Friday, August 19, 2005

Technique: Hard Cooked Eggs

It doesn't sound like a tough job, but I've been served far too many ruined rubber things called 'hard-boiled eggs' to leave this one out. So, for those of you who may be egg-challenged, here's the simple secret (actually, secrets – all 5 of them!) . . .

here's what you'll need . . .

poultry skewer or finishing nail

Here's how you do it.

First, remember always to let your eggs come up to room temperature before you cook them! Even if you're going to scramble them! For hard-cooked eggs, the combination of cold egg and hot water guarantees a rubberized final product. Don't do it!

For hard-cooked eggs, I like to let the eggs sit out at room temperature for at least 6 hours before cooking, but I've been known to wait as little as three hours. Less than that, and your egg will still be too cold in the center of the yolk.

Second, always poke a little hole in the shell at the top (wider) end of the egg. There's a little air pocket (between the shell and the membrane sac that holds the egg), which is guaranteed to expand in hot water and crack the shell, leaking egg white into the cooking water and generally ruining the egg.

So use the sharp tip of a poultry skewer or a finishing nail to 'drill' through the surface of the shell. Don't try to 'punch' through - you'll end up with raw egg on your hands; just rotate that point back and forth until you drill through the shell. And be prepared - as soon as you get through the shell, you'll have a tendency to push your skewer right on into the egg sac. So be ready to release all pressure as soon as you've penetrated the shell.

drill your egg

(If you goof, but only a little, your egg will look like this.

drilled too far . . .

You’ll also note that the yolk settled to the side of the egg. That’s partly because of the puncture, but also because this happened to be an old egg. As eggs age, the egg white becomes less viscous and no longer supports the yolk as well as when they are fresh. Still tasted great, though!)

Third, do not salt the cooking water! Your egg will be granular like canvas. Yes adding salt will lower the boiling temperature of the water, but it will also ruin your egg, and mess up the timing of the perfect hard-cooked egg. So don't. And don't use vinegar either! You've got a hole in the shell; whatever's in the water will be in the egg!

Fourth, start with cold water. Gently place your egg into the pan with plenty of water - there should be at least 2" of water above the egg. And don't try to do too many at one time - more than 4 eggs in one pan, no matter how big the pan, won't work. If you need to cook a dozen, do 3 batches or use three pans. Put the tightly covered pan on the stove, turn the heat to high, and watch carefully. The instant the water starts to boil (you can tell by the sound or by the first wisp of steam to escape from under the lid), turn off the heat and start a 10 minute timer.

Fifth, as soon as the timer goes off, drain the hot water from the pan and run ice cold water over the egg. Fill the pan, count to 3, drain. Fill again, count to 10, drain. Fill again, count to 30, and by now you should be able to handle the egg without risk of burning your hand. Continue to run cold water over the egg for another full minute or two.

Now you can crack the shell and peel the (still slightly warm) egg. Refrigerate the peeled egg for an hour, and then it's ready for use. Or, if you want the eggs for tomorrow, don’t peel them. Just put them in the fridge – the little hole in the top insures you won’t get them mixed up with the uncooked eggs!

crumbly yolk

If you prefer your egg yolk to have a creamier texture (rather than crumbly), bring the water to a boil before you put the egg in. Place the egg gently into the boiling water, cover, and bring the pan back to a full boil (about a minute or so). Then turn off the heat and start the 10 minute timer.

creamier yolk

Either way, creamy or crumbly, treat your eggs with care and you'll be rewarded!

hard cooked egg with tuna salad plate

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:33 PM

    wow. that was really helpful! it does seem alot of work for an egg but the payoff is phenomenal!