You’ve been there before. You’ve boiled some eggs for a meal for guests that are coming over. Maybe you’re making nasi lemak, preparing sodhi, or even a simple nasi goreng kampung. You need some peeled eggs to go with the dish but, dang it, parts of the shell and membrane are stubbornly stuck to the egg, leaving your perfectly boiled egg looking like the surface of the moon. Why does this have to happen?
The secret and technique to getting perfectly peeled eggs is one that is widely researched and debated in home and professional kitchens around the world. In fact, a Google search on “How to peel eggs perfectly” yields hundreds of articles, videos and hacks on this one seemingly simple subject. How complicated can peeling perfect eggs be, after all?
Very, as it turns out. We tried some of the tips we found on Google to varying results, like the one involving an egg placed inside a glass, covering one end and shaking it all about. What we were left with was pure deveggstation.
And then we remembered one key thing – we’re dealing with Malaysian eggs here. Its smaller size, thinner shell and more watery whites could very well play a key role on why some of the egg peeling techniques floating out on the internet just doesn’t work for us, so we put a couple of theories to the test to see which will result in perfectly peeled eggs.
To ensure consistent findings, some parameters were established:
- Apart from tests using refrigerated eggs, all eggs were purchased on the day of the eggsperiment and were kept at room temperature
- Eggs were labelled to identify them
- Plain tap water was used
- All eggs were removed and cooled in an ice bath before they were peeled
Peeled eggs test 1: salted vs unsalted water
Adding salt to boiling water is one popular theory on getting perfectly peeled eggs and it’s a simple enough technique to try out:
- Two pots of water were brought to a boil, one left plain, the other with the addition of 1 teaspoon salt.
- Once the water reached boiling temperatures, the heat was turned off. Two eggs were added into each pot. The pots were then covered and left untouched for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, all eggs were cooled in an ice bath for a few minutes until the shell was cool to the touch.
- Upon peeling, we discovered that the eggs cooked in unsalted water was significantly easier to peel. The eggs cooked in salted water, on the other hand, had egg whites that stuck to the shells, leaving quite a few pockmarks on its surface. In fact, one of the eggs almost fell apart on us as the whites took even longer to solidify.
It’s clear that adding salt to your water does not make eggs easier to peel, especially when handling fresh, Malaysian eggs. One suggestion posits that we did not use enough salt, but if the small amount used yielded significant results, more salt would probably only make the job messier. Other theories suggests that salt makes the membrane inside the egg shell more likely to stick to the whites. Whatever the reason, this technique did not work for us. Plain boiling water still works best.
Peeled eggs test 2: the shock method
The shock method posits that eggs become easier to peel when they are ‘shocked’ – i.e., placed directly into boiling water, cooked for the necessary length of time, and then immediately transferred to an ice bath to cool.
To test this technique, we decided to conduct it using unrefrigerated fresh-from-the-supermarket eggs, as well as eggs that were refrigerated for five days. To refine the theory, both types of eggs were also subjected to the cold start and hot start method.
The cold start method begins with eggs in a pot filled with room temperature water before the heat is turned on. The water is then brought to a boil and the eggs are kept on a rolling boil for as long as necessary. We boiled our eggs (uncovered) for 12 minutes.
The cold method subjects the eggs to one ‘shock’ – when the boiled eggs are transferred into an ice bath to cool. This is what we found:
All fresh cold start eggs peeled perfectly. The surface was smooth and the eggs were easy to peel.
Refrigerated cold start eggs, on the other hand, did not fare well at all. Out of four eggs, one peeled perfectly; two had membranes that stuck a little to the egg whites, scarring its surface of the egg; while one was quite difficult to peel, resulting in a very pock-marked egg.
For the hot start technique, water is brought to a rolling boil first. Eggs were then added to the boiling water and left to cook (uncovered) for 12 minutes.
The hot start method subjects the eggs to two ‘shocks’ – one when the eggs are added into the boiling water, and two, when the eggs are transferred to the ice bath to cool.
The first thing we noticed is that the hot start eggs were more prone to cracking, which is not unusual when adding eggs of any temperature into very hot water. Our fresh eggs cracked quite a bit, and the cracks continues to become larger as the eggs moved around the pot and hit against each other in the water. This caused some deformity in the shape of the eggs due water seeping into the shell.
However, despite the deformities, the cracked eggs were still quite easy to peel, with a shiny, smooth surface.
To minimize the incidence of eggs bumping hard into each other, we used a colander when testing refrigerated eggs to reduce the pot’s surface area. The eggs still moved, but the smaller surface area meant they did not bump into each other as much. As with the fresh eggs, some of the refrigerated eggs also cracked from the initial shock, but did not crack any further as it cooked.
Upon peeling, all except one refrigerated egg peeled perfectly and cleanly. For the egg that didn’t peel cleanly, the membrane stuck to the egg white just a little bit.
A quick-look at the shock method results:
very easy to peel & super smooth eggs
quite difficult to peel, resulting in scarred & pockmarked eggs
very easy to peel & super smooth eggs, although shells are at risk of cracking
very easy to peel & super smooth eggs, although shells are at risk of cracking
So what does this mean, eggsactly?
If you’re boiling fresh eggs – both the cold and hot start techniques work, just be sure to minimize the crack factor.
And if you’re boiling refrigerated eggs – hot start is definitely the way to go, as long as you don’t forget to reduce the cracking risk.
That cracking risk
Surface area plays a key role in reducing the crack factor. Basically, use a small pot when boiling fewer eggs. This ensures your eggs don’t bump into each other too much, especially when using the hot start method where chances of egg shells cracking are higher due to the shock in temperature. Small cracks are fine and won’t affect the peeling process or the shape of the peeled eggs too much. However, if the pot has too much space for the eggs to move around, they will bump into each other, causing much bigger cracks to occur and resulting in fairly unsightly eggs. Those eggs are still edible though, so mash them up into a sauce or make sandwiches instead!
It is clear that how you boil your eggs is more of a factor to getting perfectly peeled eggs than how you actually peel them. That said, there are undoubtedly a few souls out there who may not have had egg cracking experience, so here’s a little guide to get you started:
- Tap a cooked egg lightly but firmly on the table or a hard surface to form initial cracks. You’ll want to create cracks all around the egg, which typically takes around 4 to 6 taps at different parts of the egg.
- Place the cracked egg under your palm, and then firmly but gently roll it to form finer cracks. One roll forward and back should suffice, but a couple more wouldn’t hurt if the first roll didn’t yield enough cracks. This step also helps to loosen up and separate the membrane from the egg whites.
- Look for the largest piece of shell that seems to be sticking out, but don’t pluck it out yet!
- Submerge your cracked and rolled egg into a bowl of water or the ice bath, and start peeling your egg. Peeling your egg in a bowl of water does three things: one, it ‘lubricates’ the egg and makes it easier to peel; two, the eggs get rinsed at the same time; and finally, three, all the eggshells gather in one place, making clean-up so much easier! You can also peel your eggs under running water, but clean-up will be messier. Furthermore, if you’re peeling more than two or three eggs, you will be using a lot of water.
The methods used above should yield consistent results when using most Malaysian eggs. However, it’s important to note that there are variables that can affect results, even if marginally:
- Freshness of eggs.
- Condition of transport and storage from farm to market or supermarket.
So don’t forget – the secret to perfectly peeled eggs is not just how you peel it, but how the eggs are boiled too. Follow our guideline above and you’ll be on your way to getting smooth and presentable eggs for your simplest to your fanciest dishes.
Plus, don’t forget to share with us your peeled eggs by using the hashtag #butterkicap!