Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cooking Hard-Boiled Eggs at High Altitude

I've read a million (no, really: a million) different methods for "perfect" hard-boiled eggs, ranging from vinegar in the water to old eggs to ice baths to whatever else. Many of them stress that you shouldn't really "hard-boil" the eggs, but instead bring them just to a boil and then let them simply sit in the hot water for a certain amount of time, to ensure the egg won't be rubbery. It sounds plausible, but none of these methods have ever worked reliably for me!  I haven't been able to find many methods that take high altitude into account, and maybe that's the problem.

Anyway, of course it ended up being my mom's method that works for me every time. I don't know why I kept looking online when I should have just asked her. (In fact I DID use her method when I was living at home, but later I forgot and sought "cooking experts" online instead. Let that be a lesson to me.) I make no promises, because each of those other million methods made promises: "this works every single time," "this never fails," "the shells come off in huge elegant pieces," "the yolks are buttery-smooth"---and each one of them STILL didn't work. Which tells me there must be a bunch of other variables involved.  But anyway, for anyone who is searching for how to cook hard-boiled eggs at high altitude (just in time for Easter!), this way works for me.

1. Put several eggs in a saucepan (try to pack them in fairly tight so they don't have too much room to roll around). Cover them with cold water, add some salt to the water, and put them on the stove over high heat.

2. Bring the water to a boil.  I had a cooking teacher who made us learn to hear the difference between boiling and non-boiling water in a lidded pan (so we didn't have to lift the lid and let all the heat out).  Anyway, stick around close so you can listen (or peek in) to know when the water starts boiling.  As soon as it does, put a lid on the pan (if it's not on already), turn down the heat to low, and set a timer for 12 minutes.

3. When the timer rings, turn off the heat, take the pan off, pour out the boiling water in the sink, and re-cover the eggs with cold water. (Do this a few times, since the hot pan will heat the cold water pretty fast at first.)  Let them sit in the cold water for 5 minutes or so.  You can then refrigerate them for later, or peel them.

4. When you do peel the eggs, do it under cold running water. I think this helps break the bond between the shell and that under-membrane beneath (?).
UPDATE: Sam actually thinks that peeling them under WARM running water works better, and I think I agree. We've had more success with this lately, anyway.

19 comments:

  1. First of all, I will be astounded if I manage to get off huge chunks of shell. I always end up with teeny, tiny bits of shell and it is ever-so-aggravating.

    Second, your pan doesn't crack when you fill the hot pan with cold water? Hmmmm. Apparently I've been lied to.

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  2. Hmmmmm. I never connect cooking and thinking somehow. No wonder I never get the same result twice. And Easter - did you know that older people without children forget about doing eggs? I mean, some of us do. I do.

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  3. OK Seriously! I have looked at sooo many recipes for the perfect hard-boiled eggs and to my dismay...nothing works! I am totally putting this to the test! Thanks for being a scientist in the kitchen....and for using your mom's advice!

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  4. This works perfectly! I have done it exactly as you state and the results are perfect. Although I have still yet to manage huge chunks of shell, but that isn't my biggest concern :) Thank you!

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  5. PS - I'm in Colorado, one mile high, just for reference to the success at high altitude! Thanks again!

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  6. Robbie, hooray! I'm so glad this worked for you. Thanks for telling me. :)

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  7. Confirmed. I have been having the toughest time cooking eggs and seen all the ways to do it amd tried them all. I tried this way and FINALLY have perfect eggs that are easy to peel! Thank you so much!

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  8. Confirmed here in Utah as well! Yeah! Only three small things I added:
    1. with a pin, poke a tiny hole in the wide end of the egg
    2. add 1/2 t. of baking soda per 3 cups of water (I'm told it helps with the egg separation from the shell?)
    3. I added ice cubes to the final cold water rinse/sit.

    I did get big pieces of shell to come off, but you've definitely got to peel them under cold running water and be PATIENT and CAREFUL!

    Thanks for this awesome recipe!

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    1. AND THEN....(make sure you soak them in ice water) and when you're ready to peel the eggs, put them in a lidded container, cover with water. and make sure the lid is on tight. Then, hold it in your hands with thumbs on the lid and shake them for a minute or so. You'll see or hear the shells cracking and coming off. It's a breeze then to pull the shells off! We eat lots of eggs, because we're on a low-carb menu (maybe permanently), since we've lost a total of 38 lbs. in under 2 months!

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    2. I agree, I've noticed that the ice water soak seems crucial. I'll have to try the shaking and cracking thing too!

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  9. Which altitude is this for? Different altitudes have different temperatures of boiling water.

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  10. Howard: "High altitude," in baking, usually refers to altitudes over 3500 feet. I'm at 4500 feet and this method works for me, but I suppose slight changes might be required for even _higher_ altitudes. I'm not sure! :)

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  11. I currently live near Denver, but have lived in Mexico City for a couple of years as a child (and remember reading American cake mix boxes - with their slapped on Spanish language instructions which were designed for that altitude), and have cooked in Vail, CO. The difference between a mile-high and two miles high seems significantly bigger than between a mile-high and sea level.

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  12. Howard: Wow, that is really interesting! I wonder if the air pressure doesn't change evenly as you get higher, then? When I was a kid I did a science project to see if following the high altitude directions on cake mixes really made the cakes better. My findings (if they were accurate…by no means a sure thing) were that at my altitude, 4500 ft, they didn't really improve the cake. In fact I liked the regular cakes better (more moist). So, maybe those directions are _more_ necessary for the even higher "high altitudes", and make less difference at lower "high altitudes"?

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  13. That is a good method. But the best method I've found is to pressure cook them! Commercially that is what they do and it makes the shells pop right off! 'Course you have to have a pressure cooker....

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    1. Wow, pressure cook them?? What an interesting idea! I do have a pressure cooker which I use all the time for soup and potatoes and so forth, but it never occurred to me to do EGGS! How do you do it? Any tips? I'd love to try!

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  14. I just made these eggs at 9200 feet elevation. Best. Hard boiled eggs. Ever. I followed the recipe to a tee and they are absolutely perfect. The shell came off in two peals. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    1. Yay! I'm so glad. Nothing has exposed my character flaws like dealing with a badly hard-boiled egg. :)

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    2. Also, wow, 9200 feet! Do you live on Mt. Everest? :)

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