After sifting, peeling a stubborn boiled egg is easily my least favorite kitchen task. You know the scene: Rather than gently sliding off the shell, each poke of your finger punctures the egg and takes half of the flesh with it. This matters less when you're just feeding yourself in the morning. But when you're making deviled eggs, egg curry, or garnishing a dish with hard-boiled eggs for guests, it can be a bruise to the ego to have to serve food that looks like it's been sent through a lawnmower.
There are, of course, a thousand tricks out there to perform the task without pulling your hair out or ending up with cratered egg whites, and I'm sure you don't need me to tell you these. You probably have your own way of doing it. For example, the Food52 Editorial Team swears by the method of peeling them in a bowl of cold water.
"My mom would use the sides of the bowl to crack each egg in several places (really all around the shell)," our co-founder Merrill Stubbs tells me, "and then let them sit in the cold water for a few minutes before peeling."
Even I once told you to boil your eggs in water with a splash of vinegar and baking soda—the former as insurance against egg drop soup (as it helps any potential egg-white escapees to seize in the water), and the latter to increase the alkalinity of the eggs (as it's said that older eggs have more alkalinity, and older eggs peel more easily than newer eggs).
The responses to this tweet are worth a gander, as they provide more science, context, and humor:
"it really bothers me that he didn't turn off the faucet"
"Wasted water. If you can’t peel a properly boiled egg without this, there’s no hope for you."
"While I’m impressed by the trick, remember to turn off the tap the next time you do this. Kills me to watch such wastage of water."
"How many litres [sic] of water do you need to peel a hard boiled egg?"
"I doubt it would work with super fresh eggs. I'll give it a try but I won't leave the water running, though."
"Forgetting to mention that you need to do this while the egg is still hot. The water needs to be cold as well—you’re essentially 'shocking' the egg out of its shell."
While most were just angry that the egg-peeler in the video didn't turn off the faucet, the last two comments were helpful as I experimented with the hack in the test kitchen today. 1) I decided to use super-fresh eggs that our food stylist Anna Billingskog bought (because that's what she always buys for photo shoots), and 2) I made sure to test with hot, just-boiled eggs.
Mimicking the video, I added my boiled egg to a glass, filled it with cold tap water (and turned off the faucet), covered the cup with my hand, and SHOOK SHOOK SHOOK—ensuring that the egg hit the sides of the glass thoroughly. I lifted my hand to reveal not just a cracked egg, but an already half-peeled one, as well (!). All I had to do was slip off the second half of the shell in one fell swoop.
Verdict: The hack works, and it's pretty cool.
Now, will I do this every time I boil an egg? Probably not. Maybe when I'm craving a single hard-boiled egg. But this trick wouldn't work with, say, a soft 6-minute egg, which is my favorite way to eat eggs. And if I'm boiling a dozen eggs to devil, then it's more likely I'd just crack the bottoms of each and let them sit in a bowl of cold water as Merrill's mother does.
What do you think of this hack? Have you seen it before? Let us know in the comments below.
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Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.