“You live and learn. At any rate, you live.”
― Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless
How To Boil an Egg that You Can Peel
I read an article on Quartz Magazine about the science of boiling an egg. It credited Kenji López-Alt with the methodology, in his book called “The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science”. I downloaded a sample of it on Kindle, and I was hooked. I’m fascinated by the science of cookery — why a recipe that’s followed precisely can give different results with each attempt. It seems that science is behind the reason.
He also set about proving that there is a perfect method for boiling an egg, so that it peels easily, produces a tender white and lovely yolk. I have tried so many different methods of boiling eggs with an aim toward easy peeling that I’ve resorted to keeping one carton of eggs for poaching or immediate use, and another carton that I leave in the fridge to age a bit. Old eggs do peel more easily. That’s a fact.
But I might have to admit that Kenji’s method surprised me. It worked, that’s why it surprised me. The shell came away from the white in a single piece, adhering to the membrane that usually causes all the grief. His method is:
Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover the eggs (but don’t put the eggs in the water yet). Bring the water up to boil, gently lower the eggs into the water, and set your timer for 30-seconds. When the timer goes off, throw in three or four ice cubes to lower the water temperature. Allow the water to return to a simmer, and then set your timer for 11-minutes. Keep the water at a gentle simmer. Remove the eggs from the water, and cool in cold water to stop them cooking from residual heat. Peel.
The theory is that the first 30-seconds of high heat starts to set the egg white and makes the membrane adhere to the shell. The remaining 11-minutes cooks the yolk and inner-white. And guess what … it worked. The only time that a hard-cooked egg peeled easier was when I handed it to Peder, and asked him to peel it for me.
And here are three photos of the eggs from different angles, as required by the food photography course I’m taking. None of these photos are worthy of the chicken who squeezed out these eggs. I should have focused on the egg at the front. Live and learn…
The Food Lab is available at Amazon UK and USA.