Hard-boiled eggs, it seems, are a perennial kitchen problem. Overcooked, undercooked. How do you get them just right? And how do you peel them so you aren’t left with ragged, pockmarked whites?
Eggs can be white, brown, blue or freckled. Although the flavour is generally the same, the colour depends on the breed of chicken. Brown eggs, however, have slightly harder shells, making them better for boiling.
Refrigerate the eggs until two hours before you need them to let them come to room temperature – doing this ensures they will cook more evenly with less chance of the shell cracking. If you forget to take them out of the fridge, place the eggs in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes before boiling.
The current trendy technique for hard-boiled eggs is to start them in cold water, but having tried many variations, I find that starting them in boiling water makes them much easier to peel.
Fill a pot with enough water to ensure the eggs are completely covered and bring it to a boil over high heat. Gently add your eggs with a spoon to avoid cracking the shell. If an egg floats on top and will not stay immersed, it is bad, and it should be discarded. If the egg cracks, salt the crack liberally – this will help it to seal up.
Time the eggs from the moment the water returns to a full boil. After one minute, turn the heat down a bit, and simmer vigorously for exactly 11 minutes for large eggs.
To centre the yolk for devilled eggs, gently rotate the eggs with a spoon continuously for the first minute of cooking time.
Sometimes the cooked egg white will have a “dimple” at the fat end. You can avoid this by pricking that end with a pin before you place the egg in the water.
When it comes to easy peeling, people swear by baking soda or vinegar in the water, but I find neither as effective as using an ice-water bath. Have a bowl of ice water ready (complete with ice cubes) and add the eggs immediately after they are removed from the simmering water. Remove from the ice water when cool. Tap the shell and peel the egg from the fat end. Breaking into the air space dislodges the membrane attached to the white and the shell slips off more easily. It is the shock to the eggs from the ice that makes them easier to peel.
Peeling the eggs right away also makes it easier. If you don’t want to eat them immediately, go ahead and peel them but place them in a bowl of cold water, stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours, so they don’t dry out.
People who love boiled eggs are usually particular as to the consistency of the yolk. The 11-minute cooking time I mentioned above will yield a fully cooked yolk. A three-minute large egg is runny, a four-minute egg is starting to set around the edges of the yolk and a five-minute egg has a creamy, runny centre. A six-minute egg is slightly runny and perfect for topping salads.
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