Definitive Recipe for Hard Cooked Eggs

Back in my grad school days at Texas A&M, I was a teaching assistant for a class called Poultry Processing. The students probably remember the time they spent dressing out chickens to be used for the remainder of the labs. I think some of the best parts involved teaching a class comprised largely of cowboys to bake Angle Food Cake as a measure of egg functionality. One of the groups my first year accidentally substituted dry mustard for cream of tartar and were so pleased with themselves that they convinced me to taste it. They’d never baked so much as a tube of cookies before, so I obliged.

One of the most useful pieces of info I picked up for myself however, was how to make the perfect hard cooked egg. This will give you perfectly done, non-green, non-runny, non-rubbery eggs, with no chunks out of the albumen every single time.

The key to making sure the peels come off easily is by starting with slightly older eggs. I actually prefer eggs that I have been sitting in my fridge for at least a week. When eggs are first laid, they have a pH around neutrality. As the egg ages; however, it picks up carbon dioxide through its pores. Eventually, the bicarbonate buffer system in the egg is overwhelmed, and the egg can no longer hold a pH of 7. The egg becomes more alkaline (basic), eventually getting to a pH of around 9. The protein which initially holds the albumen firmly to the shell membrane becomes denatured and stops working. So when you cook the slightly older egg, the peel will come away without clinging to the egg white. Get the eggs too old, and you’ll have yolks that have drifted in the albumen, and won’t be centered when you split them. And of course, you are going to fully cook these eggs to kill off whatever bacteria may be growing in them.

Hard Cooked Eggs:
Place desired number of eggs in a pan. Add enough cold water to just cover the eggs. Bring water to a full rolling boil, place the lid on firmly, and remove from heat. Steep the eggs for exactly 15 minutes, and then plunge them in ice water. Tap the eggs lightly against the side of your sink to break up the shell, and roll them between your palms to loosen. Peel and use. Perfect. Every. Time.


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