Technique: Hard boiled eggs, and how to peel them clean
There are few more irritating moments in the kitchen for me than when a boiled egg doesn’t peel properly. You know what I’m talking about: The shell pulls off bits of egg along with it and what you end up with is a pocked and torn tidbit, a destroyed soldier in need of serious furlough.
This is especially so if you’re making deviled eggs; chop them up and who really cares how destroyed they got in the peeling, other than that the process drove you a little mad. But if your goal is a lovely platter of perhaps Easter brunch devilers, suddenly your Lenten discipline to stop uttering expletives in the kitchen goes out the window.
The goal for the clean peeling of eggs is to get the membrane under the shell to separate from the cooked egg white. Here’s the deal: there are all kinds of approaches to this imperfect process. I find that most often these tips work. And sometimes they don’t. So if you have a foolproof, failsafe way to boil and peel eggs clean, by all means let’s hear it.
1. Use old eggs. Please. It’s an old practice, and for me, one that’s meaningful. In other words, buy your eggs now for Easter. I had some week-old eggs that I tested against some three week old eggs. The latter were markedly cleaner to peel. The difference between today’s eggs and last week’s doesn’t seem to matter as much.
2. To boil the eggs, place them in a single layer in your pan and cover them by about an inch of cool water. Starting with hot water can crack the eggs. If your eggs are on the fresher side, add a teaspoon of baking soda, which is meant to increase the Ph of the egg and encourage the membrane to separate more easily when peeling. Bring the water to a boil, then remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 16 minutes (time those minutes from this point, not from when you first put the eggs on to boil, and be careful not to overcook them). This amount of time produces a bright yellow, hard-cooked yolk for a large egg. Cool the eggs immediately by running cold water over them in the pot until they are cool to touch. You can crack the eggs immediately or keep them in the refrigerator (dry, not in water) until you’re ready to use them.
3. Crack the eggs one of two ways: drain the water and put the lid back on the pot, shaking the pot gently from side to side to crack the eggs. Or, take out one egg at a time and crack it at both ends, then gently roll the egg on the counter under the palm of your hand to crack the shell entirely.
4. Peel the egg under cool running water to encourage the separation of the membrane. Start peeling from the large end of the egg where there is a natural indentation, a good place to get under the membrane.
5. If the eggs are not peeling easily, take a little furlough yourself by refrigerating them (dry) for as much time as you have before they’re needed, and try again.
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