Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Using Your Eggs :: The Best Way to Hard Cook Farm Fresh Eggs

The past couple years have been spent experimenting with ways to hard cook farm fresh eggs. Because, honestly, who wants to cook dozens of eggs for egg salad or devilled eggs and have the frustrations with peeling and leave all that egg white on the shell?

As a kid, i remember we'd boil eggs, give them a couple cracks on the counter, and the shell would peel off in one whole piece most of the time.  This was most likely because we were purchasing our eggs from the grocery store, where it can take up to 30 days just to get those eggs from the nest to a carton and in the store.  Not to mention, these eggs typically have a longer shelf life than the eggs from your local farmer because they are pasteurized.  

When an egg is fresh from the nest, it is a very low acid environment, which causes the egg white to adhere to the inner membrane of the shell.  As the egg ages, the acidity increases due to gas exchange through the egg shell, which reduces the powerful hold the egg white has on the inner membrane, making a hard cooked egg easier to peel.  Recommendations are to wait till the egg is 10 days old and use them for hard boiling.

Using this information, i tried boiling eggs that were two weeks old to just a few days away from their freshness date.  No luck.  I still left tons of egg white behind and ended up making way more egg salad, when what we really craved were devilled eggs.   Plus, what is worse than trying to fish an orb as hot as molten lava out of boiling pots of water?  Well, okay, being burned alive in a volcano is much worse than that, but really, cooking should be fun.  Unlike hanging around volcanoes oozing actual molten lava.

Research led me to the idea of oven baking hard cooked eggs, proclaiming that it was the answer to everyone's desires to have their farm fresh eggs and hard cook them too.  I found the results to be split for us.  Sometimes it seemed to work, but more often i experienced the same problem plus two new ones: ugly brown spots on the eggs whites and overcooked egg yolks.

Enter the next theory....steam!

I recently stumbled upon steaming eggs.  And i am happy to report it works like a dream!  I use my rice steamer and get the perfectly cooked eggs that peel like perfection.

Here's the basic idea, adaptable to your type of steamer (pot, bamboo, or appliance):

  1. Add enough water so your steamer won't run dry.  In my steamer i fill it to MAX levels.  In a pot, you may only need an inch or so of water.
  2. Place eggs inside your steamer, careful not to add too many.  In a steamer basket, 6 eggs at a time is the recommended amount for best results.
  3. Set the timer for 15 - 20 minutes and walk away.  This part is really dependent on the number of eggs in your basket.  The fewer eggs, and the smaller the basket i suppose, the less time it will take.  Play with it.  You can always under cook your eggs, and then put them back in for a little more time. :)
  4. Once the timer goes off, plunge steamed eggs into a bowl of ice water to cool.  They will still be extremely hot, but you can pick them up with a hot pad or towel.
  5. Wait at least 15 minutes before trying to puck an egg from the frozen depths and peel it.  I promise, you won't be disappointed.
Once they are refrigerated, hard cooked eggs will remain fresh for 5 - 7 days.  However, if you make devilled eggs out of them, i can guarantee they won't actually last that long.