Teaching my grandmothers how to peel eggs

There are lots of ‘old wives tales’ about how to peel eggs. Preparing a boiled egg seems like one of those tasks that is so simple anyone can do it. Yet there are a couple of complications.

The easiest to resolve is how long to boil, less than about 5 minutes (depending on egg size) and the yolk is too soft, more than about 8 minutes and the yolk gets an unsightly black coating (sulphur from the white reacts with iron from the yolk to give ferrous sulphite). 1 NB. Americans see colour differently and the coating is called ‘green’ there — I have no idea if this is related to Green Eggs and Ham.

The most complex is how to peel. Getting the shell off the egg sounds easy, yet the membrane seems to stick to both shell and egg, resulting over the years in hundreds of mangled and so manky-looking eggs. My grandmothers’ methods of making this easier involved shocking the eggs in icy water once they are boiled, and for one of them also by putting the cold egg direct into vigorously boiling water at the start (a double shock). This shocking system works (a bit). It seems t work best if the eggs are peeled under the cold water as soon as possible after shocking them — but it is by no means always successful (cue dozens more manky hard boiled disasters).

Enter molecular gastronomy. Or at least the science of cooking. On a website that I failed to bookmark, and so can no longer find, while looking for something completely different, I found a discussion of how to cook eggs to be easy to peel. This involves making the membrane less ‘sticky’. The answer (after appropriate scientific theory and experiment) 2 Theirs not mine. is to knock a dint in the round end of the egg before putting it in the water to cook. This allows water to reach and moisten the membrane.

The dint is made by hitting the egg (surprisingly hard, it took me several goes each harder than the previous attempt at first) on a hard rounded surface — the top of a rolling pin or the back of a spoon (held firmly onto the edge of the bench). The dint on the right in the photo is too vigorous and risks tearing the membrane, the one on the left is as slight as will work, but risks being invisible! 3 Both eggs worked fine.

After adding this to my grandmothers’ shocking approach I have yet to suffer a peeling fail!

Notes   [ + ]

1. NB. Americans see colour differently and the coating is called ‘green’ there — I have no idea if this is related to Green Eggs and Ham.
2. Theirs not mine.
3. Both eggs worked fine.

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