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Q&A - Hard-Cooked Eggs

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This thread is only for questions and answers regarding the hard-cooked eggs lesson . Please do not post any comments or contribute any of your own knowledge here. If you wish to make a contribution, please do so on The Wit & Wisdom of Eggs thread. Please do not engage in discussion or debate on this thread -- if you wish to have an egg-related discussion with other eGulleters, please start a topic in the regular Cooking forum. Thanks.

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mrbigjas   

What do you think about the technique in Russ Parsons' book How to Read a French Fry? He recommends starting the eggs in cold water, bringing it just to not-quite-a-boil and then turning it off and letting it stand until the water is room temp--rather than simmering and then shocking in cold water.

I've used it many times and it works well--the eggs are sometimes difficult to peel, but I suspect that has more to do with the age of the eggs I was cooking, since other times they aren't.

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Fat Guy   

Unfortunately I don't have Russ's book in front of me right now because I lent it to my brother-in-law, so I'm not able to comment specifically on his analysis at this time. The reason I recommend the method I recommend, however, is because I find it to be relatively quick and also because the cold-water "shock" does seem to facilitate peeling. I've never tested this under rigorous double-blind scientific conditions, but it has always worked well for me and a number of reliable-seeming sources have stated that the quick drop in temperature helps contract the egg away from the shell a bit.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have heard in the past of a method known as the "three minute egg".

Could you explain this? Is it the same or similar to the methods you posted?

thanks!


Edited by Fat Guy (log)

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Fat Guy   

If I understand your question correctly, ryanwilliams, a three-minute egg is a soft-cooked egg. It's similar in theory to a poached egg, but still in the shell. You cook it in simmering water for 3 minutes -- like the first three minutes of hard cooking. Typically these eggs are eaten, while held upright in an egg cup, with a spoon.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Should the water used to simmer the eggs be salted? Besides affecting the temperature that the water would boil, would it add a flavor component?

Out of habit, I usually add the same amount of salt as I would for pasta, but am I wasting salt?

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slkinsey   

Just FYI, whatever amount of salt you might add to the water, it will only affect the boiling temperature less than one degree.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Fat Guy   

In small quantities, salt raises the boiling point very little -- but there's no good reason to raise the boiling point at all. I don't believe salt adds any flavor through the shells in that time period and under those conditions. The only thing it really does, as far as I know, is aid coagulation if an egg starts to leak. But it shouldn't be necessary, and probably isn't useful.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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slkinsey   

All that said, egg shells are porous enough to allow through flavors and colors from the cooking liquid. Try hard cooking eggs together with some sliced beets, for example. One way my parents used to make Easter eggs was by tying onion skins around the eggs with thread and cooking them that way. This resulted in a mottled shell in various shades of brown, and the color plus a mild onion flavor went all the way through to the whites of the eggs.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Marlene   

I've always been taught that adding salt to the water when boiling eggs, prevents them from cracking. Is this not so?


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Fat Guy   

As far as I know it does not prevent them from cracking. What it might do is aid in coagulation of the whites. If a very small crack forms in the surface of an egg, the white will start to come out -- much as your skin will bleed if you prick it. The whites, however, will coagulate in the hot water -- much as your blood coagulates when you bleed. If conditions are right, the coagulation might be so quick as to be barely noticeable and you may be able to salvage the egg. Salt and vinegar are two additives that can aid in and lower the temperature of coagulation. However, they should not be necessary if you follow the various other tips in the lesson.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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gsquared   

Should one in timing boiling eggs, not take account of:

1. The temperature of the eggs

2. The local altitude (where I live water boils at 202F)


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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Fat Guy   

If you use the start-with-cold-water method, the initial temperature of your eggs will matter very little. I'm sure with careful scientific measurement one could detect a difference, but one of the advantages of this method is that it evens out most of the rough spots caused by temperature variations.

Altitude certainly makes a difference. You will need to cook your eggs for a longer time as altitude goes up, just as with many other things in high-altitude cookery. If you live above something like 12,500 feet it gets difficult to hard-cook eggs by straight boiling. My wife who has traveled in the Himalayas quite a bit reports that in that environment they typically either use a pressure cooker or they use a regular oven to hard-cook the eggs (oven-baking is also a good way to hard-cook eggs in very large quantities).


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks for the interesting lesson, Steven! I don't think I've ever given the hard-cooked egg so much consideration.

Last night I hard-cooked two eggs in a side-by-side comparison, one using your 12 minute method, the other using Russ Parsons' (my usual) method where the egg is left in the water until cool. In both cases the egg was an absolute nightmare to peel, but my eggs are REALLY fresh--the oldest eggs were taken from under the chicken the day before. The main difference was in the consistency of the yolk. While both were perfectly acceptable, the 12 minute egg had a much moister yolk--much moister than the yolks of your hard-cooked eggs. The one left in the water until cool looked more like yours. I'm thinking maybe the cold temperature of my house caused the water to cool too quickly? The moister yolk was fine for egg salad, but would have been difficult to get smooth for deviled eggs. How much moisture should the yolk of the "perfect" hard-cooked egg have? Either way, it's nice to know that there is some flexibility in this.

By the way, I made egg salad with leftover sauteed (Indian-style) sweet peppers, mustard seed & oil, and mayo to bring to lunch today. Yum, I'm getting hungry already.

Julie


Julie Layne

"...a good little eater."

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ExtraMSG   

Thought I'd do a little test and so I used your method (and, actually, I've been using it for a while since I read a very similar method in Cook's Illustrated). Anyway, here are pictures.

First the setup, then the eggs at 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 minutes. For my tastes, 12 minutes are a little long. I actually like to error on the side of moisture and so 9 minutes is perfect to me.

btw, I'm very near sea level.

You'll note that the alert was set to go off at 205 and that's when I took them out. If you can see it, it was already starting to boil at this point, just starting to rumble, but not in a full rolling boil.

You can see the ice bath ready for them, too. I took each out and shocked them. Then I cut them in half, not wasting time peeling them, to show the yolks:

egg_setup.jpg

egg_3m.jpg

egg_5m.jpg

egg_7m.jpg

egg_9m.jpg

egg_11m.jpg

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Fat Guy   

ExtraMSG: many thanks for posting those photos. My results have been similar, and like you I prefer the 9 minute egg for eating straight.

To address chickenlady's point, however, I think the ideal level of doneness and moistness really depends on what you're using the egg for. If you're going to eat the hard-cooked egg while it's still a little warm, well, you will most likely want to tend towards a moist specimen. If you want to make coherent egg salad, you want the yolks to set up quite a bit more.

I wouldn't be able to explain chickenlady's results without a lot more information, but there are many factors that can affect the speed at which eggs cook even if you start them in cold water: the amount of water used, the size of the eggs, altitude . . . and now I'm wondering about freshness and also absence of refrigeration.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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ExtraMSG   

My guess is that the problem may lie in "not quite boiling". That can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. That's why I used a digital probe thermometer. At least then I know exactly when my eggs came out. I was watching the temp and the pot along the way, from about 150 to 180 it's really hard to notice any difference, and above 180 can look a lot like a light boil, but you've got 30 degrees to go. And if you don't let it come up to a certain temp it's going to cool as it rests a lot more. That's why I like the CI method of going until it does come to a boil before removing. I think they do 10 minute wait, but the results are about the same as mine, if I remember correctly.

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Excellent pictures, ExtraMSG! My 11 minute egg looked like your 7 minute egg. The one I left to cool in the water looked like your 9 minute egg.

You're right, Steven, there are so many variables that could cause the differences in the way my eggs cooked--the size (which, although I picked 2 of similar large size, tends to fluctuate in my flock), actual water temp and amount. Luckily, I rarely need such a high level of precision in hard-cooked eggs. In cases where I do, I think I'll just check the temperature to gage when to remove the eggs from heat.


Julie Layne

"...a good little eater."

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Fat Guy   

Well, chickenlady, I would definitely like to get all these factors accounted for and dealt with. Perhaps when the pace of classes slows down, we can have a more in-depth dialog and really get to the bottom of your specific egg issues.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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ExtraMSG   

chickenlady (your name brings up Kids in the Hall memories): I'd suggest going ahead and letting the water come to a full boil and seeing how the results turn out unless you have a digital thermometer and can tell exactly when you're taking the eggs off the heat.

I imagine a lot of other factors can affect it, such as the metal that the water is in and how much of it there is, since it could change the speed at which heat is lost from the pot. Also, how relatively full the pot is, since a big pot with little water might also cool quicker.

But eliminating the factor of at what temp the eggs actually get taken off could answer a lot of questions.

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memesuze   

I did a quick look through the lesson and these Q&A's - my eggs are floating - doesn't that mean I should go pluck another dozen from the store?

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