Apr 07

A 5 Minute Fix for Hard-Boiled Eggs That Won’t Peel

Everyone has had the experience of trying to peel an egg that just won’t cooperate and ending up with an ugly white blob.  While it’s not such a big deal if you are making egg salad, when you are making deviled eggs for Easter or anytime they need to look pretty,  knowing how to fix the problem and hopefully salvage your already-boiled eggs is essential.

The reasons eggs won’t peel are numerous, but no matter how you got to this point, there is a fix.  Three little steps can take you from this:


To this with the same batch of poor-peeling and already boiled eggs.

As you might have guessed, this happened to me and with no time to get new eggs let alone properly age them in the fridge.  For future reference, two weeks in the refrigerator is suggested.  Mine only had 7 days and they were not ready to let go of their cozy little shells yet.  Like any modern woman, I knew what to do . I Googled it.  I took the suggestions of several people and separated the 3 dozen boiled and stubborn eggs  into mini-batches to test each theory.  Here are the three steps that worked together beautifully:

STEP ONE:  Simmer them longer.  Most eggs aren’t cooked long enough when they don’t peel easily.  My mother said simmer for 10 minutes after a rolling boil, which is right for medium eggs.  My mother-in-law said fifteen simmered on low after bringing the water to a boil, which is right for extra large.  I had large sized eggs.  They needed 12 minutes.  So, put your boiled eggs back in the pan covered with water brought to a simmer for a few more minutes.   This gave me the  right “doneness” of the yolk, without the unsightly grey ring.

STEP TWO: Add vinegar.  Vinegar softens the shell and does make them easier to peel.  I added vinegar during the extra simmer time and I could literally peel off half of the shell at a time.  If you have done this already in the initial boil, you can probably skip this step.

STEP THREE: Start from the bottom when peeling.  I had always been a side-cracker, with a rolling thumb technique.  After trying that on these eggs, I found the experts were right.  Crack on the large end first, then the top, but peel from the bottom up.  There is a small air pocket there that allows you easier access to the membrane which stands between you and a shiny, white egg.

Interestingly, none of these steps worked well on their own.  I tried getting by with only the extra simmer time, and then only peeling from the bottom up and even started a new batch with vinegar upfront, but only had only marginally better results. For your next batch started from scratch start by setting your timer for:

10 minutes for medium eggs

12 minutes for large

15 minutes for extra large

While some swear by 2 minutes in either direction for each of these times, one great suggestion is to sacrifice one egg to check for the yolk done as you prefer.  Good advice.  You may fear an underdone yolk more than the grey ring.  To each his own.  Adding vinegar is  a must.  I added about 1/2 cup to the simmering pot of 6 eggs each time.  Vinegar has another advantage as it extends your ability to keep them in the refrigerator before eating from 5 days to 7. Who knew?

Peeling Technique:  Since this experiment, I have become a reformed “side cracker and thumb roller.”  Now, I am stoutly part of the “bottom up” crowd.  I also found that draining the hot liquid and  using the pan to roll the eggs back and forth to crack the shells before dousing them with ice water did seem to work, though not nearly as well as the bottom up method.

One more piece of advice is to peel them under running, cold water.  Mom was right about this one, it keeps the membrane moving and gets those little pieces out of the way that cause dents in the egg white.  I can still see her standing over the sink making pretty eggs to decorate the top of  her famous potato salad.  Here’s hoping this holiday weekend brings you as many happy memories of family and friends as it does for me.


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