Have you ever peeled a hard-boiled egg and had trouble getting the shell off cleanly? Everyone struggles with the peeling process sometimes, and chances are you've had the frustrating experience of looking down at a batch of raggedy, misshapen whites that just won't do for your deviled egg platter. With these four simple tips, you'll have perfectly peeled eggs every time.
Tips for peeling hard-boiled eggs
- Choose older eggs
- Steam your eggs
- Use an ice bath
- Peel under water
Why are fresh eggs so hard to peel?
The fresher the eggs, the harder they are to peel. This is because the egg white or "albumen" in a fresh egg has a relatively low pH level, making it acidic. When cooked, these fresh egg whites bond strongly to the inner shell's membrane. As an egg ages, the pH level rises and the inner membrane is less likely to bond to the albumen, so the shell peels off much easier. At Nellie's Free Range Eggs, we pride ourselves on the freshness of our eggs, which come right from our free range partner farms. If you've ever had trouble peeling our eggs, we highly recommend either letting our eggs age for a week or two in your fridge or using the steaming method.
How to steam eggs
Steaming an egg yields the same result as boiling, but with the benefit of shells that are much easier to remove. The process is easy. Here's what you'll need:
- A metal heatproof colander
- A pot with a fitted lid large enough to hold your colander
- A medium bowl (for ice bath)
- Place eggs in your colander, then place the colander in the pot.
- Fill the pot with a couple inches of water. The water level should stay just below the base of the colander (not touching the eggs themselves).
- Place a well-fitted lid on your pot, and bring the water to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, start your timer and leave the lid on the pot to keep the steam from escaping (if it looks like you are going to run out of water, carefully add a little extra warm water to the pot as needed to make sure steam production doesn't cease).
- Let eggs steam for 12 minutes* before removing from the pot and placing in an ice bath (8-9 minutes for slightly jammy eggs).
*12 minutes works best when you're cooking six eggs in a single layer in your colander. If you're cooking a larger batch, or eggs that are layered on top of each other, you may need to add additional time to ensure that the eggs are cooked through.
Using an ice bath
Submerging your eggs in an ice bath right after you remove them from the pot (or any cooking apparatus you decide to use) is crucial. It not only brings the cooking process to a halt, preventing your eggs from getting overcooked, but also shocks the egg white, causing it to shrink back from the shell. This process helps begin to loosen the egg white from the inner shell membrane that's responsible for most difficult-to-peel hard-boiled eggs. In general, about 10 minutes (or more) of rest time in the ice bath will do the trick.
Peeling under water
Once your eggs have cooled to the touch, peel them right in the ice bath (or, if it's too cold, replace the ice bath with cool water). Cracking the shells while the eggs are submerged allows the water to flow into the space between the egg white and membrane, further separating them. Once you've peeled all your eggs, strain off the water remaining in the bowl and discard or compost the shells.
Got an Instant Pot? Try this steaming method for perfectly cooked and peelable hard-boiled eggs.