Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Do your eggs come out perfect every time?  Does the shell just fall away perfectly from a perfectly-cooked, unblemished oval?  Well, then you don’t need to read this.  Move along.  Do you sometimes have perfect eggs, but sometimes (usually when you’re cooking them for a family gathering or to take to a potluck) have eggs that make you curse and end up looking like someone’s peeled them with a mini-chainsaw?  Keep reading.

I thought I knew the perfect way to hard-boil eggs.  After all, for seven years straight I made enough deviled eggs for seventy-five families each year for our Cub Scout pack’s Fall Frolic campout.  So I’m pretty experienced.  But then I started seeing articles in magazines, tips on blogs, and links on Pinterest to things like ice-water baths, the freshness of the egg, and *gasp* baking eggs in the oven.  I even got a suggestion on Facebook about cutting the eggs with a knife and scooping the contents out with a spoon instead of peeling!  So I decided to spend a day doing experiments.  Since I’m not a scientist and with my current pain level and medication schedule I have the attention span and short-term memory of the average hamster it really did take all day.  And since I kept thinking of variables to add as I went along I kept adding more eggs, which means my family is so sick of hard-boiled eggs they may riot if I try to serve deviled eggs at Easter.

Here are the variables I ended up testing: fresher eggs vs. older eggs; baking vs. boiling; plain water vs. salted water vs. water with salt and vinegar; ice bath vs. air-cooling; and peeling vs. cutting.  disclaimer: If there are any engineers who follow my blog you might as well put your pencils down and stop reading right now because my version of the scientific method will probably make your head explode.  And those of you who just want the results skip on down to the bottom, I don’t mind.

Let’s start with the freshness of the egg.  Evidently as eggs age they produce gas inside the shell which collects between the membrane and the shell (especially at the larger end of the egg).  This, in theory, should mean an older egg will be easier to peel.  But you don’t want the eggs to be too old, because then they’d be nasty.  You test the age of an egg by placing it in a glass container of water.  Fresh eggs will lie on their sides on the bottom, older eggs will sit with their point on the bottom and larger end up, and eggs that are too old will float on the top.  (Nasty. Throw those away.) I had two packages of eggs, one of which was past its sell-by date and one of which was well within its sell-by date.  I tested all the eggs to check their age, and, surprisingly, none of them were too old to use.

fresher egg
older egg

I marked each egg with a sharpie so I could keep track.  These were the ones I started with, but I ended up using a lot more because of the variables I kept coming up with.

O for older, F for fresher, you get it.

Let’s start with the baked eggs.  I baked them at 325 degrees for 30 minutes and then immediately submerged them in ice water as per Pinterest instructions.

disgusting and repulsive baked eggs

So I threw all those away and started with the boiled eggs.  When I say I added salt to the water I mean 1 tsp salt.  When I say salt and vinegar I mean 1 tsp of each.  I’ve always done eggs with salt and vinegar because I remember being told at some point that one keeps them from getting that icky green ring on the yolk and one makes them easier to peel.  I can’t remember which is which – sorry.  I brought all the eggs to a boil, covered the pot, removed them from the heat, and let them sit for fifteen minutes.  When I say “ice” I mean I submerged the eggs in ice straight from the pot.  When I say “no ice” I mean I took the eggs out of the pot and let them air-cool to a temperature where i was comfortable handling them.  The eggs you see cut open in each picture were cut straight through the shell and lifted out with a teaspoon, just like you would after pitting a nice, ripe avocado.

Cut egg: easy-peasy

Plain water eggs

plain water eggs, cut egg in front

Salt water eggs

salt water eggs. I got hungry and ate the cut egg before the picture. Sorry.

Salt and vinegar water eggs

salt and vinegar water eggs, cut eggs in front

My results (this is the part where the engineers’ heads will explode – don’t say I didn’t warn you!):  Smiley faces mean perfect eggs, frowny faces mean I was cursing when peeling them, and OK means they weren’t perfect, but I didn’t curse and they would do if I was making tuna salad.  Nasty-ass is pretty self-explanatory and is a valid scientific term.

Final egg experiment results

Results:

  • Fresh eggs performed slightly better than older eggs, but not significantly.
  • Plain water and water with both salt and vinegar performed slightly better than water with just salt, but not significantly.
  • Eggs submerged in ice immediately after cooking performed significantly better than eggs left to cool naturally.
  • Cut eggs came out consistently OK, but never looked nice enough for a pretty plate of deviled eggs for Easter. Use this method for tuna salad – it really was easy.
  • In short, just make sure you’re eggs aren’t so old they float; boil, don’t bake; and always submerge in ice immediately after cooking.

You’re welcome. I’ll be linking up to Tute TuesdaysOh, How PinterestingWorks for Me WednesdayWhatever Goes WednesdayThe Mommy Club Resources and SolutionsThe Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap, and Tastetastic Thursday.

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10 thoughts on “Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs”

  1. Generally cooling them (stopping the cooking process) is what reduce the likelihood of getting the green ring. I use the cold water approach that you used, but there is also an approach where you add them after the water is boiling.

    Love the experiment. Thanks for sharing. Never would have though to bake the eggs and now know I will not!

    1. Well that explains why they all were a nice yellow, even the ones that didn’t peel well. I’ve been wasting my time all these years using salt and vinegar 😉

  2. I always crack mine pre-icing and that seems to do the trick even if I screw up somewhere else in the process.

    *Dump hot water
    *Bounce eggs around in the pan to crack
    *Run under cold water until cool
    *Peel-city

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