“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.
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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.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.