Last weekend I was at a party and started a conversation with a young couple. After we got past the pleasantries of how we knew the host, etc, we got down to what really matters – food. Although we had virtually nothing in common in other respects (profession, life experience, where we had grown up, age, life style – you get the picture), we ended up chatting for a long time about what we had learned from our parents about food.
Out of that conversation I learned a tip for peeling eggs that I later saw in one of my favorite books on the whys of cooking – Cookwise by Shirley Corriher. I tried it and the tip worked well for me. That got me thinking about how useful it would be to collect the egg-peeling tips I’ve learned or developed.
- Use old eggs. If you have a choice, use older eggs. In his excellent reference book, On Food and Cooking Harold McGee gives an excellent explanation for why older eggs peel more easily than newer ones. The fresher the egg, the lower the pH level of the egg white. At lower pH levels, the white tends to adhere to the shell. After an egg has been in the refrigerator for at least a few days, and the pH of its white has risen, the white shrinks from the shell enough to make it easier to peel once cooked.
- Once the eggs are cooked, cool them down quickly before peeling. Both Harold McGee and Shirley Corriher advise holding the eggs under cold running water for several minutes. I prefer to save water by running them under cold water for a shorter time but adding ice cubes to the bowl or pot in which they sit even as the water runs over them.
- Knock the eggs together before peeling. I know this sounds crazy but try it. (This is the tip I learned at the party, from the guy in the couple, who said he learned it from his mom.) After the eggs have cooled, put them in an empty bowl or pot and with a rolling motion, knock the eggs about for 30 seconds to 1 minute, as if they were in a very gentle game of bumper cars. Then peel them. Usually I periodically dunk them in water as I peel; some people prefer to peel under a small stream of running water.
However you choose to eat them, enjoy your eggs – and your weekend.