Egg

Science Explains the Best Way to Crack Eggs

April 28, 2017

“What’s the best way to crack an egg?” teases the headline of a Popular Science article published earlier this week. A fascinating question.

The article doesn’t exactly contain earth-shattering revelations regarding the what: The most surefire way to crack an egg, as one may guess, is to do so right around the middle. Smack its center softly against a hard edge, and, with gentle force, pry that crack open so its contents spill out onto a nice landing surface of your choice. Big whoop.

But the science undergirding this method is news to me. Physicists explain that we're predisposed to hit the egg against a hard surface where the egg is flattest, or, its center, where its oblong shape widens; that’s the point at which an egg is weakest. The egg puts up more of a fight at its round, arched ends. This curvature creates an even distribution of pressure, which may explain why it’s all but impossible to crack an egg when it’s held lengthwise between your fingers.

To game this correctly, then, you should create an initial crack in the center of your egg that opens a cavity small enough to fit your thumb through. What comes next requires quick, careful precision: You expand this ripple ever so slightly with your hands so that the egg’s yolk tumbles out. Go too fast and the shell will collapse in your hands.

So, there you go. Now you’ve got some new vocabulary, borrowed from the wild world of fracture mechanics, to apply to a deceptively simple cooking act. If this registers as completely useless information, consider that egg-cracking is a difficult art to master for the less dexterous among us. I'll certainly have all this in mind the next time I bust out my carton of eggs and make myself a scramble. Harried egg-cracking can result in eggshell-strewn batters, after all, that make for an unwelcome crunch in your lunch (or, yikes, cake). And that’s no fun.

Have another way to crack eggs? Got a funny egg-cracking disaster story of your own to share? Let us know in the comments.

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5 Comments

Jeremy B. June 1, 2017
I have to disagree with the hard edge being used to crack an egg and vote in favor of the flat surface method.<br /><br />Beyond the obvious problem of shoving shell fragments into the egg, the secondary problem with using a hard edge is that if there is any contamination on the outside of the shell it will force that into the interior of the egg and then into your food. Given that the main purpose of an egg shell is to keep contaminates (aka, bacteria) on the outside, pushing the outside into the inside seems like a doubly bad idea.
 
Whiteantlers April 28, 2017
My mother was a sloppy and dreadful cook and a worse baker. She would smack the long side, not the middle, of eggs against the mixing bowl then just shake the contents of the eggs into the flour mix, guaranteeing lots of shell shards in the finished product. To this day I avoid pound cake.
 
Smaug April 28, 2017
It's pretty widely known that cracking an egg against a flat surface leaves you with less eggshell in your food than cracking it against an edge. I'm not so sure why, but it's certainly true.
 
James April 28, 2017
Agreed. I've always followed Jacque Pepin's advice, which is to crack against a flat surface so no piece of shell is forced into the crack itself.
 
ErinM724 July 4, 2017
Huh. I didn't know this. Maybe it will also help me from not getting actual egg on my fingers, which happens EVERY TIME and make it challenging to be cooking an egg on the stove and also have to wash my hands.