Who doesn't love a hard boiled egg? They're portable, full of protein, and relatively inexpensive. But if you've ever tried to peel a hard boiled egg, you know that is often easier said than done. So often the whites will stick to the shells, and if you're lucky you end up with enough edible egg left when you're done to make it worth the hassle of making them. Then, of course, the shell comes off the next egg perfectly.
So what gives? Why do some eggs peel perfectly and others hold on for dear life? I used to just think eggs were temperamental. If you search the internet for ways to cook an egg so the shell comes off easily, you'll find dozens of answers. They may sound a lot like this:
"Use older eggs."
"Use fresh eggs."
"Start with your eggs in cold water and bring to a boil with your eggs in the pot."
"Don't boil them, steam them."
"Put them directly in an ice bath when they're done cooking."
"Don't boil them, let them sit in hot water."
"Put them in a mason jar with water and shake to remove the shell."
The problem is, these suggestions are all based on guesses, personal experience and things people have "noticed" when cooking hard shell eggs. I've tried all (okay, most) of these methods and still ended up with "temperamental eggs." I never found a method that worked consistently, 100% of the time. Until...
I came across a post on Facebook that was based on science. Crazy, right? The author of the post claimed that the reason eggs wouldn't peel is because the whites attach themselves to the shell as the temperature rises. His solution was to shock the eggs - put a very cold egg into very hot water. He claimed this would cause the white to seize and pull away from the shell. By using this method, followed by an ice bath when they were done cooking, he claimed every egg would peel perfectly.
A suggestion based on science? You have my attention.
I still prefer steaming my eggs (some habits die hard, I guess). I used to let them slowly warm up over the steamer, thinking this would lead to less cracking, and it did. After reading this post, I let the water come to a full boil before removing the eggs from the fridge and immediately put them in the hot steamer basket, lid on. I'm 3 dozen eggs in to this experiment and every egg has peeled perfectly. I steam for 9 minutes and 30 seconds, because I like a slightly soft yolk.
So there you have it, a science based suggestion for peeling hard boiled eggs. So far I'm 36 out of 36 - pretty good record. Give it a shot and let me know what you think in the comments!