The art of peeling a boiled egg is one that people seem to take quite personally. It’s an inexplicable phenomenon in which every person on planet Earth has to do it differently, and so-called fool-proof methods don’t seem to work for everyone. It’s like reaching enlightenment when you finally crack the code, when karma bestows upon you your “perfect method.” Mine is steaming a hard-boiled egg and dropping it in cold water. It peels like a dream every time. But like the sun rises every day, a new method has crossed my path: boiling eggs in oily water for easy peeling. Does it work? I grabbed a few pots to find out.
The oil-boil method in question
Since boiling eggs can vary dramatically in time, cold-start versus boiling-start, or how to cool it, egg boiling tests can quickly blow out of proportion with details. This particular method comes from Tasting Table and leaves everything up to the user except for the simple addition of oil. Simply add a tablespoon of any oil (that you don’t mind pouring down the drain later) to the pot of water, and set it to boil. Then add the eggs and boil them how you normally would. According to the post, the oil seeps through the egg’s porous shell and “separates the shell from the membrane and the egg…” If this is the case, an egg rubbed with oil to ensure even coating should do well when dropped into boiling water too.
It seems plausible, so I set up three pots of water. Each pot had water in it and was set to boil. One pot with a tablespoon of canola oil added to it would get an egg, another pot with no oil added would get an egg that I rubbed with oil, and the last pot was the control with no oil involved in the water or on the egg.
The method didn’t indicate what temperature the eggs should start at, so I used fridge-cold eggs. One egg cracked upon entering the boiling water from thermal shock. Obviously that one would peel differently than the others so I added a second one to that pot that did not crack. I boiled the eggs for nine minutes each and took them out to cool on plates.
The control egg. Honestly, peeling this egg was frustratingly fine. I haven’t boiled an egg like this in a while, so I was hoping it would be a horrible experience with ripped out chunks of white and membranes flapping in the wind. As you can see in the picture, the egg looks good. Actually, all of the eggs look good. I would totally use them all for deviled eggs. Since that’s a non-answer to the peeling issue, I had to make myself incredibly sensitive to the ease of peeling. From that lens, although there were no torn bits, peeling the control egg was slow going. I had to peel carefully and break off small pieces of shell to ensure the egg stayed perfect. The membrane was stuck to the egg white at times, so I had to go back and carefully peel it off in a few sections. A careful, patient hand was needed. If I had to rate the ease of peeling on a scale from 1 to 10, I’d put this at a 7.
The eggs in oily water. As I mentioned, I had two eggs in this pot because one of them cracked. I started with the cracked egg and peeling was stupendously easy. I was surprised that not much egg white had breached the shell when it cracked. There is an imperfection on that egg where the air bubble deflated, but it didn’t really ruin the shape inside the shell. Although I cracked the egg in multiple areas in order to peel it, the shell came off easily in only a few sections. It’s hard to tell if any oil seeped through the shell like the Tasting Table post claims, or if the water and oil only entered through the large crack, but the oil present made the egg shell and membrane feel looser. On my egg-peel scale, I’d rate this as a 9. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to duplicate it because the crack was out of my control.
Luckily, the uncracked egg in oily water was pretty darn easy to peel too, and I’d rate it as an 8. The shell came off in very few sections and I didn’t have to go back to remove much of the membrane. The oil that came off of the shell onto my fingers also helped me loosen the shell and membrane as I went along peeling. A small piece of the white came off, but hardly something to get upset with.
The oil-coated egg. I was able to peel this egg easily too. I cracked the shell in a few areas and set off to peel as I normally would. I think this one peeled as easily as the un-cracked egg dropped in oily water with the shell loosening and releasing in only three or four sections. This egg scores an 8 as well.
The easiest way to peel an egg
The results from this oily water boiling experiment were too close for my liking to declare oil-tinged water the best way to boil your egg for optimal peeling results. Although I noticed a difference with added oil, adding absolutely no oil gave me nearly the same results as long as I didn’t rush it.
However, there might be something to having a little bit of oil coating the egg shell simply because it gets on your fingers. Even if the oil doesn’t make it through the shell and through the tacky membrane beneath, having some on my fingers did help me loosen the unwanted parts as I went along. My thumb was able to glide along the white without accidentally ripping into the egg, and that felt easier than normal.
If you can’t seem to find the peeling method that works for you, then I’d encourage you to try this trick. It might be just the thing you’ve always needed. But if you already have a boiling method that leads to easy egg peeling, stick with it. What is your never-fail method for the perfect boiled (or steamed) egg? Write it in the comments; I’d love to try it out.
Lead Image Credit: iStock
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