If you have ever had a frustrating experience with hard boiled eggs, you know that there is more to it than simply boiling and peeling.

Does it really matter what type of egg to choose to hard boil? Is one cooking method better than another to help the shell peel off without taking big chunks of the egg itself? Get some answers here!

boiling eggs

Conflicting advice on how to peel hard-boiled eggs

Ask a friend, search the web, or reference a cookbook, and you will find many different opinions about the type of egg to use and favorite cooking methods. If you have ever had a frustrating egg peeling experience, you know that there is more to it than boiling and peeling.

Choosing the right eggs

The age of the egg affects how easily the shell will peel away after cooking. Eggs that are too fresh will have shells that are difficult to remove without damaging (or even totally ripping apart) the egg white.

Very fresh eggs can be difficult to peel, so to ensure easily-peeled eggs, buy and refrigerate them a week to 10 days in advance of cooking. This brief “breather” allows the eggs time to take in air, which helps separate the membranes from the shell. Look at the egg carton and read the “Best if used by” date to select eggs with the best flavor and quality.

The USDA says that expiration dates can be no more than 30 days from the day the eggs were packed into the carton. Terminology such as “Use by”, “Use before”, “Best before” tells you the time in which the eggs should be eaten before overall quality diminishes. Code dating using these terms may not exceed 45 days including the day the eggs were packed into the carton.

Raw eggs can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 weeks after purchase.

Also see: 8 egg-cellent egg salad recipes

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Prepping the eggs

Select eggs that have been refrigerated and those which are clean and without any visible cracks. Do not wash eggs. Do not pierce the shell either, since not only can bacteria enter the egg, but the contents of the egg may leak out during cooking.

Cooking your hard-boiled eggs

When making hard boiled eggs, the cooking time is important. (“Boiled” is the key word — don’t microwave shelled eggs, because they will usually explode.)

Place eggs in a single layer in bottom of a saucepan, then cover the eggs with cold water. Heat the saucepan until boiling, and then remove it from the heat.

Cooking times:

  • extra-large eggs: 15 minutes
  • large eggs: 12 minutes
  • medium-size eggs: 9 minutes

Be sure the egg white and egg yolk are fully-cooked and firm.

  • Eggs that are overcooked will have a harmless gray-green ring around the yolk.
  • Eggs that are undercooked will have runny yolks, and could allow salmonella bacteria to cause a foodborne illness.
After the eggs are cooked

After cooking, carefully pour off hot water then submerge the eggs in cold water (optionally, ice can be added).

Since they spoil faster than fresh eggs, refrigerated hard-boiled eggs in the shell should be eaten within seven days. (Why only a week? The USDA says that when shell eggs are hard cooked, the protective coating is washed away, leaving bare the pores in the shell for bacteria to enter and contaminate it. Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking and used within a week.)

Refrigerate in in a clean, dry container to prevent odor absorption. When storing hard-cooked eggs, you may notice a “gassy” odor in your refrigerator. The odor is caused by hydrogen sulfide that forms when the eggs are cooked, says Carol Schlitt, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator. This gas is harmless and usually dissipates within a few hours.

To peel a hard-boiled egg

Hard-boiled eggs are easiest to peel right after cooling. Cooling causes the egg to contract slightly in the shell.

Gently tap egg on countertop until shell is finely crackled all over. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell. Starting peeling at large end, holding egg under cold running water to help ease the shell off.

After peeling, promptly refrigerate the eggs if they’re not going to be used right away. Once peeled, eggs should be eaten that day.


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