Q: When I boil eggs I get variable results, sometime the shells are easy to remove other times they stick tightly to the whites. Is there a trick? I would like this year's colored Easter eggs to be easy to shell.
--Andrew Maselli, Chicago
A: The first trick: The older the egg, the easier it is to peel. The American Egg Board's website, incredibleegg.org, recommends using eggs that are 7 to 10 days old.
"Buy and refrigerate them a week to 10 days in advance of cooking," the site advises. "This brief 'breather' allows the eggs time to take in air, which helps separate the membranes from the shell."
If looks really count and you must have peeled eggs with smooth unmarred surfaces, I would also consider cooking more than the number of eggs required so you can choose the best-looking ones. Choose the best peeled specimens for your dish if looks are important. Turn the leftover eggs into egg salad sandwiches or serve quartered in a Nicoise or chef's salad. Minced egg white and yolk are classic garnitures for caviar and, perhaps more realistically, a fried chicken or veal cutlet.
As I've admitted in previous Daley Question columns, my own peeling technique is kinda weird. I crack the shell once or twice, put the egg under running water and try to get the edge of my thumbnail hooked under that thin membrane that lies under the shell. Then I slide my thumb gently sideways to pry the shell off. I try never to look at the egg while I'm peeling because I worry I'll jinx the operation. Plus, this is one of those things where the sense of touch trumps that of sight in my opinion.
The American Egg Board's suggested peeling method is more conventional: "Gently tap egg on countertop until shell is finely crackled all over. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell. Starting peeling at large end, holding egg under cold running water to help ease the shell off."
Peeling is easier right after cooling, the Park Ridge, Ill.-based board notes, because "cooling causes the egg to contract slightly in the shell."
Hard cooked eggs
These directions come from the American Egg Board's incredibleegg.org website.
1. Place eggs in saucepan large enough to hold them in single layer. Add cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. Heat over high heat just to boiling. Remove from burner. Cover pan.
2. Let eggs stand in hot water about 12 minutes for large eggs (9 minutes for medium eggs; 15 minutes for extra large).
3. Drain immediately and serve warm. Or, cool completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water, then refrigerate.
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