Kitchen Science: Hard Boiled Eggs

20 Feb
Perfection! How did we do it?

Perfection! How did we do it?

We can’t be the only ones who have this problem: we love hard boiled eggs for breakfast or for a healthy snack option, but every time we boil up a dozen we never know if they will be easy to peel and eat or if they’ll be a big battered mess of shells and whites.

Recently I was at a dentist appointment with Elizabeth and the television was on while we waited. We were watching The Rachel Ray Show and the featured guest was a chef who was talking about his trick for making the perfectly peel-able hard boiled eggs. My daughter and I took note, and I texted myself his instructions.

Which method would work? Cover and refrigerate or shake, shake, shake to peel?

Which method would work? Cover and refrigerate or shake, shake, shake to peel?

In a nutshell (eggshell?) he said to cook the eggs in boiling water for 12 minutes, and then to take them out and put them in a container, covered for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before peeling them.

In the meantime, Liz had seen a different video online that showed another completely different method of peeling the eggs that told cooks to put their freshly boiled eggs into a covered container and shake them vigorously, at which time all of the shells would come off easily.

This method of shaking the eggs to peel them seemed too intriguing not to try it out.

This method of shaking the eggs to peel them seemed too intriguing not to try it out.

One Friday afternoon after school I had a request for hard boiled eggs, and I had the time to do it, so we boiled them up. When it came time to cook them, we remembered the episode of Rachel Ray from the dentist office visit, and Liz remembered the video she’d seen online about shaking eggs. We decided to try it both ways.

We boiled up one dozen for the 12 minutes that the chef on Rachel Ray had suggested, and then we split them into two groups of six eggs each. The first six went into the covered container and into the refrigerator. I set the timer for 30 minutes.

Did it work?

Did it work?

We used that 30 minutes to experiment with the shaking of the eggs method. This was fun. Messy at times, but fun. And, as with any science experiment, we had to try this method several times, and we had some unusual outcomes mixed in with our results.

First off, for the shaking I used some small, square covered containers from the dollar store that I had on hand. We cracked two of them in the process and had to throw them out. So, if I were to do this again, I’d use a better quality container for shaking. Luckily it was a multi-pack, so we had lots of them for our scientific trials.

We ended up marking our egg with a Sharpie to see if it was the same one not cracking each time or not. It was.

We ended up marking our egg with a Sharpie to see if it was the same one not cracking each time or not. It was.

Second, we found the oddest thing in our results: one egg would crack perfectly, and one would not crack at all. It seemed to be the same one not cracking at all, and we could not figure out why. It was the strangest thing to open the case and see one egg whose shell was completely shattered and off the egg, and one completely untouched. We decided to mark the egg with a Sharpie marker to see if it was the same egg each time, and it was. We still don’t know why. Ultimately, when we peeled it separately, it peeled fine, so there were not issues with the egg itself. We couldn’t tell if it was something to do with the force of the two eggs together which made one break and one not, but it was fascinating.

We learned the first time that you can definitely shake the eggs too much, yet our first egg still never cracked.

We learned the first time that you can definitely shake the eggs too much, yet our first egg still never cracked, even with all that shaking.

When the timer went off to indicate the 30 minutes had ended, we had gone through our six shaken eggs with only one casualty of the six which was a result of a little bit too much shaking.

We brought in the covered container and uncovered it. Inside, the eggs were still hot. I began to peel them, which would be the ultimate test: would they peel easily or would they be a big mess?


The end result: the eggs peeled perfectly! The shells came right off and the eggs remained unscathed underneath the shell. No messy, pitted egg white disaster. It was amazing to see just how easily the shells came off.

Ultimately, we decided that although both methods worked, it was easier to do the refrigeration method: 12 minutes to boil and 30 minutes in a covered container in the fridge. No rinsing in cold water, no over-boiling.

This was not something we had planned to do, it was a completely spontaneous kitchen science experiment, but it was a fun one and it shows just how much science does go into cooking, and how fun cooking can be. As with any science experiment, you need to do it many times to see if your results are reliable, so we will be trying this out the next few times we make hard boiled eggs, but we do hope we have found a great solution.

Do you have any tried and true tricks for ensuring a great, easy-to-peel hard boiled egg? Leave them for me in the comments!

Perfection! How did we do it?


5 Responses to “Kitchen Science: Hard Boiled Eggs”

  1. Robert Lomus February 20, 2017 at 8:09 am #

    Jen I found the perfect way, or I should say, the way that works for me.

    Google Simply Recipes steamed hard boiled eggs.

    Yes, steamed. Follow the directions and you get perfect eggs every time.

    No shaking no green rings no broken eggs.


    PS we are in Cajun country, heading to San Antonio today.

    Happy school vacation week😀😀😀😀

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Michele February 20, 2017 at 9:48 am #

    I also learned putting vinegar in the water stops the shell from sticking! Thanks for sharing! Happy School Vacation!

  3. When the Kids Go To Bed February 20, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s always hit or miss in our house. I’ve tried so many ways.

  4. Sue Gagnon February 20, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    I have always used this method to cook and peel hard boiled eggs with success . Place eggs in a pan cover to an inch above eggs with cold water and bring to a boil . Once they start to boil remove from heat and let them sit covered for 20 minutes. Then flush out the hot water with cold water. Remove each egg and peel under cool running water. Success each time

  5. Sue February 27, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

    Hi Jen..we have tried a bunch of different ways..I always find that if I do the “start in cold water, bring to a boil, take off the stove” method, that the shells are so hard to peel..I always put the eggs into boiling water and cooked them for about 12 min, then put them into an ice bath immediately…sometimes I found that fresher eggs were harder to peel, but all the eggs were easier to peel than the “start in cold water”ones (for me)… I read Cooks Illustrated, and I think they did a thing on hard boiled eggs long ago, but within the last year, they did a new one…and…it said…start them in boiling water, and then an ice bath (I think!)
    Woo hoo! I also found that if I cook them for about 8-9 minutes, they are a little under done, and they taste SOOO much better! I set the timer for 8 min, but take them off around 9 min I think…check it out and see what you think…
    PS..then, of course, I have to dip them in Tornado Dust…did I give you some of that? If not, I will! It’s really good on salmon, too…

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