when i was little and we dyed eggs for easter, we didn’t pay much mind to how we hard boiled the eggs, because mostly the goal was to avoid a mess if an egg slipped through little fingers or rolled off its perch on the bookshelf before we found it.
i’m sorry to say that back then i was convinced that i hated eating hard boiled eggs (i wasn’t the only one in the family in this camp) so making the eggs easy to peel for future consumption wasn’t really a thing we were concerned about.
this notion that i didn’t like hard boiled eggs persisted for, oh, 34 years and some odd weeks, up until late january of 2018. i was working on developing recipes for the spring issue of edible maine (out now, by the way! there’s a digital edition posted on their website if you’re interested and outside of maine.), and decided that the spinach and arugula salad with bacon and sautéed mushrooms would benefit from some hard boiled eggs, both visually and in terms of substance.
so, i dutifully googled how to hard boil eggs and found a million results, replete with tips and tricks and lore and legends. i went with the method suggested by one of my favorite food bloggers and the results were fine, if not foolproof. luckily no one sees the underside of a hard boiled egg in an overhead photograph anyway…
when the photo shoot was over, my disinclination to waste food won out over my supposed dislike for hard boiled eggs. i say “supposed” because i hadn’t ever *actually* eaten a hard boiled egg before deciding, years ago, that i didn’t like them (what can i say, small kate wasn’t much into order of operations: try food first then render a verdict on said food wasn’t really my jam).
we all know where this is going so i’ll save you the suspense: turns out i like hard boiled eggs! and now that i know that, i’m way more interested in how to cook hard boiled eggs so the shells come off easily. because, deviled eggs. maybe with bacon; testing is still underway. yum!
fortunately, i was a little behind on my magazine reading and it turns out cook’s illustrated had my back: in the march & april 2016 issue that i happened to grab off my stack, they had an article on easy-peel hard cooked eggs (paywall alert!). perfect! i’m totally happy to let them boil their way through pallets of eggs and just do what they tell me.
well, with a little bit of verification on my part anyway. i had some recent but not straight-from-the-chicken eggs from trader joe’s and a carton of straight-from-the-chicken farmers’ market eggs in my refrigerator and decided to hard boil six eggs, three of each, all at once to test the urban legend that the age of the egg makes a difference.
at least in my small sample size, the old lore that fresh eggs are more difficult to peel than older eggs held true, but only very slightly, because this method of hard boiling the eggs proved so reliable. one of my three farm fresh eggs didn’t peel perfectly (but was still totally usable, even by deviled egg standards).
cook’s illustrated also provided a trick for super fast peeling that i tried and will employ if i’m making egg salad, but not for deviled eggs or pretty salads. basically you put the eggs (still in their shells) in a tupperware container half filled with water (definitely one that seals tightly!) and shake it violently for 30 – 60 seconds, until the shells are smashed off. it’s fast and it works and also the eggs are definitely not flawless after that experience.
so now i know a) that i like hard boiled eggs and b) how to cook hard boiled eggs to ensure perfectly cooked centers and easy peel shells. i’m not sure whether i’m more excited about a) or b)…
did you make this recipe? i’d love to know what you think of it! leave a comment below and share a picture on instagram with the hashtag #tastyseasons.
your guide to perfectly cooked and easy to peel hard boiled eggs, no matter the quantity or age of the eggs. learn how to cook hard boiled eggs so the shell comes off easily. you can either peel the eggs easily one at a time for deviled eggs or quickly peel multiple eggs at once for egg salad using an easy trick.
- 6 large eggs, cold
- 2 cups ice cubes
- 2 cups cold water
- in a pot large enough to hold a steamer basket (see notes), heat 1” (2.5 cm) of water over high heat so that it comes to a roiling boil. put the eggs in a single layer in the steamer basket and transfer the basket to the pot. cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low. cook the eggs for 13 minutes.
- when the eggs are nearly done cooking, combine the ice cubes and water in a medium, metal mixing bowl. using a large, slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the ice bath. let the eggs sit in the ice bath for 15 minutes. at that point, the eggs can either be peeled or transferred to an airtight container in their shells to be kept in the refrigerator until needed. when you do peel them, it can be helpful to peel them in the bowl of water or under running water to rinse away little bits of shell. also, if you can get a hold of the thin membrane between the white and the shell, you can use that to pull off the shell more gently. unpeeled eggs will last for up to a week (stored in the refrigerator). the internet doesn’t agree how long peeled eggs will last in the fridge, with time frames ranging from same day (false) to one week (smell them first? they will give off a strong sulfur odor if they are bad).
- if you want to rapidly (but not beautifully) peel several eggs at once for egg salad, transfer the eggs to a leak-proof container, fill it halfway with water, add the eggs, secure the lid, and shake vigorously for 30 – 60 seconds, until the shells are all smashed off.
you can increase or decrease the number of eggs you cook at once without adjusting the timing. just be sure that the eggs fit in the steamer basket in a single layer.
cook’s illustrated says that you can use the same method even if you don’t have a steamer basket, just use a spoon to transfer the eggs gently into the boiling water. it doesn’t matter if the eggs are above the water or partially submerged. i haven’t tried this myself so comment below and let us know how it goes if you do!
adapted from easy-peel hard cooked eggs from cook’s illustrated’s march & april 2016 issue.