How to Make the Perfect Hardboiled Egg

One of the problems with being on vacation is that it's very difficult to make perfect hardboiled eggs. The reason for this is that the main ingredient is two-week-old eggs. That's right; unless the eggs are at least two weeks old you cannot make a decent hard-boiled egg. Here's why: between the eggshell and egg white, there are two transparent protein membranes that defend the egg contents against bacterial invasion. You will notice in the diagram that an air cell rests between the two membranes. As the egg ages this air cell grows larger causing the outer membrane to separate far enough from the inner membrane so that after hard boiling, the shell does not strongly stick to the egg white allowing the peeling to be much easier.

Anyone can boil an egg for 10 to 15 minutes and think they have a perfect hard boiled egg, but if you scar and pit the egg while peeling you can hardly call that perfect. If you don't cool the eggs quickly enough you will get that ugly green sulphur coating that can mar the taste for those with a discriminating palette. Overcooking can also result in rubbery whites and chalky yolks.

There are many websites offering advice on how to make the perfect hard-boiled egg. The most popular is the recipe at

  1. Place eggs in the bottom of pot.

  2. Cover with warm water.

  3. Bring to a boil on high.

  4. Once water has boiled, immediately remove from heat.

  5. Cover the pot and allow eggs to sit for about 15 minutes.

  6. Remove eggs from pot and allow to fully cool. Do not run under water or place in refrigerator. They must cool at room temperature.

  7. After eggs have cooled, you will have the perfect hard boiled eggs that peel easily!

I have a few problems with this advice. Here's my suggestion:

  1. Place two-week-old eggs in the bottom of pot.

  2. Cover with cold water.

  3. Add a little vinegar (one tablespoon per half-dozen eggs) to keep the egg whites from seeping out of any eggs that crack during boiling.

  4. Bring to a rolling boil on high.

  5. Immediately lower to a simmering boil and continue for 17 minutes.

  6. Remove eggs from pot and dunk in ice cold water or run under cold water until cold to avoid green ring.

  7. After eggs have cooled, peel by cracking egg on all sides by rolling on counter and remove shell, which should leave a silky smooth egg white. (I like to smoosh the egg between my hands)

If you live in Denver or any other high altitude area you will have to cook longer since the boiling point temperature is not as high as in Bayonne, New Jersey.

I like to keep the boiled eggs (peeled or otherwise) in a covered container in the fridge since I have a very sensitive nose and I do not like the smell of eggs on my other foods. In fact, it is a good habit to cover any food that does not already come in a container. I like to buy Ziploc bags in bulk for this purpose.

You may wonder how do we know when an egg is two weeks old, after all the supermarket only tells you the last sell-date. Actually there is a pack date printed on all egg cartons. Typically, eggs are packed within 1 to 7 days of being laid. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA):

Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them, indicating they came from a USDA-inspected plant, must display the 'pack date' (the day that the eggs were washed, graded, and placed in the carton). The number is a three-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year (the 'Julian Date') starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365.

To find the Julian date is simple: click here. If you are reading this today, 10 Aug 2007 the Julian day is 223. So if I wanted to buy two week old eggs I would look for a pack date of 209 (223 minus 14 days). Of course it may be difficult to find such older eggs at the supermarket, so I buy whatever eggs I can and simply wait until they are two weeks old.

Some of you may be in the habit of taking eggs from the carton and placing them in a plastic container on the refrigerator door. Stop this filthy habit! Here are five reasons why:

  1. You won't know when they are two weeks old.

  2. If you mix them in with other eggs you won't know which ones are too old to safely consume.

  3. The fridge door is the warmest spot and will spoil your eggs sooner. Keep them in the colder back of the fridge.

  4. Keeping them in the carton keeps the yolks centered. Eggs lying on their side will find the yolk has floated up to the shell, making for a terribly unbalanced hard boiled egg.

  5. Why do extra work?

I mentioned in a previous post that we are staying at the Walt Disney World Yacht Club Villas. Instead of going out to buy dinner or breakfast every day we stock up with food from the local Publix Supermarket and make our own breakfasts and dinners. Since there are eight of us on vacation, if we ate at restaurants every single day for two weeks we would spend over two thousand dollars more than by doing our own grocery shopping. We try to keep restaurants down to one every other night. The villa is a 3 bedroom suite (plus fold out couch for the grandkids) with a refrigerator, stove, microwave oven, and toaster so it's almost like being home.

I would have liked to go into more detail but right now my wife wants to go to the Magic Kingdom Park tonight which has extended hours until 3 a.m. Oy, this vacation will kill me.

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