Why is it Hard to Hard Boil a Fresh Egg?
A reader here at the Grow Network recently asked the question, “Do you know any tricks for how to make egg shells come off easily from hard boiled eggs?” I used to have this problem myself when I first started gathering fresh eggs from my own flock. As I learned, the problem was that the eggs were too fresh!
In freshly laid eggs, the albumen (egg white) sticks tightly to the shell membrane, making it impossible to peel. Eggs used for hard boiling should be at least 5 days old, in order for the shells to come off easily.
Mark Your Eggs for Easy Identification
I mark each egg as I find it in the nest with the date and the initial of the hen who laid it. I always use a pencil, not a pen or a marker. Ink could harm the potential developing chick inside the egg.
If I want to raise more chicks of a certain type, I will know who the mother is and how old the egg is. It is a pleasant coincidence that this practice also makes it very easy to know when an egg is ready for boiling.
The Perfect Hard Boiled Fresh Egg
For perfect hard boiled eggs, put them in a pot of water and bring it up to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Leave the eggs in the covered pot for 17 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs.
Then replace the hot water with cold water to cool the eggs quickly. Cooling quickly prevents the green ring around the yolk that comes from overheating. Sulfur in the egg white reacts with iron from the egg yolk to produce a film of ferrous sulfide on the yolk’s surface. This green layer is harmless but may be unappetizing.
How to Peel Your Perfect Eggs
A trick to remove the shell easily is to use a small spoon that fits between the shell and the egg, sort of like delivering a baby with forceps. We use a small coffee spoon called a cucchiaino, about half the size of a teaspoon, which is the perfect size for our eggs.
Read more: 5 Easy Ways to Preserve Your Fresh Eggs
How I Get the Freshest Eggs
My husband and I retired to south Italy in 2009. As soon as we got situated, we bought nine young hens and a rooster from a local farmer. We love watching our chickies run around the yard, scratching in the dirt and eating weeds and bugs. The yolks of our eggs are a much deeper red than store-bought eggs, and really delicious.
We have an unlimited free supply of organic free range eggs, and fresh oil from our own olive trees. We are really “living off the fat of the land.”
Why Fresh Eggs are Healthier for You
Of course, the nutrient content of organic free range eggs is far superior to conventional eggs. But even supermarket eggs are a source of the amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan, which are needed by the heart and brain.
Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two yellow-pigmented carotenoids which are very beneficial to the eyes. Cooking eggs reduces these antioxidants by about half.
Read more: Would You Eat Chicken-less Eggs?
If You Can’t Get Fresh Eggs, Get Pastured Organic
Eggs are one of the most important foods to spend a little extra money on and always buy organic. Pastured eggs contain more vitamin A, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and beta carotene. The reason for this is that the chickens are out in the open, like my chickens, eating highly nutritious weeds and insects.
One of the weeds chickens love is purslane, which increases the omega-3 content of their egg yolks. Avoid buying eggs labeled as “omega-3 eggs,” as they probably come from chickens that are fed poor quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized.
How to Get the Most Nutrition from Your Eggs
Egg yolks are loaded with bioflavonoids, brain fats like phosphatidyl choline, and fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E, and K. Organic eggs can be eaten raw or added to breakfast shakes. The healthiest way to cook eggs is to soft boil or poach them, leaving the yolks mostly raw to preserve the vitamins. The worst way to cook eggs is scrambling, especially if the eggs are beaten ahead of time and allowed to sit, as may be done in restaurants. Mixing with air causes the cholesterol in the yolk to oxidize, which is what makes cholesterol harmful.
Conventionally-raised eggs should never be eaten raw as they are likely to be contaminated with salmonella, not to mention pesticide residues.
Infographic: Eggsposing Some Basic Facts About Eggs
Myths about Healthy Eggs
The idea that eggs are unhealthy and promote heart disease is a complete myth. It is true that egg yolks contain cholesterol, but this is not really a bad thing. The cholesterol in egg yolks has little relationship to blood cholesterol levels.
Research published in the International Journal of Cardiology showed that even eating several eggs every day did not raise blood cholesterol levels. In most people there is a feedback mechanism that decreases the body’s production of cholesterol when more is consumed.
Don’t Skimp on Healthy Cholesterol
Cholesterol has important functions in the body, such as controlling the fluidity of cell membranes. It is also the starting material for making vitamin D (cholecalciferol), the adrenal hormones aldosterone (which controls salt balance) and cortisone (for stress adaptation), as well as the male and female sex hormones.
When the diet supplies an insufficient quantity of the other antioxidants like vitamins C, E, B3, carotenes, and the minerals zinc, sulfur, and selenium; cholesterol can even function as an antioxidant in their place. Getting enough of these antioxidants, especially C and B3 (niacin), can lower a high cholesterol level.
The fact that niacin lowers cholesterol was discovered decades ago by Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Abram Hoffer, who also pioneered the orthomolecular treatment of schizophrenia with “mega” doses of niacin and vitamin C.
Digging Deeper into Cholesterol
Deposition of cholesterol in arteries is not the body’s stupid mistake. According to Linus Pauling and Dr. Matthias Rath, it is a repair mechanism for artery walls damaged by free radicals, due to a lack of antioxidants, especially vitamin C.
Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen and mucopolysaccharides, the “glue” that holds cells together. Without it, arteries weaken and bleed into tissue spaces. This is what scurvy is. Some people think this is also what Ebola is, and that high-dose intravenous vitamin C could cure it. Cholesterol is deposited by your wise body to patch up and repair damaged arteries.
Eggs are Healthy for Vegetarians Too
Many people suffer from depression because their cholesterol levels are too low, either naturally or due to cholesterol-lowering drugs. Drugs like statins also cause many other bad side effects, including blocking production of coenzyme Q-10 which is needed for a healthy heart.
Even vegetarians who are opposed to killing animals can eat eggs in good conscience. As long as they are not “fertile eggs,” for which you pay extra, there is no living embryo in the egg. Hens lay eggs whether there is a rooster around or not. The yolk and white are only a food supply for a potential chick, and a chick will never develop without a rooster to fertilize the egg.
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i have not tried this myself yet, but i have read that adding 1/2 tsp of baking soda to the water makes eggs easier to peel. will let you know if it works when i try it : )
Depending on the end use of the hard boiled egg, there is another method to make them easy to shell – hard boil them without the shell! This method won’t work if you are using the eggs for a nice looking plate of deviled eggs, but if the end use is going in a sack lunch, or eaten straight out of the fridge, it works great.
We have an old Revere Ware egg poacher with the little cups that fits in a ten inch frying pan. I smear the cups with butter, heat it up, and crack the eggs into the cups. Cover and bring the water back to a boil until it looks like a runaway locomotive, then turn off the heat. Let the poacher sit on the stove for 10 minutes. Remove the egg cups and poaching ring, fill the pan about half full of ice and water, then replace the ring and cups to rapidly cool the eggs. Store in a container or storage bag in the fridge.
We find that the eggs we prepare this way are very tasty and seem lighter than eggs boiled in the shell, to say nothing of not losing half of the egg when it sticks to the shell during peeling.
I’ve had only mixed success ever using the “cool quickly” method for hard-boiling eggs. What I’ve found works best: Add a tablespoon of baking soda to the boiling water as the eggs are cooking. Don’t know why it works, but it does so fairly reliably.
Your article mentioned the enriched yoke color and I heartily agree. A caveat my wife and I discovered accidentally when she was working for an organic farm that had a very heavy crop of hot peppers of several varieties. As a smoker, she could not be out touching live plants of peppers or tomatoes because the nicotine from her fingers damages the plants, so her job was to cull the unmarketable peppers. She was allowed to bring them home for our chickens. When they eat copious quantities of hot peppers the capstan, being highly oil soluble, collects in the yokes. For about three weeks, our chickens produced eggs with yokes so red on the color wheel so as to be orange/red on the color wheel and were blessed with the appropriate flavor grade hot enough that most people who add hot sauce to their eggs had to adjust the amount judiciously.
It is my opinion that the flavor is so good that cont with a gourmet restaurant with a sample might develop into a seasonal specialty market for the product.
On the original topic, we had some luck with rolling the shelled egg against the side of the pot when immersing in the cold water. This allows the unpeeled egg to ingest some water in and around the membrane as it cools. The colder they are when you begin to cool, the more effective this is.
I have found that peeling a hard boiled egg under running water often persuades a reluctant shell to separate from the egg. Place the egg so that the stream of water can fall between the shell and the egg itself.
We use to have the same problem peeling fresh eggs. I read an article, sorry I don’t remember where from, describing how to cook hard boiled eggs. Instead of boiling them, steam them. We use a vegetable steamer. Bring the water to a boil, put the eggs in the basket and steam for 22 minutes. Run cold water over the eggs to stop the cooking process. We have used this process with eggs fresh out of the chicken and it works perfectly. You still have to get under the membrane to start but the shell almost falls off. We have been cooking them this way for a couple of years with never a ruined egg. Enjoy, Marty
Great article! I would add arterial damage is also caused by high cortisol levels in the body, so to avoid the damage and subsequent cholesterol “patching”. We use vitamin B6 (75mg), B12 (150 mcg) and folic acid (800 mcg) daily. Check for yourself- how to reduce cortisol levels……
I read everything I can about this. I cultivate sweet potatoes in the house, I buy eggs from my niece, and I make my own compost. I look for all the advice I can find and then share it with others. I grow comfry, which gives good taste to the tomatoes. I also use epsom salts to improve the taste. I am very interested in the information you have here. Thanks – Lynda – Quebec, Canada
Thank you for sharing information about improving flavor to tomatoes and growing sweet potatoes in your home.
The best way to boil an egg so that it peels well is to add salt while it boils. Just a tip that works well for me regardless of the age of the egg.
yes works great and when boiling to over change water at least to times with cold water. love my hens eggs boiled
Another trick that works for me, and is best for pastured eggs (not recommended for store bought because of step 1).
– Bring eggs to room temperature.
– Bring water to rapid boil.
– Slowly spoon eggs into water.
– Boil for 5 minutes.
– Turn off heat and let eggs sit for 5 to 10 minutes. (depending on size and yoke solidity)
– Dump out hot water and rinse eggs with cold water.
– Fill pot to cover eggs and let sit for a few minutes to cool.
I have put salt and or vinegar in before but haven’t played with it enough to see if it makes a difference. I raise chickens so day old eggs are a constant and I rarely have an issue peeling.
Steaming sounds like a good idea but I haven’t tried that yet.
I heartily agree to add the eggs to boiling water. I do let mine sit a bit longer than you, mine take 18 minutes after boiling for five. I do at least a dozen eggs every week for a breakfast I serve at church and I can take the eggs straight from the chicken and they always peel easily. I’ve tried so many things (poking holes in the egg, baking soda, vinegar, etc.) but this was the one that worked for me and it works reliably regardless of the age of the egg. The yolks are just perfectly set but not too hard and the color is beautiful! I can also boil and actually peel the duck eggs now and that was never possible before. Also, I love the way you laid out the steps! Kudos!
The problem with the study showing lots of eggs not raising cholesterol much– is that it was done on people whose cholesterol was already high. And check the funding!
What it proved was, the body won’t take in cholesterol beyond its ability, but NOT that high cholesterol was jes’ fine.
Most people with high cholesterol eat a lot of processed junk. The studies don’t show that it lowers it. It won’t raise it more. An egg is one of the most nutritionally complete foods. My 75 year old mother eats two eggs every day and is healthier than people half her age.
I’ve found the easiest way to peel an egg. After boiling the egg put it in a cup with a about an inch of water. Put your hand over the end of the cup and shake it hard, up and down, for about 10 seconds. Then the shell should just fall off the egg (if its not already setting in the cup). You can also do this with multiple eggs, but I prefer one egg at a time.
This article was written by me a year ago for the contest and won honorable mention. It’s still great advice. Dr Camo
The best way to cook and peel fresh eggs is to steam them. I put eggs in collander with enough water under to last 20 minutes after boiling starts,then put in ice water till cool eggs then peel best way I have found.