Peeling hard-cooked eggs is one of those tasks that should be easy, but I always seem to end up frustrated. One minute I'm on a roll, peeling off the shell in one piece, and then the next minute the shell cracks into tiny fragments with pieces sticking to the egg.
Inevitably I end up annihilating the egg. They look more like the heavily cratered surface of the moon, instead of the smooth, perfect ones I envisioned.
I've tried every which way to boil the little suckers.
Surprisingly, I recently found the answer is simple: Don't boil your eggs. Bake them or use a pressure cooker.
Armed with lots of eggs, I gave both methods a try. First, as carefully as a robin lays her eggs in a nest, I placed mine into each compartment of a muffin tin. You can also place them directly on the rack in your oven but the tin makes it easier to move them in and out of the oven, especially if you're making eggs in bulk.
I then baked them in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.
Then, I carefully removed the hot eggs from the oven and plunged them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and left them there for about 5 to 10 minutes. While my shells had a few brown spots where they came in contact with the hot muffin tin, the moment I cracked open egg No. 1, I sensed trouble. The brown spots had seeped onto the egg whites, too. The oven was too hot. Ugh!
“Try again,” I said to myself.
Turning the oven down to 325 degrees, I popped a few more eggs into the tins, this time adding a little water to each compartment.
Voila! Fewer brown spots on the shells. And you wanna know the best part? The peel practically slid off in one piece.
I was recently given a copy of “Cooking for Geeks,” by Jeff Potter, who recommends eggs be hard-boiled in a pressure cooker for ease of peeling. It creates a pressure difference between the inside and outside of the egg, inflating the little air pocket at the base of the egg and detaching the white from the shell.
You can imagine my suspicions about making hard-boiled eggs this way. But as I mentioned in a previous column, since getting a pressure cooker for Christmas I'm now a huge fan. So I decided to test this method, as well.
Into the cold pressure cooker I added one cup of water, a steamer basket and three eggs.
Closing and locking the cooker, I turned the heat up to high until the valve reached low pressure, then turned the burner down and continued cooking for six minutes. (It's very important to make sure full low or full high pressure is reached before you hit your timer.) The pressure button must not just pop up; it must be solid to the push and you should feel full resistance when you press it down. Then you begin timing.
Removing the pot to a cool burner, I used the natural-release method, which is waiting for the pressure to come down on its own for about five minutes.
Opening the pressure cooker I placed the eggs in a bowl of ice water for 5 to 10 minutes.
To peel I gently tap each egg against the counter, turning to make a crackle pattern, and then began peeling at the broad end, where there is an air pocket.
The result? I pronounce this method amazing! Not only do the eggs look and taste better, but they also are a snap to peel. This is totally worth pulling out the pressure cooker.
Deviled eggs chased by a zest of flavor from mustard and hot sauce are a traditional favorite at my house. You'd think I'd leave well enough alone but fat chance. This plain Jane egg dish is begging to be gussied this Easter with smoked salmon.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs
8 extra-large, hard-cooked eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup minced smoked salmon
2 tablespoons minced white onion
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
Kosher salt and ground white pepper, to taste
Peel and cut the eggs into halves lengthwise. Scoop out the yolks into a bowl and refrigerate the whites.
To the yolks add the mayonnaise, salmon, onion, lemon juice, mustard and Tabasco. Mash with a fork until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a drop or two more of Tabasco, if you like.
Pipe the yolk mixture into the whites or fill them using a small spoon, mounding each in the center. Garnish with red or black caviar or sprinkle with paprika. Refrigerate, tightly covered, until ready to serve. These are best when served the day they're made.
Adapted from “Junior's Home Cooking” by Alan Rosen and Beth Allen.