3 Tips That Make Peeling Hard-Boiled Eggs Easy—Plus, a Genius Trick You Need to Try
Biting into a warm hard-boiled egg is one of life's simple pleasures (bonus points if it's deviled)—but peeling them, as tiny pieces of cracked shell poke into your fingertips, is nothing short of a miserable experience. Even worse? When the shell comes away with some of the white, too, resulting in a sad, oddly shaped egg.
So, what's the best technique for peeling hard-boiled eggs easily? We share the answers—and a key trick—below.
Choosing Your Eggs
"From a scientific perspective, the best way to peel an egg and keep the white intact is to use old eggs," says Rosemary Trout, the program director and assistant clinical professor of Culinary Arts & Food Science at Drexel University. Lisa Steele, a fifth-generation chicken keeper and author of The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook, agrees that the older the eggs, the easier it'll be to peel them. "Two-week old eggs are ideal," she says. This is especially important if presentation is part of the package and you want to serve perfectly smooth whites for deviled eggs.
Why Older Eggs Are Best
There's a biological explanation for why old eggs are easier to peel. "There are two membranes that encase the yolk and the white. As the egg ages, air gets in between the membranes and separates them, pulling the egg away from the shell—and making it easier to peel," Steele says.
Determining Egg Age
"The shelf life for grocery store eggs is 30 days," says Trout. This means that when you bring them home from the grocery store, they should be used within about a month. Steele says that the "best by" and "sell by" date on egg boxes are arbitrary. Instead, she recommends looking for a three-digit code, which ranges from 001-365; this number indicates the exact date that the eggs were packed. FYI: October 1 is the 274th day of the year, so you can work backwards from there when choosing your dozen.
Mastering the art of easy peeling isn't just about the age of the egg—the cooking method matters, too. Steele swears by steaming eggs, as opposed to boiling them. "Even eggs that were laid that morning peel easily every time. It's foolproof," she says.
Cookbook author and food personality David Rose also insists that steaming eggs ensures all-around success. "Steaming works best because it gently cooks the egg. Boiling water can cause the eggs to vibrate against each other and crack prematurely," he says.
Easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs are typically placed in an ice bath as soon as they're done cooking, note our egg experts. "The combination of steaming the eggs and then immediately shocking them in ice water is magic," says Steele.
Ice Bath Alternative
If you're only hard-cooking one or two eggs, creating a large ice bath isn't necessary. Instead, run them under extremely cold tap water for about 15 seconds before peeling. That's not nearly enough time for the eggs to get cold, but it is long enough to make them much easier to handle.
Plus, cold water stops the cooking process, which prevents that unsightly greenish-gray ring from forming between the yolk and white. "That's the result of sulfur in egg white mixing with iron in the yolk. It usually happens because you're overcooking the egg or they're cooling too slowly," says Steele. By cooling hard-boiled eggs rapidly in ice water, it nearly guarantees a golden yolk.
Shake and Peel Eggs
If you have particularly pesky shells, try Rose's go-to trick: Put two or three hard-boiled eggs in a plastic tupperware container with a little bit of water and vigorously shake it. "It provides a nice release to get those shells off," says Rose. The method is similar to Martha's favorite technique for peeling garlic—and it's just as effective.