally agree about mustard (I add it to tuna, also), of any variety.

    Miracle Whip, however, is a travesty of the palate in any dish, but moreso here.

    Sometimes sweet relish.

    Always tabasco (generally with liberal individual dashes, if the bottle’s handy).

    And will certainly try rotating the ice-cubed eggs back in boiling water: thanks for the tip.

  35. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master Says:

    >>>>And who needs an excuse, anyway?

    Indeed. If I’m around, make an extra dozen, because unless you keep me away from them I’ll eat more than half that many at the very least.

  36. Nate Whilk Says:

    Did you ever wonder why there are so many different procedures for making easy-to-peel hb eggs? Maybe it’s because they all have factors totally unrelated to the actual effective factors.

    Here’s a Google Books link to a 1995 book about egg science that mentions age and pH of the eggs and the oil coating. link

    As for the effectiveness of baking soda, first try eggs from the same carton with and without the baking soda. If they both peel easily, it ain’t the baking soda. The book mentions exposing eggs to sodium hydroxide fumes which is a MUCH stronger base than baking soda! That’s why I’m skeptical about it until I see experiments with controls.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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