The Perfect Hard-Boiled

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The Perfect Hard-Boiled Egg by Joy Sypher

Is there truly a flawless method for peeling hard-boiled eggs?

Four tips for a perfect hard-boiled egg every time

Last week as I tried to peel at least one egg I could use in a photo shoot, I decided I had had it. I was tired of hard-to-peel eggs that were far from Instagram-worthy.

My mom was an inspiration. Born during the Depression with her mother working as a waitress and her father working as a short-order cook, she knew all the ins and outs of running a kitchen. "Start your eggs in cold water and finish in cold water, and you'll never have an issue peeling them."

But I did, Mom, I did. I always have an issue peeling hard-boiled eggs.

I wanted to know the ultimate process to make hard-boiled eggs that were as easy to peel as shown on social media. I set out to try several processes, including my mother's long-trusted process.

First method - Easy-Peel Hard-Boiled Eggs: Instant Pot

If you're like me, you've probably given up on the elusive quest for consistently perfect hard-boiled eggs. You've tried countless methods promising foolproof results, only to end up with shells that cling stubbornly to the egg white. It's disheartening, to say the least.

I got my first Instant Pot a few years ago, and following all the hype, I made my first batch of hard-boiled eggs. I've been hooked ever since. The Instant Pot delivers eggs ready in just 15 minutes and peels effortlessly every time. It's like magic, I tell you.

Prepare the pressure cooker: Start by placing a steamer basket in the bottom of your Instant Pot. Add about 1/2 to 1 inch of water, ensuring that the water level is just below the steamer basket.

Add the eggs: Grab your cold eggs straight from the fridge and place them in the Instant Pot. You can cook as many eggs as you like. I've cooked as many as 18 at a time. The eggs don't move or agitate, so there is no need to worry about cracking. As long as they fit, you can cook the whole dozen.

  • Bring the pot up to pressure: Close the lid on the pressure cooker and set the steam valve to the "sealed" position. For electric pressure cookers, set the pressure to high and the timer for 4 minutes. The cooker will take a few minutes to reach full pressure before cooking begins.
  • Let the pressure release naturally: After the cooking time is up, let the pressure cooker sit for 5 minutes with the lid on and the steam vent sealed. This natural release allows the steam to escape gradually.
  • Quick-release the remaining pressure: After the 5 minutes of natural release, carefully flip the steam valve to the "venting" position to release any remaining pressure quickly.
  • Cool and peel: Transfer the cooked eggs to a bowl of cold water to cool them down. You can add ice to speed up the process, although it's not necessary for achieving easy-peel eggs. Change the water as it warms until the eggs are cool, then refrigerate peeled or unpeeled for 4-7 days.

Here's a pro tip: I've found that 4-minute eggs yield the best results for me. The whites are firm but still soft, and the yolk is perfectly cooked and creamy. However, feel free to experiment with different cooking times to find your preferred consistency.

Second method - Baked eggs

Here in Las Vegas, where summer temps reach 117° F (47° C), this method has its drawbacks. First, preheat your oven to 325°F (163° C). I try not to use my oven between April to October. I picked an overcast day where our am temp was in the low 70s and heated the whole kitchen up. I had heard many great stories about how easy this method was.

  • Heat oven.
  • Place muffin tin of eggs in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove and place in an ice bath.
  • Peel and eat or store peeled/unpeeled in the fridge for 4-7 days.

So I gave it a try and was, well, disappointed. The eggs were harder to peel than any other method I had ever tried. The shells had spots on them, and the whites had 'burn' marks. I almost left this method out of the review because I had such a hard time peeling them.

The eggs taste fine. The whites are firm, and the yellow center was creamy and nutty flavored. The ease of this method alone will keep it in rotation in the winter.

Third method

My mom's way, aka Betty's, tried a true Easy-Peel hard-boiled eggs.

I grew up making hard-boiled eggs this way. Admittedly as a young aspiring chef around eight years old, I would often boil the eggs dry. Thank goodness for handy timers in every smartphone.

Start your eggs in cold water. Do not over-pack your eggs, and leave plenty of room for them to agitate.

  • Add enough cold water to cover the tops of the eggs.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  • Boil for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, drain and transfer to an ice bath.

From start to finish, this method takes about the same time as using an instant pot but does not require fancy gadgets. This method has been in my family for over 90 years.   Start in cold, finish in cold—wise words from a wise woman.

The verdict?

Instant Pot won over every other method I've ever tried. In the last five years, I've had perfect results every time from my instant pot. I still use moms method since sometimes it is just easier to wash a small pot or I only need two eggs.   Here are a few tips to help ensure perfect easy-peel hard-boiled eggs every time.

Tip #1

Start in cold water. Mom got that right.

Tip #2

Use a timer and follow the directions - Don't be like eight year old me and just wing it.

Tip #3

Peel while the egg is warm. Sorry Mom, peel your eggs while warm, after cooling but before storing them in the fridge.

Tip #4

Use old eggs. Fresh, warm from the chicken eggs are the hardest to peel. You want to use eggs that are at least a week old. As eggs age, they develop a pocket. This allows for easier peeling. This was also why I could not get a decent peeled egg for a photo shoot. Next time I will just wait a week.

What I've learned

The quest for a foolproof method to peel hard-boiled eggs has been the subject of countless discussions and experiments in kitchens worldwide. It's a question that has plagued home cooks and chefs alike: Does a perfect way to peel hard-boiled eggs truly exist?

The truth is, achieving consistently easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs can be a challenge. What works for one person may not work for another, and variables like egg freshness, cooking techniques, and even altitude can affect the outcome. The elusive perfect peel seems to be a combination of factors that can vary from egg to egg and from cook to cook.

Numerous methods and tips have been shared over the years, each claiming to be the definitive solution. Some swear by starting with cold water and gently simmering the eggs, while others prefer steaming or using an Instant Pot. Adding salt, vinegar, or baking soda to the cooking water has been suggested as a way to loosen the shell, and there are even tricks like shaking the eggs in a jar or using a spoon to roll them for easier peeling.

However, what works for one person may not work for another. The reason for this inconsistency lies in the nature of eggs themselves. Eggshells are composed of calcium carbonate, and as eggs age, carbon dioxide inside the shell gradually dissipates, making the egg white more acidic. This change can affect the adhesion between the shell and the egg white, potentially making it easier or harder to peel.

Additionally, the cooking process itself can play a role. Different cooking times and temperatures can influence the ease of peeling. Some find that using older eggs or adding a bit of baking soda to the cooking water helps achieve better results, while others claim that a rapid chill in an ice bath immediately after cooking makes a difference.

So, while there may not be a universally foolproof method for peeling hard-boiled eggs, there are certainly techniques that have worked for many people. It often involves a combination of factors, such as using slightly older eggs, starting with cold water, and adopting specific cooking times and chilling methods.

Ultimately, it's a matter of trial and error to find the method that works best for you. Don't be discouraged if you encounter difficulty along the way. Remember that even seasoned cooks have struggled with this culinary conundrum.

So, keep experimenting, seek advice from fellow cooks, and embrace that the quest for the perfect peel is a journey rather than an immediate destination. And who knows, maybe one day you'll stumble upon your own personal egg-peeling revelation that will forever change your breakfast or devilled egg game.

Written by Joy Sypher
Published June 10th, 2023

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