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The Best Way to Peel a Hard-boiled Egg

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by guest blogger Caroline Praderio

Peeling hard-boiled eggs is a task I would not wish upon my worst enemy. Seriously. Here's how things usually go: After a firm tap with a spoon, the shell shatters, leaving you to pick off each infuriating little shard, and removing most of the egg white in the process. You're left with a sad, ragged-looking salad topper--and probably a crushed spirit.

I have ruined many a lovely breakfast riding this roller coaster of high eggs-pectation (too much?) and total defeat. But I can't imagine life without these perfect, portable packages of healthy fat, protein, and nutrients. It was time to find a better way--so I turned to the Internet.

There, I learned one really important thing: Old eggs are easier to peel than fresh ones, according to the USDA. That's because there is an air cell between the egg and the inside of the shell, and it increases in size the longer an egg is stored. As the air cell gets bigger, the egg gets smaller, contracting and pulling away from the shell. Ultimately, this makes the egg easier to peel. Avoid using very fresh eggs and you'll have better luck from the get-go.

Next, I found four popular tricks promising fast and clean peeling of hard-boiled eggs. How well do they really work? Here's what I found out when I tried them all.

The Baking Soda Method

Several sites suggest adding baking soda to the eggs' cooking water. Apparently, raising the eggs' pH level (with an alkaline substance like baking soda) makes them easier to peel. I added 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to 1 quart water and followed my usual recipe (bring to a rolling boil, then cover, remove from heat, let stand 10 minutes, and drain). Then I attempted my usual peeling technique.

The verdict: The peel came away from the egg in large pieces, with surprising ease. Two thumbs up--especially because it adds no extra time to your normal egg-prep routine.

The Lung Power Method

Here's how it's supposed to work: First, crack the shell at the very top and bottom of the egg, then peel off about a quarter-sized hole on each end. Next, place your mouth over the hole on the top of the egg, and blow with all your might. The egg should slip away from the shell and into your waiting hand--if the many videos of this technique are to be believed.

The verdict: Maybe I've got weak lungs, but I couldn't get this one to work without lacerating the surface of my eggs. Plus, all the blowing left me lightheaded and the eggs never popped out the way I've seen it done in videos. How do they make it look so easy?!

The Swirl Method

Food site Epicurious describes this peeling hack as "epic." How does it work? You cook the eggs as usual, return them to the pot with a few inches of cold water, and then move the pot in a circular motion to swirl the eggs and water around, forcing the eggs to collide with one another like bumper cars. The resulting cracks on the shells should make them a cinch to peel.

The verdict: This method was a mess. Make sure you use a pot with tall sides or work over the sink, or you'll splash water everywhere. It took an awful lot of vigorous swirling to get the eggshells to crack, and when they finally did, the peels didn't come off as easily as promised, leaving my eggs looking messy. Silver lining: This was a great arm workout. (If hard-boiled eggs aren't your thing, try the poaching method. Check out the right way to poach an egg.)

The Glass of Water Method

The original YouTube video demonstrating this method has more than 21 million views. The promise? Put your cooked egg into a small glass with a little bit of water. Cover the top of the glass with your hand, and then, over the sink, shake it like crazy. The eggshell will take on dozens of tiny cracks all over, and the shell will slip right off.

The verdict: The rumors are true: This trick works like magic. Five seconds of shaking yielded a shell so fractured that it came off with hardly any effort--and the egg beneath was smooth and perfect.

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