Once you've mastered how to make perfect hard-boiled eggs, it's time to learn the art of peeling them without making a mess or getting the shell stuck under your nails.
We’ve all been there — frustrated when we accidentally puncture the tender white inside. The yellow is exposed and, before we know it, there's only half an egg left. There's eggshell shrapnel all over the kitchen counter and our egg looks as traumatized as we feel.
There has to be an easier way, right?
Many of us who like to cook have gotten pretty good at scrambling eggs and even making a gorgeous frittata to impress guests. But many of us are baffled when it comes to hard-boiled eggs. Because getting the perfect, bright yellow center and easy-to-peel shell feels like it's left only to the powers of the universe (a sometimes very cruel one). To avoid brittle, sticky shells, green or runny yolks (we love soft-boiled eggs, but that's not what we're aiming for right now), we've taken the guesswork out of how to peel hard-boiled eggs with six simple tips and tricks, plus a little hack for peeling big batches.
Whether you're lunch-box prepping for the week, whipping up egg salad for a potluck or are in charge of making the deviled eggs for the entire extended family's Easter brunch celebration, empower yourself to become the most eggcellent egg peeler of the bunch.
1. Use eggs that are not super fresh.
While it may sound counterintuitive, slightly older eggs are much easier to peel. If you buy your eggs from the supermarket, they're most likely old enough, as the USDA allows for 30 days at the factory, and another 30 days for the sell-by date. But if you buy them from the farmer's market or directly from a farmer, ask when they were laid. In that case, you may want to let them sit for a week or two.
2. Start with boiling water.
For years I started my eggs in cold water, which usually worked fine, until I tried the boiling water method, which is nearly foolproof. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, lower the eggs gently (I find a steamer basket works great) and boil vigorously for 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to a gently simmer over low heat, cover with a lid and cook for another 10 minutes.
3. Shock in cold water and gently shake.
Immediately pour off the hot water, leaving the eggs in the pot. If you're using a steamer basket, carefully lift the basket and pour off the water. Return the eggs to the pot and gently shake it back and forth to lightly crack the shells. Immediately add cold water and a few ice cubes and let sit until cool enough to handle; it will take about five minutes to serve warm or 15 minutes to serve cold. The idea here is that cracking while warm and then cooling rapidly allows the cold water to shrink the whites just enough to separate them from the shells a bit.
4. Peel underwater.
Using your hands, peel the cracked and cooled eggs under running water (but that's wasteful) or directly in the ice water bath. The water seeps under the thin film that clings to the whites and helps release the shell.
5. Use a spoon.
I saw this method on YouTube and had to try it for myself. Crack the eggs at the fat end and peel a tiny bit with your fingers. Slip a spoon under the shell so that the curve of the spoon follows the curve of the egg. Rotate the egg and move the spoon to release the shell. This is a great method if you're only peeling a few eggs.
6. For large batches, place the eggs in a plastic container with some water and gently shake.
Food writer Alessandra Bulow peels over 60 eggs every spring for her family's Passover seder and randomly learned her top method from a Japanese game show. Here's her hack for how to peel hard-boiled eggs in large batches: Put five thoroughly cooled hard-boiled eggs into a small plastic container with some cold water, top with the lid and then gently rock and shake until the shells break and fall away. You'll almost always end up with perfectly peeled eggs. Repeat with the remaining eggs. This method works best when the eggs are thoroughly cooled and cooked using all of the above tips.
Bonus: A cool gadget to help make perfect hard-boiled eggs
The one I like best is the Exact Egg Boiler from Casabella. It's like a steamer basket with an attached egg timer that fits inside a large saucepan. The timer changes color to reflect the level of doneness. It has a handle that functions as a funnel to distribute cold running water onto the eggs. While the eggs were perfectly cooked, I couldn't walk away from the stove for more than a few minutes at a time for fear of overcooking. After a second batch, I set my timer after the water came to a rolling boil to see exactly when the timer registered hard-cooked — about eight minutes.
While it's not an eggsact science (sorry!), by following these simple steps, your egg-cooking and peeling eggsperience (ugh, sorry again!) will be a better one.