September 6, 2011

The Unbearable Irritatingness of Hardboiled Eggs

This morning I have been brought nearly to tears by the difficulty of peeling hardboiled eggs, and I both DO and DON'T want to ask for ideas. Because you know how it is: the ideas tend to be 70% Things Everyone Already Knows To Try ("Put them in cold water right after they're done boiling!"), 20% Things That Have Already Been Tried After Googling But Didn't Work ("Add vinegar / salt / dragon's tears to the boiling water!" "Crack the shell slightly right after boiling!" "Peel them under running water!"), 9% Things I'm Not Going To Do Even If They DO Work ("Don't store them in their shells!," incantations/chanting, that thing where you BLOW the egg out of the shell and I am not kidding), and 1% Ideas Not Yet Known To The Asker But That STILL Don't Work When Tried.

It seems to me that the way a hardboiled egg peels or doesn't peel must rely almost exclusively on Element X, because I get the same eggs at the same store every week, and I cook them the same way each time, and some of the boiled eggs peel like dreams, like DREAMS, with the children gathering around to oooh and ahhh as the shell comes off in two large neat pieces, and some of the boiled eggs peel like NIGHTMAAAAAAAAAAAAARES, with little picky bits flaking off and taking chunks of white with them until the egg is a nasty pitted mess and no one wants to eat it. If there was one good solution that worked every time for everyone, that would be the only solution going around.

It reminds me of ice cubes, and the way some of them pop out of their plastic trays beautifully and cleanly and with only a slight twist of the tray, while others require a strong twist and then break into shards. (My brother did a whole study on this phenomenon once. I should see if he's willing to tackle eggs.)

55 comments:

Mrs. Irritation said...

This is a major source of irritation at our house, too. It makes no sense how eggs from the same batch, cooked the exact same way can peel SO very differently. UGH!!!

Cass Still Curious said...

I hate doing this. I hate how they smell. That's why I bake my eggs (pre cracked) in the muffin tins. Cold = Hard Boiled Egg Taste (minus smell). Hot = Delightful breakfast. Recipe is on the blog

Robin said...

Oh, I HATE hard boiled eggs for just this reason. Conventional wisdom states that older eggs peel easier, and even buying the same eggs at the same store will result in sometimes older eggs. So maybe that's your X factor? Except, I have deliberately left eggs in the fridge for a good long time and did not see the expected improvement in ease of peeling. So.

d e v a n said...

I came to the conclusion a few Easters ago that some eggs are just good peelers and some just aren't - so I agree with you on element x!
I do peel them under running water, but it doesn't always work. At least it's less messy though.

HereWeGoAJen said...

I cannot explain it. Sometimes I am good at peeling eggs (or the eggs are good at being peeled) and sometimes IT SUCKS. Someone told me to put oil in with the eggs while they are boiling but it didn't seem to make any difference, so I quit doing it.

Clarabella said...

In my experience it's about cooking time. If they're well done, or even a bit overcooked, they seem to peel more easily. When they're perfectly hard-boiled, they peel like crap. So...quality for convenience? I don't know.

Clarabella said...

P.S. I ate 2 hard boiled eggs for breakfast this morning, & they both ended up pockmarked as hell, so I feel you.

Jessica said...

I think I end up crying in frustration every time I make hard boiled eggs. Do they sell pre-boiled and peeled eggs? Because I would buy them.

amyella said...

It actually has to do with the freshness of the egg. Fresher eggs are more difficult to peel. As eggs get older they lose CO2 and moisture making the air pocket between the shell and membrane bigger.

I gently roll the egg on the counter a few times and then peel. It usually helps (but not always). So, you know, that tip is usually helpful but not always. Sorry!

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I have never eaten a hard-boiled egg, but I recently saw a commercial for some sort of device made JUST for this purpose. (They are called "Eggies," just FYI.) (You crack an egg into an egg-shaped plastic container that floats in a pot of water.) And I remember thinking, wow, if I ate hard boiled eggs that would be very pleasant.

I realize that this is a half-assed recommendation, considering that a) I have never tried it and b) it costs money.

Are you the chief egg peeler in the house? Seems like egg peeling would be something kids would LOVE to do. But perhaps that is messy.

Ali said...

Aw, I was so excited to post but amyella beat me to it. But it's true, older eggs are way easier to peel. Newer ones hold together better for fried or poached.
Once I figured this out the egg part of my life became so much better.

el-e-e said...

No advice here, I hate this phenom. as well!! Rrrrr! Toast with Nutella sounds like a better idea to me.

Rachel said...

EGGIES!!! Here's the link:

https://www.geteggiestv.com/

Heather said...

Yes it is definitely to do with age of the egg. Generally speaking, eggs in the shops have a one month shelf life (but you might want to do some research on this in your local grocery store). You need to find that magical number of weeks that peel easily but are still fresh...then keep buying eggs that age! I'm picking someone with your kind of mind will actually enjoy this kind of research! :P

ssm said...

Foolproof solution: fried eggs instead!

(As a chicken owner, I can attest that the old egg thing is completely true, EXCEPT that some chickens' eggs take forever to act "old" and so you are basically screwed and must assume that with the price of a hardboiled egg is the shelling fee of frustration.)

Fran said...

I don't boil the eggs anymore, I use an egg cooker and I have not had any peeling problems in YEARS!! I think our latest one (we have had 3 in our 14 years of marriage) is from amazon.com, an older version of this one: http://www.amazon.com/West-Bend-86628-Automatic-Cooker/dp/B00008IH9X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1315317714&sr=8-4
Well worth the price!!

JMT said...

I see no one has jumped in with ice cube advice yet. This one I'm pretty sure has to do with two things: not overfilling, and not re-freezing (e.g. if shards are left after emptying, they must be melted away and not just filled in on top.).

But good luck with the eggs of infuriatingness.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Oh this bugs me too, especially since hard boiled eggs are a current staple lunch item for my girls.

I too have found that it has to do with how fresh the eggs are. We get ours from a farm here so I know exactly how fresh they are. I have to wait at least two weeks to boil them, so I buy a few dozen at a time and label them with the date I bought them (they are usually laid the day before) and I wait at least two weeks. Then, when I put the eggs in the water, they MUST stand on their end, not float not totally lay down. That way I know they are going to be decent to boil. MOST LIKELY. BECAUSE IT'S TRUE: THERE ARE NO HARD BOILED GUARANTEES.

Jen in MI said...

Very heavily salt the water you cook them in. Forget where I read this, but it seems to help. The eggs taste no different.

Mama Bub said...

I just peeled an egg this morning for a kid breakfast and it peeled so nicely that I was sad that no one was around to see it.

Jaime said...

I use this method every time I boil eggs, and while it's not perfect, my success rate is much higher than when I wasn't doing anything special.

-R- said...

H buys them pre-boiled from the store. They come is some kind of preservative goo that freaks me out, but they are pre-peeled, which is nice.

Gina said...

Fresher eggs don't peel well, so if you know in advance you will be boiling eggs, buy them early (or pick ones in the store closest to their sell-by date).

Joanne said...

It makes me so insane to deal with the bad peeling eggs that I wait until they are almost ROTTEN before I use them for deviled eggs or salads or whatever. I have to use old eggs, but I am mad about it, is what I am saying.

A friend of mine used to live in England, and she told me that the US is one of the few countries in the world that refrigerates their eggs. I wonder if anyone from one of those other countries has trouble peeling their eggs. Maybe they have to be old, not cold, and not in the USA in order to make us happy?

Pickles and Dimes said...

My husband swears that rolling the egg back and forth a few times on the counter before peeling works. It always works for him, but whenever I try it, my success rate is about 20%.

Shari said...

I also have chickens, and what we sometimes do is leave the eggs out overnight before boiling. Yes, it weirded me out at first, but from what I understand one day at room temp=one week in the fridge. And other countries DO sell eggs at room temp but store them for much shorter times. It's easy and worth a try, right?

Heather R said...

I was SO excited to post and tell you about "Eggies" because I also just saw the commercial recently, but a couple people beat me to it! I haven't tried them, but have been seriously thinking of ordering them! It seems like a genius idea to me!

Maureen said...

I agree with Fran about the egg cooker. This little one I bought, called the Oster Egg Cooker and Poacher is one of the best investments in kitchen appliances I ever made. I think it was about $30 on sale, and I have never had a problem egg since. I have had it for about 12 years, and highly recommend it. Now that I say that, they probably don't make them anymore. I am too lazy to check, sorry!

Siera said...

I love the title of this post I laughed when I saw it. I've noticed what a bitch they are to peel since I've started to eat them again. My frustration with boiled eggs is trying to find the perfect way to get them soft boiled so the yolk is still liquid but the whites are solid. Maybe the factor isn't the cook, but the farmer. Factor X may be the brand of eggs?

Amy from Occupation: Mommy said...

It's almost like when you are slicing a nectarine or peach for a child. Sometimes you can cut it in half and it separates beautifully, other times the fruit sticks to the pit and no matter how much you pull and yank, you have to end up sticking your fingers into the fruit and it ends up a smooshed mess. Then the child doesn't want to eat it because it's ugly and you would have rather had a whole one. Urgh!

Rah said...

Factor X is the age of the egg. Older ones peel better. That little membrane that helps you peel them, gets tougher as the eggs age, and the tougher the membrane, the easier they peel.

Eggs you get in the store may have been refrigerated for months, although there's no way to tell. But that's why some peel and some don't. Buy some and store them for later boiling. Or, just buy the gadget. :-)

Anonymous said...

I have the solution for you! And it works everytime. Put the eggs in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Then put them in a pan of cold water and bring it to a boil. Boil them for 2 minutes, turn off the heat and cover for 10 minutes. Pour off the hot water, lightly crack each shell (I used a wooden spoon) and cover with cold water. Voila!

kakaty said...

I HATE peeling eggs and we eat 2-3 dozen HB eggs each week. Nothing works all the time. A friend of mine actaully did a pretty good experiment with different methods if you are interested: http://exploringfoodmyway.blogspot.com/2011/06/kitchen-challenge-hard-boiled-eggs-part_24.html
Basically he found an egg cooker did the most consistant job of making easily peeled eggs but you can only do a few at a time. I try to only HB eggs that are 2 weeks old (or older) and it helps, but there is always a rouge tough egg in the bunch.

Kathy said...

"Eggies" get terrible reviews on Amazon. I was going to buy a set before I read the reviews - so glad I didn't!

bunnyslippers said...

My mom always used to just cut the boiled egg (shell and all) in half with a knife. She'd then do a quick twirling scrape/cut around the outside of each half and not bother with the rest. I do it once in a while and it seems to (if nothing else) go quicker than peeling them. (And then you can eat your eggs while they are fresh!)
(verificatin word is lintivan: like a minivan for people with pets)

Suburban Correspondent said...

It's the age of the egg. As the egg ages, that white membrane between the shell and the egg detaches from the egg.

Guinevere said...

Just another chorus of "I agree, it's totally the age of the egg". It's more measurable when you get eggs from a neighbor with chickens, where you know exactly how old the eggs are, since you don't actually know how old the eggs at the store are (though always a lot less fresh than your neighbor's). But if I want to make a big honking huge batch of hardboiled eggs, I always use the carton of eggs that we've had sitting around the longest (we're usually a multi-carton household since we stock up at Costco). That is really the only thing that leads to easier egg peeling... it's the science behind element X.

If you only have newly purchased eggs that you believe to be fresh, I'd just poach them instead (crack eggs directly into simmering water, effectively boiling without the shell).

Guinevere said...

Also, it seems inevitable that hardboiled eggs that I intend to turn into an egg salad, or any other recipe where they will be chopped into little bits, will always turn out to be flawless peelers. Contrawise, when one wants to make deviled eggs or any other dish where they will be left whole, half the eggwhite always gets left on the shell. I have actually changed plans upon having a batch of flawlessly-peeling eggs because it annoys me so much.

Swistle said...

I see a building consensus for the age of the egg---but as with all egg theories, it seems unreliable. I commonly boil eggs to barely beat their use-by date, and it was just such a batch that brought me nearly to tears this morning.

chrissy said...

I don't have any helpful hints since I have the same problem- inevitably when I'm going to chop the egg up it comes out beautifully, but when I need to make deviled eggs they come out shredded and crappy.

Here is an unhelpful story: I went to a 4th of July cookout and was helping to make deviled eggs when a lady came over to show everyone her party trick of blowing the egg out of the shell. And yeah, it worked great, but all I could think of was, "YOU ARE SLOBBERING ALL OVER MY EGGS!!!!" SO gross.

Anonymous said...

Eggies - while they work well, are for POACHED eggs, not hard boiled eggs.

Anonymous said...

And - I have not used 'eggies' but I do use Poach Pods and they work very well:

http://www.amazon.com/Fusionbrands-Poach-Pods-Set-Green/dp/B000P6FD3I

Anne said...

My mom always said that it's the fresh eggs that don't peel when you boil them, older eggs peel fine. So try buying them and letting them sit in your fridge for a week before boiling.

Bring A. Torch said...

This very morning, one of my pre-K students asked if "deviled eggs" was a swear word. I told him no, but might have to reconsider. (Verification word is "endit"?!)

Anonymous said...

My grampa used to say that you should poke the bottom of the egg with a push pin before you boil it, because it breaks the membrane, and that somehow makes it easier to peel.

Diana said...

The age thing really is true- as eggs age they get smaller and there is more air inside the shell. Also, you needn't be a stickler with the sell by date. As long as you just buy them and come home and put them in the fridge then they are ok long after the date. Let's be honest- its pretty easy to spot a bad egg!

Josefina said...

Yes, this is a source of aggravation in my house, too. I do think I've heard that differences occur due to the varying ages of the eggs, but it hardly matters since I want a hard-boiled egg WHEN I WANT ONE and would not be the sort of person to age eggs specifically for boiling, although I can see how that would make sense. I like to think I have more flexibility in my life and with my eggs than all that, even if I really don't.

Libby said...

I buy eggs that have already been cooked and peeled. They come in a resealable bag, and are more expensive than raw, but I've thrown away more than a dozen eggs by not cooking them correctly. Plus I'm lazy. Too lazy to even look and see who it was that asked in the comments if they sold eggs already cooked and peeled.

Reanna said...

This is the honest to god ONLY thing that makes them easy to peel: The older the egg, the easier to peel. I don't even try to boil eggs which haven't been in my fridge for at least a week.

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

It's easier to peel eggs that are a little bit old when they're hard-boiled. Fresh eggs are harder to peel. Other than that, there's no trick beyond tapping and going at it. I read this years ago and found it to be true.

1hottiredmama said...

In the deli of our grocery store you can buy a dozen boiled eggs ALREADY PEELED . . . They are a little more expensive than an uncooked dozen, but not much.

Abbe said...

I too have been brought to tears of frustration by a hard-boiled egg that refuses to separate from its shell. I do the "put it in ice water after boiling" thing, which helps a little. The only other trick I've found that's Somewhat Helpful is to use a spoon. Once I've tapped both ends on the counter and rolled it back and forth so that it's lightly cracked all over, if I can get a little separation between the egg and the membrane, I slip the edge of a spoon into it and use it to lift the shell away. Again, it doesn't always work; hence, Somewhat Helpful. Good Luck.

Chris said...

here may be the only time I get to whip out my newfound Geology knowledge since this semester started and it is regarding your ice. ice, by definition, is a mineral, and when it breaks like that, all jagged, leaving half the cube at the bottom of the tray, that is a fracture and not a clean break that would occur along a cleavage line. the semester may end now.

Trinka said...

It's not your fault. The secret is: old eggs peel easier. The times they've peeled easy, you happened to get an older box from the store.

Laura said...

The age of the egg is the key. My brother worked in the dairy dept. at our local grocery when we were in high school. The egg company would come in and switch the soon to expire eggs into boxes with expiration dates that were further out. That could explain the difference between eggs from the same carton. I'm not sure about the true shelf life of an egg, but it seems to be darn near forever.