Four hacks to take the hard work out of peeling hard-boiled eggs

Our food editor shares some cracking cooking tips

08 October 2020 - 00:00
By Hilary Biller
The fresher the egg, the harder it'll be to peel.
Image: 123RF/Olga Yastremska The fresher the egg, the harder it'll be to peel.

1. PICK THE RIGHT EGG

The fresher, the better, right? Well, not when it comes to peeling hard-boiled eggs. 

When an egg is super fresh the inner membrane just under the shell is taut making peeling almost impossible. Eggs between one and two weeks old are perfect for peeling — check the sell-by date on the carton.

To find out how fresh an egg is, simply drop it in a bowl of cold water.
Image: 123RF/Aksana Chubis To find out how fresh an egg is, simply drop it in a bowl of cold water.

As eggs have an air pocket inside their shells that gets larger as they age, you can also use a simple float test to determine their freshness. All you have to do is drop the egg into a glass of cold water and look at the way it positions itself:

  • An egg that sits horizontally at the bottom of the bowl is very fresh;
  • If it sits semi-horizontally at the bottom of the bowl it's about a week old; and
  • If it floats in a vertical position at the bottom of the bowl, it's stale; and
  • If it floats in the water, it's past its prime.

2. PLUNGE IT IN ICY WATER

This is my go-to method for peeling hard-boiled eggs.

First things, first cook your hard-boiled eggs by placing room temperature eggs in a saucepan adding enough cold water to cover them; don’t overcrowd the pan. If you use eggs straight from the fridge they can crack when boiling. To prevent this, I add a pinch of salt or dash of white vinegar to the pan to start if the eggs are cold.

Bring the water to a simmering boil for 10-12 minutes, then immediately plunge the boiled eggs into icy cold water, the colder the better. Next gently crack each egg all over and return to the water to cool completely before peeling them.

Moving the eggs from one temperature extreme to another loosens the membrane between the shell and the white making them easier to peel. That said, if the eggs are very fresh, this method doesn’t always work.

3. BLOW THE EGG OUT OF IT'S SHELL

My husband Peter swears by the 'blow it out of its shell' trick and it works like a charm provided the egg is hot; it must be just cool enough to handle.

Tap the point of the egg on the counter, then remove a small piece of shell with membrane at the tip, creating an opening about the size of the fingernail on your pinky.

Did you know?

World Egg Day is celebrated on October 11.

Tap the opposite end on the counter and remove some of the shell and membrane. This time making the opening a little bigger, about the size of your thumbnail.

Clasp your hand around the egg, holding the top of the egg between your thumb and forefinger. Take a deep breath, purse your lips around the top hole and blow furiously — this will cause the egg to pop out the hole at the bottom.

It may take a couple of attempts to master this technique. In Covid times it's also best to allow each person to peel their own egg using this method.

4. SHAKE THE SHELL OFF

This is a great idea if you're preparing one or two boiled eggs.

Cook the egg using the method described in tip two and, once you've removed it from the boiling water, add it to a glass of cold water.

Cover the top of the glass with your hand, and holding it over the sink, shake it vigorously top to bottom and side to side, before removing what should be an almost-peeled egg and finishing off by hand.