Every week a frustrated customer asks for advice on successfully boiling AND peeling eggs. Exasperation evident in their entreating tone and furrowed brow, we offer the usual list of remedies and hope that helps. Vinegar in the water. Baking soda in the water. Ice water plunge. Peel under cold running water. Stand on one leg and chant. All these are recommended and sworn to as the solution. There is a simpler answer.
What!? I don’t want to eat old eggs!
Hold on, let’s talk about eggs and freshness and age for a minute. As you know, our market eggs were “in the hen yesterday”, in other words, we bring eggs that are less than 24 hours old on Saturday morning. We don’t save eggs all week to have enough for market. Our eggs are going out to our commercial accounts during the week and on Friday, we gather, wash and carton eggs for you on Saturday morning. Other eggs may be saved up all week and grocery store eggs can be as much as 60 days old when you purchase them. These eggs are not “bad”, just not what we call fresh.
An egg begins to age, the moment its laid. The protective coating called the bloom, seals the pores in the shell to slow this process. Removing the bloom with mechanical and detergent washing hastens the aging process, hence the USDA refrigeration requirement. Our eggs are only rinsed with water and a little thumb action for stubborn schmutz. The bloom is not removed.
As an egg ages, water inside evaporates creating an “air space”. The larger the air space, the older the egg. If an egg floats, the air space is large enough and the egg old enough to provide buoyancy. When eggs are boiled, the air space is preserved in the indention molded in the solid egg white. In the diagram to the right, you can see the relationship of the air space and the inner and outer membrane. This is why older eggs peel easier.
As eggs age, the liquid volume decreases and allows the membrane/shell interface to release and Shazam, a cleanly peeled egg. Some of our chefs will even ask for eggs to be set aside in advance when anticipating deviled eggs!
As the egg ages, the “white” spreads more in the pan and the yolk begins to slump. The air space is on the large end of the egg and this end will begin to become buoyant as the air space grows.
An egg that stands on its small end is older still. The yolk, slumps noticeably and the “white” is even thinner. The yolk is also more fragile and may “break” more easily.
So, for boiled eggs that peel easily, plan ahead and let them sit on the counter a few days.* For sunny side up or poached, buy the freshest eggs possible and keep in the refrigerator to slow the aging process. Remember, an older egg is not a “bad” egg, it’s just not a Massey Creek Farms, fresh egg.
*I did not say this. If asked, I will deny I said it. If I did say it, which I did not, it was not meant for eggs for human consumption. Eggs should be kept below 45°. To prevent illness from bacteria: cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Do not eat poached, soft boiled or over easy eggs if dining with an FDA inspector. Runny eggs are gross.