I happened across a “hack” recently for baking eggs in a muffin tin instead of boiling. It was advertised as easier and at first blush intrigued me.
Then I read the reviews and decided not to waste my eggs trying it. People complained of overcooked sides, red spots, and worst of all, rubbery whites. I then remembered that every recipe for baked eggs is not up my alley because the whites always come out rubbery instead of tender.
But, it put me on a quest. Not that boiling eggs is messy or inconsistent, but wondering why sometimes the eggs peel easily and other times not at all is worth some effort.
I was in my thirties before I realized the dark circle around the yolk meant that the egg was overcooked. Oops. But I kind of think egg boiling is one of those foundational skills on which none of us received instruction. I remember learning how to make bechamel, how to cut an onion, how to cream butter and sugar, but not egg boiling. Actually, most egg recipes don’t make it to home economics class, scout badge-earning or even mom-instruction. At my house, my mother despised eggs, and dad fried his own egg every Sunday night while the rest of us turned up our noses and did our best mom-inspired egg sneer. I was also in my thirties before I ever enjoyed the ecstasy of a runny yolk oozing out from under the Hollandaise of an Eggs Benedict. Sigh. With no time to waste, I have enjoyed a runny yolk almost every Sunday since.
When I realized there is a right and a wrong way to cook eggs, I knew better, so I did better. Most of the time around here, we are scooping the insides from a shell to enjoy a soft-boiled egg. But deviled eggs appear at every holiday and family gathering and hard-boiled are required for my potato salad as well. The curse of that shell holding on to the egg white continued to vex. My mom always said “too fresh” eggs don’t peel well, but that rule just is not solid.
Hooray for me, in my continuing search and after the muffin tin detour, I found my friends at epicurious.com had done an actual test of methods. (Also, the biggest reason I love America’s Test Kitchen is the testing, comparing, and eventual crowning of excellence.) And the answer has nothing to do with how fresh or how old your eggs are.
HERE they reveal a quite simple solution to this age old problem and I am here to vouch for it 100%! In a nutshell, start your pot of water to boil, then lower in cold eggs AFTER the water is boiling, then reduce to simmer. You basically do what you’ve always done except for starting your eggs in the cold water. In the end, the shell easily releases from the egg and you can stop cursing hard-boiled eggs. Seriously, the shell releases easily!
At the end of the article is a chart for how long to leave the eggs simmering based on how done you want your yolk, so you should probably print off or write those times down until you get the hang of it.