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The gospel on making perfect hard-cooked eggs

Thursday, October 24, 2002

All of us, including our food editor, Suzanne Martinson, occasionally have trouble making a perfect hard-cooked egg.

Why? Because so many things can go wrong.

Take a look at an e-mail sent to Kitchen Mailbox by Darlene Tchirkow of Mt. Lebanon: "Why is it that some hard-boiled eggs peel so easily and others are a son-of-a-gun to peel with globs of white membrane sticking and making an awful mess? I thought at first that the freshness of the egg counted, but these eggs were all from the same batch, and some were easy to peel and others from the same batch were horrible -- could you please shed some light on this problem?

"Also, the correct time for boiling eggs would be helpful. I usually start with cold water and boil 6 to 8 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Should they be peeled while still warm, or does it matter if you wait until they cool off?"

To answer those questions, we needed someone who knows everything there is to know about cooking eggs, so we turned to Elisa Maloberti of the American Egg Board:

"Very fresh eggs may be difficult to peel. The fresher the eggs, the more the shell membranes cling tenaciously to the shells. Though many techniques to make peeling easier have been tried, the simplest method is to buy and refrigerate eggs a week to 10 days in advance of hard cooking. This brief 'breather' allows the eggs to take in air, which helps separate the membranes from the shell. Before peeling, it's important to crackle the shells until they have a fine network of lines all over (roll egg between hands to loosen shell).

"Peel, starting at the large end. Hold egg under running cold water or dip in bowl of water to help ease off shell. Eggshells usually come off much more readily, without tearing the whites, when they're in small pieces rather than large chunks."

Here's how to cook hard-cooked eggs the eggspert (sorry, we couldn't resist) way: Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan. Add enough water to come at least 1 inch above the eggs. Cover. Quickly bring just to boiling. Turn off heat (if necessary, remove pan from heat to prevent further boiling). Let eggs stand, covered, in the hot water about 12 minutes for medium eggs, 15 minutes for large eggs and 18 minutes for extra large. Immediately run cold water over eggs or place them in ice water until completely cooled. This helps avoid that nasty greenish ring (caused by sulfur and iron compounds) around hard-cooked yolks. Remove shells.

Because we had eight-day-old eggs in the fridge, we decided to make hard-cooked eggs using the Egg Board's directions. The first batch didn't turn out, and, though we hate to admit it, we have only ourselves to blame. We didn't cover the pot when we placed it on the stove, as the directions advised. As a result, we had a mess. The shells stuck to the eggs, and the eggs were not fully cooked. We made them again following the directions to the letter, and it worked.

More egg info:

To refer to hard- or soft-cooked eggs as boiled is incorrect. Although the cooking water must come to a boil, tender, and less rubbery eggs with less breakage are produced when the heat is turned off. This allows the eggs to cook gently.

Shell-cracking most likely occurs when eggs are cooked for too long or cooked at too high a temperature.

Hard-cooked eggs in the shell can be refrigerated up to one week. Hard-cooked eggs out of the shell should be used immediately.


  • 6 hard-cooked eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash black pepper

Slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and place in small bowl. With a fork, finely crumble yolks. Stir in mayonnaise, salt and pepper until smooth. Pile into egg centers. Cover and refrigerate. Makes 12 deviled stuffed eggs.

Variations: Add 2 1/2 tablespoons crumbled cooked bacon or add 3 tablespoons minced green pepper plus 1/4 teaspoon vinegar.

Source: "The Good Housekeeping Cookbook."

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A letter to Kitchen Mailbox

"There was an article in the Food section about how school lunches are healthier than those packed by Mom. [Nibbles reported the results of the Eastern Michigan University research on Sept. 5.] I beg to differ. I have worked at school cafeterias except for the past two years.

"The children will take the main course (usually high-fat content) and leave the fruit and vegetables. In all my years as a cafeteria worker, I only saw four kids a day take a vegetable, unless it was corn. Quite a few times I watched as children would not even buy a lunch and instead spend their lunch money on ice cream and snacks.

"Most schools sell these after the children in the line get their food but before they have time to eat all of their lunch, and since they melt, guess what gets eaten? Ice cream and snacks are the big money-maker for the school, so they are always sold.

"My own children get a packed lunch and no extra money, so they are forced to eat the things in the lunch that I put there. And my children are NOT overweight like the children who eat the school lunches.

"Thank you for letting me vent, but I had to speak up and correct a misconception."

Joan Ball,
West Mifflin

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail toaburnett@post-gazette.com>href=mailto:aburnett@post-gazette.com>aburnett@post-gazette.com . Please include a name, neighborhood/city/borough/township and state and a daytime phone number on allcorrespondence.

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