Then I decided to email a couple of friends of mine who I know have made several dozen batches of hard boiled eggs to see if they had any tricks up their sleeves. One of them sent me the recipe from America's Test Kitchen and gave me the additional advice to continue to boil my eggs/water for an entire minute before removing from the heat to compensate for the altitude (I live in Denver, CO). I had read on another forum to boil for an additional minute as well (although it had nothing to do with altitude) so I figured there was definitely something to this tip. She also pointed out that older eggs are easier to peel than newer eggs (another tidbit that I had read in other forums as well). Because of this second tip, I made a trip to the grocery store in search of eggs. I stood in front of all the different organic, cage-free eggs and compared all the dates on the sides of the cartons. The dates ranged from "Sell-by Jan 28" to "Sell-by Feb 7th." I picked up 3-dozen eggs with the oldest date (Jan 28 - only three days later from the date of purchase).
I went home and to my surprise, the carton of eggs I had in my fridge had a sell-by date of Feb. 4th. Hmmm.
I asked my friend if she added salt or baking soda (more tips and tricks I found online) to her water and she said that she did not. No need, it's all gimmicks. My other friend emailed me back and had a completely different method to his eggs, and he claims that he never had any problems peeling his eggs (I'll post his recipe at the end for those of you who want to try it - as for me, I'm not messing with my winning recipe).
So there I was, ready to begin making my next batch of hard boiled eggs, and hoping that America's Test Kitchen and my friend wouldn't steer me wrong. I was striving for perfection! But here's the thing...I couldn't let go of the fact that I had put salt in the water for my first batch that came out perfect. So, even though the recipe didn't call for it, I had to add salt. I just had to! (I have since googled and learned that adding salt to water forces the solution to reach an increased temperature before the solution begins to boil; in other words, the water has to reach a higher temperature before it starts boiling. Go here to read all about it: Salt and the Boiling Point of Water)
Here is my final and winning recipe:
- Put a single layer of eggs in the bottom of the pan (check; I use a huge soup pot and boil approx 10-15 eggs at a time)
- Fill the pan with cold water so that it covers the eggs by 1-inch (check; except I think I actually use closer to 1 1/2 inches or even 2 inches of water)
- Add about 1/8 cup of salt (remember, I use a huge pot so adjust salt amount to size of your pot and amount of water)
- Bring the water/solution to a full boil (not that wimpy initial boil) and then set the timer for 60 seconds
- Cover the pot and remove from the stove
- Let sit covered for 10 minutes (not 15!! My cookbook said 15, The Joy of Cooking says 15 and it even says to add 2 minutes for eggs that are not room temperature which mine never are).
- While the eggs are sitting in the pot, prepare a larg bowl full of cold water and lots of ice (an ice bath)
- When the timer goes off (yes, I use a timer otherwise I lose track of time) remove the eggs from the hot water and place in the ice bath for 5 minutes (I used to let them sit in this ice bath for much longer, but now I remove them after exactly 5 minutes)
- To peel it, crack the egg gently all around the entire egg, then find a good spot (it doesn't have to be the top or the bottom if this recipe works as it should) and start peeling from there
- My friend recommends peeling under cool running water (this does help but I worry about egg shells going down my drain so I just peel over the trash can - this recipe is so fabulous I don't even need the running water).
I have no idea what, in particular, about my winning recipe makes it work. In fact, I've already made another batch, just to be certain that it wasn't a fluke and I noticed a minor difference but I actually slightly altered a few things. First, my water wasn't cold, it was closer to warm (I think this may not be a good idea because you want the "time" factor of the water warming up while cooking the eggs in the process - i say this because the eggs were just BARELY undercooked in the center). Second, I cooked 15 eggs instead of 11 (not sure if this makes a difference or not). I was still able to peel the egg without tearing off any whites, but it was just a tad stickier (the shell in the batch above practically flaked off). So, my next batch will consist of cold water and 15 eggs to see if the temperature of the water made a difference. And then I'll go from there!
Maybe when I have more time and nothing to do, I'll conduct a true experiment (with a couple of eggs at a time) only changing one thing at a time and seeing how it affects the final result. First I'll have a control group (2 eggs made the way described above). My first experimental group (Exp A) will be a batch with no salt. Next will be a batch with not letting the water boil for an extra minute (with and without salt, so this is technically 2 diff experimental groups: Exp B & Exp C), and finally one with leaving the eggs in the ice bath for longer than 5 minutes (done the tradional method: Exp C). I promise to report back if I conduct my experiment (I can't help it, I'm a scientist).
Unfortunately I must add a disclaimer. Just like I had to add a minute to my boil in order to compensate for the altitude, it's likely most of you reading this won't need to do that. You might also need to adjust the boil or sit in pot time up or down by a minute or two depending on your stove and altitude.
America's Test Kitchen - you guys are the BOMB. This is not the first time a friend has referred me to them for the best recipe for something. When I cracked my first egg from that winning recipe, I had a hard boiled egg in one hand, a massive grin on my face, and I swear the Hallelujah Chorus was blaring in the background. It was magical.