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Monday, November 11, 2013

An Egg-cellent Experiment

I like to think that I'm a pretty good cook. I cook or bake almost every day of the week, making simple dinner recipes as well as complex baked goods. I've had few problems making recipes that quickly bring most experienced cooks great pain… souffl├ęs, French macaroons, roasts, turkeys, whole fish, etc. While I've had a few flops (for example: doubling the amount of butter in a cookie recipe), there are few recipes that trip me up more than once.

Except for hard-boiled eggs.

Dear lord, what happened to those eggs? 
I grew up eating hard-boiled eggs quite a bit. I love egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, potato salad (with egg), and eating hard-boiled eggs straight up with salt or soy sauce (try it, it's amazing!). Now, sometimes when my parents made hard-boiled eggs, the egg's shell would slide right off the egg in one piece. Other times, the shell would stick to the egg's white and would only come off with chunks of the white, destroying the look of the egg (not to mention wasting it). We would chalk up the differences in peeling ability to the eggs' freshness or lack thereof.

As for myself, I've had terrible luck making hard-boiled eggs down here in Florida. I make sure that I buy eggs a few weeks in advance before attempting to hard-boil them and I use my mother's method for cooking them:
Put eggs in pan with cold water (covering them by an inch or so of water)
Bring to a boil
Turn off burner, cover, and let sit for 12 minutes
Shock in an ice bath until cool
Peel and eat

Theoretically, the eggs should turn out perfectly cooked, with bright yolks (no green circle) and tender (not rubbery) whites.

This method, however, never seems to work for me. While my yolks are bright and my whites are tender, the peel sticks. Badly. My eggs come out looking like they've been peeled by someone with sporks for fingers. For pretty deviled eggs in my house, I've resorted to buying the eggs pre-cooked and peeled (such a waste of money).

So I did what anyone my age would do… I turned to Facebook. I implored my friends to help me out by telling me how they cook their eggs so that the shells come off. As it turns out, there are a lot of ways to cook eggs that "come out perfectly."

After many comments and suggestions, I boiled down (har har) the techniques into 6 variations of cooking time and peeling temps.
1.       Boil the water, add the eggs, boil for 7-10 minutes, then peel hot
      2.       My normal method: Add eggs to cold water, bring to a boil, sit covered for 12 minutes, shock in ice bath, peel cold
3.       Add eggs to cold water, boil for 5 minutes, shock in ice bath, peel cold
4.       Pampered Chef Method: Add eggs to cold water, bring to boil, simmer for 12 minutes, add ice & cold water, peel cold
5.       My normal method but peeled hot
6.       Bring eggs to room temp (about 1 hr), then boil in my normal method.
So, doing what any good scientist would do, I set out to perform an experiment (I am a researcher after all).

I bought 18 eggs, waited about 2 weeks, separated the eggs into groups of 3 (for 6 groups total… see, Math!) and cook the eggs in all six methods. I even used a Sharpie to label the eggs and took pictures of the results (see below).

After cooking, I peeled the eggs to test for difficulty of peel, and cut one open to see how they were cooked inside.


Results: None of the methods worked well.

Please, follow along as I discuss my results:
First, these are the eggs I purchased. These are plain white large eggs, purchased at my local Publix. I got 18 because I wanted plenty of eggs to work with and I wanted them to be from the same carton to keep everything as controlled as possible.
Here is the sell-by date. I purchased the eggs about 2 weeks prior to my attempt (11.10.13).
To demonstrate my method, here is a photo of three eggs in one of the pots I used to conduct this experiment. Note the number of the bottom of each egg. This allowed me to keep track of which eggs were in which group/cooking method.
Here is one of the eggs from group 1, unpeeled. Note the cracked shell from the heavy boiling for 8 minutes (sorry its blurry... cell phone camera wouldn't focus) 
Here are the peeled eggs from group 1. Pretty bad on two of them, third isn't terrible, but not unscathed.
Results from group 2, not pretty
Results from group three... pretty bad
Inside of individual from group 1. Not completely cooked. 
Inside of one egg from group 3 (only 5 minute boil). Very under cooked 
Don't worry, they didn't go to waste. They given a proper send off with flur de sel and white truffle oil
Results from Group 2 (my normal method). Center is fully cooked (just a tiny spot in the middle) with bright yellow yolk and tender white
Here are the results from group 4 (Pampered Chef Method). Cooked inside, but peel was pretty tough to get off. Better, but not good.
Group 5: My normal method, but peeled hot. Not only was this potentially very painful, the results were poor
Again, group 5, not completely cooked inside. I think it needed to rest in the cold water to finish cooking a bit inside
Group 6 - The room temp eggs, cooked normally. Fully cooked inside, peels came off with a bit of a struggle, but better than the rest.

What did I do with all those eggs? Deviled them, of course. Made with Sraracha mayo. Yum!
The rest will go in my lunch this week.
 Now, these are of course, not the only ways to hard boil eggs. Oh no. These methods include, but are not limited to, baking in the oven (the Alton Brown Method), adding vinegar to the cooking water, adding baking soda, adding salt, and using filtered water (although that could get pricey). Further research must be performed before a final analysis can be made.

Any hints, tips, suggestions, or voodoo curses I could use? Please, help me out... I want pretty eggs!