Let’s get something straight, right off the bat: I am an experienced cook. And while I am the first to toot my own horn, I think most people who know me would go so far as to say I’m a good cook, too.
To the point: Every single year, around Easter, I invariably google “perfect boiled egg” or “how to boil an egg.” I recently bought a beautiful cookbook by James Peterson called Cooking, 600 recipes, 1500 photographs, one kitchen education. I would like to point out that Peterson does not scoff at my ineptitude. Seems boiling eggs (perfectly) gives lots of people problems. He says “when boiling eggs, the trick is to stick to the same method and learn exactly how long to cook them… to your liking.” I don’t actually use his method, but I do agree with him. His method is to put the eggs into already boiling water. Mine tend to crack when I do that, so I put my eggs in a good pot, cover them with cold water and bring them to a slow boil. Once that happens, I take the pot off the heat, cover the pan and leave them in the pot for 15 minutes.
But even doing that, I was still running into problems. And I finally figured it out. My problem isn’t likely to be your problem, but then again, you never know. So here is what I have learned about boiling eggs:
DON’T USE FRESH ONES!!
I have chickens, so I have really fresh eggs. I didn’t use to keep close of track of which eggs were the freshest, but — at least this time of year — I try a little harder. In order to boil eggs that will peel nicely and not leave some ungodly gelatinous ruin like the second egg pictured above, your eggs must be at least 2 weeks old — from hen to pot. Funny, isn’t it, that store bought eggs rarely, if ever pose a problem? It does happen on occasion however, and here is a good way to tell: put the egg into water and see what happens. Psychotic publications bordering on hysteria (you know, the ones that tell you that your frozen hamburger should be thrown out after six months when we all know it lasts forever…) will tell you an egg that floats vertically should be thrown out because it is bad. While I won’t tell you to eat an egg that is seriously floating on top of the water, I will tell you that deviled eggs will be the END of you if you don’t begin the process with an egg that is just on the verge of floating upward off the bottom of the pan. You won’t die, I promise.
To prove my point, I have photographed two eggs: the first is exactly two weeks old. I wasn’t careful about peeling it, so it isn’t perfect, but it was quite easy. The second should give you pause, if not violently turn your stomach. It is the same size, cooked the same amount of time. The only difference was that the second one was laid by one of my obliging hens today.
Actually, given what a pain in the ass deviled eggs are, it might not be a bad idea to use fresh eggs the next time you are asked to make them for a family brunch. I bet they won’t ask you again!