Hasty Tastes: Hard-Boiled Eggs

As much as I’d like to spend every day cooking and constructing fine meals, baking and chopping, sautéing and filleting; I unfortunately also have a full-time job.  Also, apparently you can’t enjoy decadent pastries and multiple incarnations of marbled meats for every meal unless you really dislike your heart.  It takes a lot of cardio to knock out a ribeye.

I try and save my more decadent cooking and brewing experiments for the weekend, which contributes more than enough to my gut as it is.  During the week, I still cook dinner quite often, but I also try to keep a steady supply of things on hand that I can grab on my way out the door, munch on the go, and hopefully get enough nutrients without altering my waistline in an adverse way.

Mmmm... Buttery yolk...

Mmmm… Buttery yolk…

Surprisingly, people are sometimes baffled by even simple kitchen tasks, but I think a lot of it is that there is a bit of a stigma against those who don’t really know their way around a kitchen.  I’ve always jumped right into the heat, but I’ve also done plenty wrong in the kitchen.  I’ve multiple scars and burns and I’ve thrown out plenty of meals that should have been quick and simple fare.  Sometimes, people don’t like the torture that comes along with a simple meal.  I’ve said it before, but I don’t judge.  In the interest of healthy, quick snacking that could be relatively foolproof, let’s jump into a basic recipe for quick and easy boiled eggs.

Boiled eggs can be gross by themselves, I’ll be the first to admit it.  There are plenty of problems to avert – a chalky and flavorless yolk, a rubbery white, a shell that sticks to the white and rips it to shreds when you peel it off – these problems, fortunately, all have a workaround.

A chalky yolk comes from overcooking your eggs.  The yolk will lose its moisture if it is exposed to heat for too long, causing your eggs to lose all potential of the deliciousness they once had.  Instead of going for the usual 18-20 minutes of boiling for a hard-boiled egg, I’ve found that my favorite yolk comes from boiling for 13 minutes.  This takes a bit of experimentation to find your perfect yolk, so you may need to tweak your own method for the eggs you enjoy.  Per the usual egg experimentation, also make sure that you start off with cold water and cold eggs, and fill up your pan so all your eggs are about half an inch underneath the water before you start to kick up the heat.  Controlling how much heat you give your eggs will also avoid a rubbery white.

Eggs, pre-boil.  So much potential for greatness.

Eggs, pre-boil. So much potential for greatness.

Ah, the sticky shell.  Perhaps, like me, you’ve known the tragedy of starting to crack open a hard boiled egg only to find that half the white came off with the shell.  The egg is ripped and has taken a shape that defies even the most hardened minds of geometry, and you’re forced to shed a few salty tears… either that, or you don’t take your eggs quite as seriously as I do.  Speaking of salt, that is the way to avoid a sticky egg shell: load it up with salt.

As much as I do hate the excessive salt consumption of the average American’s diet, I do enjoy chemical reactions, so let’s talk about what’s happening here.  When your shell is stuck to the egg white, it’s actually not the shell at all.  There is a fibrous sack that holds the egg white in place and protects it from touching that inner shell.  When the egg is cold, this shell is stuck to the inside of your egg shell, and therefore it just cracks off and lets the raw egg fall into whatever other sinfully delicious and egg-loaded cuisine you’re working on.  When you add heat, the fibrous membrane starts to detach a bit from the shell and gets stuck to the egg, causing that horrific shredding we discussed.  But, if you add salt to the water – a good dash, be generous – you are actually adding a chemical which will penetrate the shell and dehydrate the membrane that is ruining your eggs.  This membrane will become weaker, and it will rip off before the structure of the egg white is compromised.  You’ll be left with something more shapely, like this:

Real eggs have curves.

Real eggs have curves.

Good enough to eat, yes?  One last tip: after your eggs are done boiling, you want to chill them as quick as possible.  My method is to take them directly under the tap and pour cold water until the eggs are surrounded by at least room temperature water, then to crack a full tray of ice over the top of them.

Like revenge, boiled eggs are best served cold.

Like revenge, boiled eggs are best served cold.

Let’s recap.

1) Fill your pan with as many eggs as you want to hard boil.
2) Add cold water until you’re about half an inch above the tops of the eggs.
3) Add a healthy dash of salt.
4) Bring to a boil, and let the eggs cook for 13-15 minutes.
5) Kill the heat, and add cold water and ice to flash chill your eggs.

Easy-peasy.  Now you have a quick and healthy protein for the week. Congratulations!

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