I’ve been on a quest to find the best way to make easy-to-peel hard boiled eggs, and after dozens of tries, I finally figured out the secret.
We’ve all been led astray. Who else has been told to put the eggs in a pot, cover by an inch of cold water, then bring to a boil? Yeah, me too. But that’s where we’ve been doing it wrong.
First, easy-to-peel hard boiled eggs are a result of a hot, boiling start. No joke. I think this “cold start” egg myth came from the fact that potatoes actually do need a cold start. When you give potatoes a cold start—meaning that you put the chopped potatoes in a pot, cover by an inch with cold water, then boil—they actually do have a better texture and cook more evenly. (Tuck that away for the next time you make mashed potatoes.) So, people have assumed the same with eggs. But it’s not true!
The second trick to making easy-to-peel hard boiled eggs is shocking them in cold water after the 13 minutes at a simmer (see full method below). Shocking them in ice cold water stops the cooking process, which not only yields more tender whites and a perfectly cooked yolk (no weird dark lines here), it immediately cools the eggs which makes them easier to peel. My friends over at one of my favorite blogs, Serious Eats, go into the science of it, but you can just trust me that it’s true.Now for cooking time. You don’t want to boil the eggs for the full 13 minutes or they will be over-cooked. The best method is to bring the water to a full boil, carefully lower the eggs in (a fine mesh strainer or spider-skimmer work well), then let them boil for 30 seconds. Time this, then lower the burner to the lowest setting so they very gently simmer.
None of these tips really create that much more work—and trust me—it’s worth it for shells that practically fall off.
So, a boiling start for 30 seconds to a very gentle simmer for 13 minutes then ice bath at the end makes perfect, easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs.
But, what about making a tiny hole at the top of the egg you might ask? In my experience, making that tiny hole in the shell with a thumbtack actually does help—a little. If you don’t have a thumbtack handy, you don’t need to drive to the store to get one just to make easy-to-peel eggs. But, if you do have one, use a thumbtack to make a tiny hole at the top of the big end of the egg before boiling (gently press and it will go right through the shell). The shells will be that much easier to peel.
There are other methods out there that call for salt or vinegar in the water. I tried both multiple times and didn’t find that either made a difference. So, save your salt and vinegar for other recipes.
And finally, don’t use super fresh eggs for your hard-boiled eggs. This is probably the only time in the kitchen that day-of fresh isn’t best. Shells like to really stick to just-laid eggs. If you have your own chickens or buy directly from a farmer, use those eggs for a glorious scramble or poach ’em up. If you buy your eggs at the grocery store, they’re already a few weeks old so they’ll work great. In the US eggs are refrigerated because they are power-washed before packing. No need to bring them to room temp, you can use this method with eggs straight out of the refrigerator.
Let the eggs sit in the ice bath for at least 15 minutes, then peel them or refrigerate them (unpeeled) for up to seven days. To peel, gently tap the egg at the big end first, then the small end, then all around. I prefer not to roll them because it’s easy to break the white. Just gently tap all around to crack the shells everywhere and they will peel with ease.
- Eggs (obviously!)
- Bring a pot of water to a full boil. Use an appropriate sized pot that will fit your eggs. I use a 2.5 quart pot for six eggs.
- If using, use a thumbtack to make a tiny hole at the top of the big end of the eggs. (See note.)
- Gently lower the eggs into boiling water. A fine mesh strainer or spider-skimmer work well for this.
- Boil for 30 seconds, then turn the burner to the lowest setting for a very gentle (not rolling) simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and wait 13 minutes.
- Put the eggs in an ice bath. You can do this by filling a separate bowl with water and ice, and transfer the eggs, or, gently pour the water out of the pan without cracking the eggs, then fill the pan with cold water and ice. The first way, with the bowl, is easiest to prevent accidentally cracking your eggs while they are hot.
- Leave the eggs in the ice bath for 15 minutes.
- Peel, or store in the refrigerator unpeeled for up to three days.
- To peel, gently tap the egg at the big end first, then the small end, then tap all around to gently crack the shell. Be amazed at how easy they peel.
Unpeeled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator up to 7 days. I suggest storing them in an airtight container to prevent odor in your refrigerator.
What do you think? Have you tried this method or others? Let us know how they turn out in the comments below.