3.12.2017

i have found the way to make perfect hardboiled eggs (or, in which buzzfeed improves my life)

In Egypt, breakfast almost always includes a hardboiled egg. Even the breakfast cart parked near our bus to Petra had a bowl of hardboiled eggs. And the eggs are always perfect. The shell slides right off, leaving a smooth, perfect white, and a bright yellow yolk. How do they do it?

Way back, I posted my method for making hardboiled eggs, which at the time, I thought was perfect. Alas, it was not. With some batches, every egg peels perfectly. Others, about half do. And in some batches, I'm lucky if two or three eggs peel well, and the rest are a mess.

My beginner's Arabic is nowhere near good enough to discuss cooking methods, and none of our Breakfast Guys had sufficient English, so I didn't ask. I just peeled and ate each egg, marvelling at the consistent perfection. I was so excited about the eggs that I peeled one for Allan every morning, too.

On the internet, you'll find many different egg-boiling recipes, each claiming to be The Best. I decided that when we got home, I would collect all the methods and conduct an experiment, using all different methods, writing down which eggs were made with which methods, and so on.

When I started googling, I found that Buzzfeed had done the work for me! This post -- I Tested Out Popular Tricks To Make Hard-Boiled Eggs Easier To Peel -- is exactly as advertised. Buzzfeed staff writer Mathew Jedeikin collected all the advice from the internet, made a whole bunch of eggs for his husband's breakfast, and reported back on the results. In typical Buzzfeed fashion, there are lots of pictures of the results and honking big titles -- with baking soda, with vinegar, with and without ice bath, starting from boiling, starting from cold water, and so on.

So thanks to Buzzfeed, I can now post the way to make Perfect Hardboiled Eggs. I made a dozen at a time, as I always do.

1. Begin with a low boil, not a full-on rolling boil.
2. Add vinegar -- about 15 mls (1 tablespoon) per 4 cups of water.
3. Use a slotted spoon to gently lower eggs into the water.
4. Boil for 14 minutes.
5. Remove eggs to ice bath.
6. When eggs have cooled down, they are ready to peel and eat, or to peel and store in the fridge.

This method solves three previous issues.

One, I had been lowering eggs into rapidly boiling water, causing the eggs to explode. The gentle boil fixes that.

Two, the vinegar dissolves enough of the calcium to loosen the shell's grip on the egg.

And three -- shared with my old method -- the ice bath shrinks the inner membrane for even easier peeling.

The vinegar and the ice bath might be redundant, but I'm willing to use both methods to arrive at perfection.

(I notice that many commenters on the Buzzfeed story are horrified. "Who the hell boils eggs for 14 minutes?" "How do you stand the vinegar?" and blahblahblah. I don't know what they're complaining about, but if you dislike vinegar or you feel strongly that 14 minutes is too long to boil an egg, perhaps these comments will be helpful to you.)

10 comments:

Stephanie said...

The ice bath seems like the trick! In past I would start from cold, bring to a boil, turn off but let stand for 15 mins. Peeling was never perfect. Vinegar was hit and miss too.

laura k said...

In the past I always used the ice bath, and peeling was still hit or miss! Vinegar is the new variable for me. So it's a combo of the two? Plus starting from a low boil?

Bartman said...

Recently I was told to add a fair amount of salt to the boiling water. I have only tried it once and it worked with about a tablespoon of salt. Some say to use more salt.

laura k said...

Salt makes no difference in peelability. Easy peels will still be hit or miss.

impudent strumpet said...

I'll have to try the vinegar and the 14 minutes next time I boil eggs! I did find your previous method with the specific timing worked on my old stove, but on my new stove it doesn't cook them well enough. (In general, my new stove seems to cook more slowly, maybe because it's a glass cooktop. And just to make life interesting, my new microwave seems to cook more quickly.) So starting the timing from when the boiling starts might just do the trick.

The ice bath never worked for me because I never have enough ice cubes around, but I found it useful to put the eggs in a bowl of cold water and then put that bowl in the freezer until the eggs are cold to the touch. (Or until I have to leave the house or go to bed or something else that's going to make me forget that I have a bowl of eggs in the freezer that probably shouldn't stay there forever.)

laura k said...

That's a great workaround for an ice bath! I would have to set a timer or risk forgetting about the bowl for days.

impudent strumpet said...

What's a good burner setting for keeping the eggs at a boil for 14 minutes? Low? Medium? High?

laura k said...

My stove has numbers 1-10. For the low boil, I use 8.

Ten will get a rolling boil, 6 will get a simmer.

So I'm thinking between medium and high.

impudent strumpet said...

Thanks, I will extrapolate accordingly for my weird stove.

Is this with the lid on or off?

laura k said...

Lid off. It will keep the boil lower and make it easier to tell if you need to adjust the heat.