Cooking and peeling boiled eggs is a matter of technique and experience over ingredients and recipes. The methods vary; all they have in common are eggs, water and heat. The English eat soft-boiled eggs shell-on, sliced with a little knife and eaten with a little spoon, but Americans want hard-boiled eggs, ones Cool Hand Luke can gulp down in a Louisiana prison where you will find little knives, but not little spoons. I once saw a video of a guy blowing a boiled egg out of its shell; I tried it and got a migraine. Maybe I just suck at blowing eggs, but how much of a bad thing can that be? For expert advice on this matter of technique, these chefs offer their methods. Taken altogether, they offer a chorus of dissent against Emerson’s “There is always a best way of doing everything, if it be to boil an egg.” It ain’t that easy, Waldo.
Vishwesh Bhatt (The Snackbar, Oxford): Let’s get one thing out the way right away. Boiled eggs are my least favorite thing to eat. I’m uncertain where this aversion originated (or maybe I do), but there it is. Now as far as cooking and peeling goes, bring large chicken eggs (fresher the better) to a boil in well salted water. Boil rapidly for exactly 6 minutes. Shock the eggs by submerging them in ice water. Once they have cooled enough to handle, gently tap the air cell (the fatter end) of the egg on a flat hard surface until it cracks. Lay the egg sideways and roll it back and forth while gently applying pressure. The shell will start cracking, and once you have a crack that runs all the way around you can peel it off easily; if necessary you can run some cold water over the cracked shell while peeling to expedite the process.
Dan Blumenthal (Broad Street Bakery, Jackson): Place eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. Add a teaspoon or two of baking soda. This helps in peeling. Turn heat to max and bring to a boil. Cover and turn heat down to medium. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately run cold water over the eggs. Use ice in water if you have it. Once eggs are cool enough to peel, roll them on the counter to crack the shells, and peel them under running water to remove all shell fragments.
John Currence (The City Grocery, Oxford): We start eggs in cold water with a tablespoon of white vinegar. Starting cold will keep eggs from cracking and the vinegar helps the shell from “sticking” to the egg. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat and lower heat to medium. Boil for exactly 8 minutes. Pour off the hot water and cool with ice and cold water immediately. To peel, lightly tap side of egg on a hard surface to crack shell. Roll egg back and forth under palm until egg shell cracks all over. Egg will peel easily after this.
Alex Eaton (The Manship, Jackson): I put eggs in cold water; once eggs start boiling I time them exactly ten minutes. At the ten minute mark I ice them. To peel, I roll them on a flat service cracking them all over. Using a spoon you can peel the shell off with one good scrape.
Derek Emerson (Walker’s Drive-In, Jackson): Start eggs in cold water, put pot on high until it boils (must have bubbles in middle of pot). Once you get bubbles, turn off heat, add 1 cup of white vinegar and cover for 12 mins. Then shock until cool to stop them from cooking anymore. If you peel egg while they are still a little warm they will peel easier.
Martha Foose: (author of Screen Doors and Sweet Tea): Just buy your eggs way ahead of time. Add vinegar to water, cover 1 inch above eggs. If you want yolks to stay toward the middle poke rounded end with a thumbtack. Bring to a boil in non-aluminum pot. When water is boiling, cover, remove from eye and let sit 13 minutes. Run under cold water. Lightly crack; put back in cold water for 5 minutes.
Dixie Grimes (The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery, Water Valley): Use raw eggs directly from the fridge. Put (do not over-crowd) in a saucepan with about 2 tablespoons table salt and cover completely with water by 1-2 inches. Bring to a hard boil for about 6 minutes. Turn the heat off and let them sit in the hot water for another 6 minutes. Drain and gently crack the shells; re-cover in warm water for 3-4 minutes until cool enough to handle. Peel; more times than not the shell comes off in one whole piece. The key is to peel them while they are still warm.
Gary Hawkins (The Fairview Inn, Jackson): I cover my eggs by 2″ with cold water. Arrange eggs in a single layer, not bunched up all over. Bring to a boil, after it comes to a boil let it go 3 to 5 minutes, turn off heat and cover with lid for about 20 minutes then peel under cold running water.
Dru Jones (Boure, Oxford): In the restaurant, we generally boil 3 or 4 flats (18 eggs each) at a time. Salted cold water to cover the eggs, big splash of white vinegar, and bring to a boil. Hit the timer 10 minutes from the boil and shock in ice water. More than that and the yolks get a gray/green ring around them and it’s a tell-tale sign of over cooking. Peel when completely cooled. More often than not, give them a good roll and the cracked shell comes off in a sheet. If you are using farm fresh/day old eggs, I would probably wait a while to boil them.
Matthew Kajdan (The Parlor Market, Jackson): Place raw eggs gently in an empty pot, and fill the pot with enough cold tap water to cover the eggs by1 inch of water. Cook the eggs on medium heat; if boiling is too intense the eggs can jump and break. Add a pinch of salt to the water. This will make the eggs easier to peel; eggs that are slightly less fresh are also easier to peel. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat and cover for ten to fifteen minutes. To see if the egg is hard-boiled, whirl it on a table. If it turns fast, it is hard-boiled; if it turns slowly, it is soft boiled. Chill the eggs under cold running water or in a bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, roll egg on a flat surface to crack the shell and peel under cold water, starting from the thick end of the egg.
Angelo Mistilis (Mistilis’, Delta Steak Company, Oxford): Add salt to the water. Don’t dump a lot of salt in there, maybe just two or three tablespoons, and bring them to a heavy boil for five minutes. If you’re boiling more than a dozen, take maybe six or seven minutes. To see if the eggs are done, take one out and spin it. If the eggs are hard-boiled, they’ll spin like a top. Cool the eggs down in cold water, crack them all around and peel. A lot of times that shell will come off in two pieces. But adding salt to the water is the key.
Taylor Bowen Ricketts (The Delta Bistro, Greenwood): I boil eggs slow and steady, and I pretty much only boil eggs from my friend Leanne Hines, who raises my chickens. The eggs are darker, richer and have thicker yolks than grocery standard eggs. I usually boil a dozen at a time, using a 4 quart saucepan and 3 quarts water. I simmer these nuggets of light brown goodness for about 20 mins., cool slowly and peel under cold running water.
Mike Roemhild (Table 100, Flowood): I still cook eggs the way my mother and grandmother showed me. It’s always better for hard-boiled eggs to use a bit older eggs, like a week old. Take eggs out of the fridge and poke big end with thin needle. Let the eggs sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the eggs, add a pinch of salt and bring to a light boil. With a spoon set eggs one by one in to the boiling water. When water comes back to a boil set your timer on 8-9 minutes for large eggs, keep water at a light boil, not rolling boil. After time is up, drain off the hot water, and cool eggs in very cold water for about 5 minutes. Gently crack the shell on the rim of your pot and peel under running water.
Robert St. John (Purple Parrot Café, Hattiesburg): When cooking hard-boiled eggs, the key is to cook the perfect yolk. Once you’ve mastered the yolk, everything else falls in place. There are probably a hundred ways to cook the perfect hard-boiled egg, here’s mine: Gently place the eggs in a single layer in a saucepot. Don’t crowd. Cover with cold water by an inch or so. Bring the pot to a rigorous boil. Cook 1-2 minutes. Remove heat, cover, and let sit 9-10 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water. Remove the eggs and gently crack the shells. Peel the eggs starting on the large end making sure to get under the clear plastic-like membrane.
Nick Wallace (The Palette, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson): If you want hard-boiled eggs that are easy to peel, make sure they are several days old. Buy your eggs 5 days in advance; hard boiling farm fresh eggs will lead to eggs that are difficult to peel. If you have boiled a batch that is difficult to peel, try putting them in the refrigerator for a few days; they should be easier to peel then. If you need to hard cook fresh eggs, steaming works well. Even fresh eggs steamed for 20 minutes will be easy to peel.
Finally, a reminder that an imperfectly peeled egg is why God created egg salad.
Mix chopped boiled eggs, finely chopped celery, red onion and black olives with mayonnaise; season with salt, dill, cayenne and serve as a spread on good dark bread.