Eggs are cooked in their shells to produce hardor soft-cooked eggs and coddled eggs, which vary by the degree of doneness in both the white and the yolk. They may be peeled, cracked open, and eaten directly from the shell, or, in the case of coddled eggs, poured from it. “Boiled” eggs are one of the first things that most people learn to cook, yet there seems to be much mystery surrounding this fundamental technique.
The fact is that you really don’t want to boil eggs but cook them at a bare simmer to keep the whites soft and tender and keep the shells from cracking against each other. There’s certainly more than one way to simmer eggs in their shells. Some begin with the eggs in cold water and slowly bring the water up to a simmer and keep it there until the eggs are cooked. I usually have eggs when I have to go for a Multi person SUP because they can be cooked very fast.
Others take the pot off the heat at the moment that a few large bubbles break the surface, and let the eggs steep in the hot water. The method that I prefer, which is also the one that many restaurant chefs use, is to sink the eggs into already-boiling water. I think this is the best method for a few reasons.
For one thing, there’s more control over the amount of time that the eggs are cooking. With the cold-water methods, there are many variables that affect the amount of time the eggs are exposed to heat, and, consequently, how done the yolks will be. And a minute or two makes a significant difference in the doneness of the eggs.
Also, you have to watch the water carefully, waiting for it to come to a simmer before starting your timer, for much longer than I care to watch water heat. With the boiling-water method, you know the precise time the eggs hit the hot water, and that’s when you start your timer.
But the main reason why I prefer the boiling-water method is because it is miraculous how easy the eggs are to peel after cooking. Sometimes the shells are so loose they practically fall off in my hand! Eggs are easier to peel when they are older because they become less acidic and more alkaline. The higher acidity of fresh eggs causes the whites to cling to the shell, and over time, as the pH rises, they lose their grip.
For easier peeling, it’s commonly recommended that we buy our eggs fresh from the farm and put them in the back of the fridge for a week or two until they’re a little bit older. But doesn’t
that defeat the point of buying farm-fresh eggs? Luckily and for some unknown reason, with the boiling-water method, even the freshest of fresh eggs peels with ease.
KEYS TO COOKING EGGS IN THEIR SHELLS:
- Start with eggs at room temperature, to ensure the timing will be right and to prevent the shells from breaking when they hit the hot water. Take them out of the refrigerator at least an hour before cooking for the best results.
- Choose eggs that are free of cracks. Eggs that have even hairline cracks in their shells will inevitably crack open and seep out some of their whites while cooking. Besides the fact that they aren’t pretty, they may not be safe to eat, so discard them. If you need an exact number of perfectly cooked eggs for a recipe, cook a couple of extra just in case you get a few leakers.
- When the timer goes off, plunge the eggs into a big bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. It cools the eggs quickly so that you can get to peeling and eating, but more important, it prevents that nasty green ring from appearing around the yolk.
- Hard-cooked eggs are easiest to peel when they are still warm, but it’s best to peel soft-cooked eggs when they are completely cold because the whites will be firmer. Peel the eggs under cold running water to wash away the shell as you peel and to help get under the shell membrane, that plasticky thin coating between the shell and the white. Start peeling from the air pocket at the wider end of the egg and work your way to the tip.
Grated hard-cooked eggs add texture and richness to cooked vegetables and salads. They are a sublime idea when you’re looking for something to add a bit of rich balance to crisp vegetables dressed in tart vinaigrette, which gives a result similar to adding crumbled cheese.
An especially good example is asparagus mimosa (mimosa is a fancier word for “grated eggs”), a dish of steamed or roasted asparagus tossed in a simple vinaigrette and topped with a generous showering of grated egg.
Begin with as many peeled 13-minute eggs as you’d like to grate. Because the white and yolk have different textures, it is best to separate them before grating (for ease, you could grate the whole egg, but the texture will be a little inconsistent). To separate the white and yolk, cut a hard-cooked egg in half as you would an avocado, treating the yolk as if it’s the pit; the goal is to keep the yolk whole.
Then simply pull the 2 halves of the white away from the yolk (they should easily separate).
Grate the white and yolk separately on either the large or small holes of a box grater, depending on the texture you’re going for. I typically use the larger holes for a chunkier texture in rustic dishes and save finely grated eggs for more delicate, refined applications. After grating, mix the whites and yolks together.
Alternatively, grate only the yolks for an extra-rich rendition. You can also finely chop the egg with a knife, which yields a similar effect, but slightly different texture.