If you’ve ever tried to unstick a stubborn shell from a hard-cooked egg, you know how frustrating and fruitless it can be.
The key to Andrea’s recipe is the cooking method. After testing everything from baking to pressure-cooking, she determined that a hot-start method—specifically, steaming—was the most reliable in producing uniformly opaque (but not chalky) yolks and tender whites that were easy to peel. That’s because steaming prevents the white from bonding with the real sticky-shell culprit: the membrane between the shell and the white.
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Most cooks assume that when an egg is difficult to peel, it’s because the shell is sticking to the egg white. But it’s the membrane between the shell and the white that’s really the problem. When an egg is very fresh or when it’s cooked slowly, the proteins in the white bond to the membrane instead of to one another, and the membrane becomes cemented to the white and impossible to peel away.
The solution: plunging the eggs directly into hot steam, which causes the egg white proteins to denature and shrink, reducing their ability to bond with the membrane. Out of 10 eggs cooked this way and then peeled, nine eggs were flawlessly smooth and one egg had a couple slight imperfections. Other cooking methods resulted in some eggs that were pitted, mangled, or torn to the core.
Using her recipe, Andrea was able to peel six eggs in under two minutes. But seeing an opportunity to be even more efficient, she came up with the following novel method to cut that down to under a minute.
1. Cook eggs according to this Easy-Peel Hard-Cooked Eggs recipe.
2. Instead of preparing the ice bath in a bowl, use a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
3. Once eggs are chilled, pour off half of the water.
4. Holding the lid in place, shake the container vigorously using a vertical motion (the eggs will hit the top of the container) until the shells are cracked all over, about 40 shakes.
5. Peel, rinse, and use as desired.
Whether you peel the eggs individually or using this cover-and-shake approach, you no longer need to fear the drudgery of peeling hard-cooked eggs.