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How to peel a farm-fresh egg

April 4, 2012

Farm-fresh eggs

Have you ever tried to peel a super-fresh egg straight from the backyard or farm and found yourself hovering over a piled of shredded egg pieces wondering what went wrong?

Yeah, me too.  I suspect all us backyard chicken-tenders have.  Lucky you, I’m about to blow your mind with a little-known trick for peeling the freshest egg you can find.

 

Here’s the trick:

  1. Cook the eggs to your liking: My preferred method of preparing soft boiled eggs is to add the eggs to cold water in the pan.  Hell, add a little baking soda if you’re a believer.  Turn on the heat and keep an eye on the eggs.  Once the water just begins to simmer, turn off the heat and cover the pan.  Set a timer for 8 minutes (or more or less time based on your preference).  When the eight minutes is up, the eggs should be cooked perfectly (to my taste anyway) – completely cooked white with a dark orange creamy, not runny, center.
  2. Transfer the cooked eggs immediately to ice water to cool them completely.  If you skip this step, the eggs will continue to cook and be overdone.    Reserve the cooking water.
  3. While the eggs are cooling, turn the heat back on under your original cooking pan and bring the cooking water to a boil.  Once the eggs in the ice bath are completely cool, use a ladle or spoon of some sort to transfer them one at a time to the boiling water.  Immerse each egg individually in the boiling water and count to 10 then remove it and peel it immediately.  The shell should come right off!  Continue doing this with each egg one-by-one until the entire batch is cooled.  It helps to have a buddy who can heat eggs while you peel then switch off to peel while you heat.
Why does this work?  Because you cooled the egg completely, the molecules are contracted tightly.  When you transfer the egg to the boiling water for just 10 seconds, it’s enough time for the shell to expand but not enough time for the inner egg to heat up and expand with it.  Expanding the shell creates airspace between the shell and the white, mimicking the air pockets in the older store egg – MAGIC!!  Well, science, actually.
Now you can make those beautiful deviled eggs you’ve been dreaming of.  Eat your heart out, Aunt Martha!
Do you have a secret trick to peeling fresh eggs?  I’d love to hear it (mostly, I just love reading comments so I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself).
Be sure to read our post about the glories and trials of farm-fresh eggs here.

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  • I’ve heard that letting really fresh eggs come to room temperature also helps. Don’t know if this is true.

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    • Thanks Meredith, we actually don’t refrigerate our fresh eggs at all (no need to but that’s a future post). Seems like it could help since it’s a lower temperature version of my trick, right?

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      • It does work, beautifully. I just made an egg salad and peeled 12 eggs perfectly, no nicks, tears, or chunks at all. I hesitate to share that method on my blog, because people are so squeamish about unrefrigerated eggs, however, if they’ve never been refrigerated, like you say, above, they don’t need to be. It’s the change in temperature that is dangerous (cold to tepid to cold, etc….). Thank you for sharing a method I think all can be comfortable with.

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    • Meredith, That’s not true. I keep my chicken eggs on the counter, so always at room temp. If they’re fresh, impossible to peel. I cannot wait to try this new method!

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    • I also prick with an egg pricker the blunt end of the egg which contains the air sack
      and into cold water bring to boil turn gas off tight fitting lid on, then into cold water but will try the rest thankyou for your info im very grateful cheers from down under

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  • We like ours done a little more than you, 3 minute boil and leave them in the hot water for 10 minutes, then submerse in ice-water. But we boil them in a pretty good dose of salt as well. Seems to help, but we’ll try your approach and let you know.

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    • I should note that the eggs I’m adding to the cold water are room temperature. That might make a little difference in the timing. I like mine pretty soft in the center though.

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  • Interesting! Thanks for sharing this! I will print and pass this on to my inlaws who love hard boiled eggs so much that they went out and bought those plastic eggies things that you crack the egg into and then boil it. Makes the egg flat on one side though and wouldn’t make good deviled eggs. This might be their solution for deviled eggs from their chickens.

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    • tell them to save their money, just bought that eggies and it was horrible. I love fresh eggs and this seemed to be the answer to my peeling issue, did not work as well as i thought it would. eggs did not have a smooth appearance, the yoke was impossible to remove, had lots of different parts to put together then remove, larger eggs do not fit in them very well (its hard to tell my chickens to quit laying big eggs). not worth it! Obviously since i am on here looking for a better solution to peeling fresh eggs. Taking mine back to walgreens to get my money back.

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      • Eggies are a nightmare! I took mine back to Wal-Mart and they gave me my money back without even asking why I was returning them. :)

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  • cracking each egg slightly, just give it a small tap before putting in to boil… a little of the water gets in between the shell and the egg and it works perfectly every time.. probably not a great idea if you are planning to dye with commerical dyes.. as the dye will leach in and onto the egg…

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    • I’m hearing a lot of people say they use this method – or they use a thumbtack to poke a tiny pinhole in the egg. You’re right, though, that it would work well for dying eggs. Could be great for when you’re just deviling them though!

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  • I crack the wide end against a flat surface, and then rub the egg between my hands. The shell should peel off easily if you start where you cracked it. I use this technique and it’s really fast, and no-mess!

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  • We have gone around and around on this issue, since we eat a lot of hardboiled eggs but they don’t sit long enough in our house to peel easily. We’ve started steaming and baking them. Both methods allow for easier peeling. We’ve blogged about it a bunch of times because it’s a major issue in our house at mrsandmrsthrift.com

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  • I add about 1/4 cup of salt to the boiling water and never have a problem with removing the peel. We, too, have chickens and VERY fresh eggs. :)

    jenn, http://www.pintsizedpioneering.blogspot.com

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  • Came across a method of making soft or hard boiled eggs in the oven. Seems to work remarkably well and allows you to cook 50 or more eggs at one time without waiting for water.

    Basically put the eggs in a cold oven, set to 325. I found 16 minutes (using refrigerated eggs) made a perfect soft boiled egg (pretty much as you described in the blog post) and 20 minutes made a perfect hard boiled egg.

    These were not farm fresh eggs, we moved recently and had to get rid of our chickens…we’ll be buying more soon hopefully.

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  • cook them in a pressure cooker… they’ll peel perfectly and cook quickly

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  • I use a thumbtack to poke a small hole in each end of the egg and salt the water. It seems to work!

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  • Steaming also works. I steam for 14-16 minutes depending on size and then submerge in ice water. They peel easily.

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  • I have hardboiled eggs unshelled in fridge, cooked and stuck in cold water immediately but still hard to peel, so only peeled what I needed at time. I wonder will the 10 secs in hot water to heat shell only trick work on precooked eggs? I’ll have to try it!

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  • I’ve had great success with steaming the fresh eggs rather than boiling them. An 8 minute steam and the shells peel off beautifully.

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  • We have found that is doesn’t matter the trick if I peel the eggs 90% of the time the shells don’t stick same is true if Dad does the peeling. On the other hand if Mom does the peeling or my son then the shells almost always stick. Dad and I jokingly claim that this is a side effect of having been burned and the nerve damage transmits to the shells so that they just fall off LOL

    We do not recommend getting burned to prove this. We are talking about 2nd and 3rd degree burns.

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  • What does the baking soda do?

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    • The baking soda changes the pH of the egg so that it’s similar to that of an aged egg. This has never been very effective in my experience but there are others (whose opinions I respect) who swear by it. Apparently Harold McGee is one of them and he’s basically a god in my book.

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  • I use the juice from a lemon in the water & so far that has worked great! I’ve also heard that adding vinegar to the water helps.

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    • Adding lemon juice or vinegar is interesting because it’s exactly the opposite of adding baking soda (lowers the pH instead of raising it). Just goes to show – there’s more than one way to peel an egg and whatever is working for you is the right way. :-)

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  • Holy cow! How cool is that?? Gotta try this one….
    thanks, and Happy Easter to you!
    Nancy

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  • We bring the water to a boil first, then add the eggs (either room temp or cold) and cook for a few minutes. I dump the water and run cold water over them, and let them sit for a few minutes in the cool water (which turns hot from the eggs). Then when I go to peel them, I pour out the hot water and add more cold water and start to peel – the eggs are still really hot and sometimes I have to dip them in the cold water, but most peel very easily like this. These are our own chicken eggs. I don’t know if works because we add the eggs to the boiling water or because we cool them down immediately – I used to think the former, but now I’m thinking the latter based on this article. Have you tried omitting the last step and just peeling them from the ice bath?

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    • There must be something to adding them to hot water (instead of cold) to cook that helps because I’m hearing this a lot. In my experience it heightens the chances of cracking the egg to go directly into hot, but sometimes (like with deviled eggs) that doesn’t matter.

      I can tell you for certain that if you do it my way from the start and omit the last heating step they’re a bear to peel.

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      • I rarely have cracked eggs because my chickens have pretty tough shells (way stronger than store-bought). Only if I drop them in, because I thought I’d put them in with my fingers, do they crack. Use a spoon to gently set them in the boiling water instead of fingers :)

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  • How about if you are dying for Easter? I do the ice water after cooking them but need a trick to do after a couple of days so that they will peel nicely.

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    • Ginger, using the same concept you could throughly refrigerate the dyed eggs first. Then prepare the boiling water bath and dip them for the 10 seconds to expand the shell and peel. Viola!

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  • I’d always understood that the reason for adding an acid (vinegar or lemon juice) to the cooking water was that in case the egg would crack, the acid prevents the egg from spreading throughout the cooking water.

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  • I have never heard this before – but so glad I did ! The times I have been so frustrated at peeling an egg tiny bits of shell at a time ! Thank You so Much ! I will certainly pass this tip along ~~

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  • If the egg is not “newly laid”….I always use a couple teaspoons of salt added to the water. This works 99 % of the time!

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  • we get so many eggs that I always put aside a dozen or two for hard boiling, after a week they hard boil and peel with no nonsense. If I only have very fresh eggs I add a cup or so of salt and that does the trick.

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    • June, that’s what I do – put eggs aside to get ‘old’ so I have some for boiling. But now I’m going to try this new way and also try steaming. Love all the eggsperimenting!

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  • Your idea sounds great when I’m home alone but my grandkids love the show when I put a 1/2″ hole in each end and blow those suckers right out of the end and right into their bowls!

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  • If smashed boiled eggs will work for what you want here’s what I do- take a cerel bowl put in one or two eggs without breaking the yoke. Stick a fork in yoke 2 or 3 times DO NOT STIR. cover with a saucer- put in microwave on high for 1 min. Mash with a fork as soon as they come out so they dont get rubbery- I usually am in a hurry so I stick this on a new saucer in the freezer for a few min. to cool. Put used bowl and saucer bottom in water soon so the egg comes off easy.

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  • We have had chickens for years and use Jill’s method–put room temperature eggs into boiling water and cook to desired doneness. In our case, around 20 minutes, then immediately into an ice water bath. Never have a problem peeling and by having them at room temp, they tend not to crack when they hit the boiling water.

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  • We do a similar method, but in peeling we use a spoon. Tap the egg all over to crack it , then slide the spoon under the shell and rotate the egg, it is amazing how quickly you can just roll the peeling off.

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  • I peel hardboiled eggs under a dribble of running water. It gets under the membrane and makes it really easy to peel!

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    • Me too—usually very warm water. It works for me and the warm water seems to do the same thing that the hot water bath does–loosens the egg in the shell, and you are right, the water gets under the shell and makes the work easy

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  • I have tried EVERYTHING but your 10-count post boil technique and nothing has worked. Your technique makes sense, and I cannot wait for the new batch of biddies to start laying. Thank you.

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  • An alternative to the oven method of baking eggs is a crockpot.

    Place as many eggs as you would like to hard boil in the crockpot (no water), cook on high for 2 hours. Immerse in cold water and continue as described above.

    Haven’t tried it yet, but may be a cooler method than the oven in the summer.

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  • Thanks for the tips, it’s interesting to see so many! Couple of questions… With store bought eggs, does it mean they’re most likely fresh when the peel is hard to come off? What does adding salt do to the process? Happy Easter!

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  • http://pathsofwrighteousness.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/the-perfect-hard-boiled-egg-yes-even-with-fresh-farm-eggs/

    Here’s how I’ve been doing it. The method simulates aging the egg by creating a space between the egg and the shell.

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  • I just did this with 2 dozen eggs. They ALL peeled just perfect! thank you so much for the tip.

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  • I put a splash of vinegar in the cooking water and then crack eggs in the ice bath. Works pretty great for me :-)

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  • We have been bringing water to boil, put 1 tsp of salt in it, carefully lower fresh eggs into the water, boil for 14 minutes, remove and place in ice bath to cool. They then peel extremely easily. I boiled eggs last night (freshly given to me by my flock yesterday) to get ready for coloring tonight. I test pealed one and once I cracked shell the whole egg slipped out quick as can be unscathed. I printed up a little card to put this on top cartons in which I sell my fresh eggs to friends. I have also done the baking soda bit, as well as vinegar bit, but this seems to work the best for me!

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  • Since I discovered steaming, I am a happy camper!!

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  • This is just a QUICKER version that was done by Julia Child. (Instead of bringing eggs to a boil then removing them from the heat to cook 17 minutes, you are timing the length of the boil.) Everything else with the ice bath and returning the egg for a flash boil and then back to ice bath is the same.

    I don’t mind you sharing such techniques. They have been around for a long time. I just want to make sure you don’t claim FULL credit for such a wonderful technique when such things have been around longer than any of us.

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  • @Dusty What are you, the credit police? Did you ensure that Julia Child gave props to her forebearers before she received your blessing too?

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  • HIGH ALTITUDE NOTE: If you live in a high altitude area, you will have to increase the cooking time of your eggs. The “bring it to a simmer, cover and turn of the heat”
    method will not work as water boils at a lower temperature the higher you go. Thus, your eggs will actually need some boil time, usually about 10 minutes from the start of the boil gives you a good medium yolk that is still yellow. Love the tips on the rest! Thanks!!

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  • I thought I was “hard boiled egged” out after Easter, but this has got me thinking about egg salad and deviled eggs again.

    RealFoodBlog.com

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  • I steam mine, too. We have chickens, so our eggs are always very fresh, but with a 14 minute steam they come out perfectly. No green around the yolk, and easy to peel. I put instructions and a picture in my “Food for Thought” column on http://www.yummymontana.com if you’re interested.

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  • I’ve had success using a tad bit of oil in the boiling water – not sure why it works, (though not consistently perfect) then peeling with a small stainless spoon slipped between the shell and egg it just kind of slides gently around the egg – oftimes the shell will come off in a full formed piece. Anxious to try your method…
    fresh eggs keep a very long time without refrigeration so long as you do not wash the bloom off them – if they are especially nasty and you must wash them I am told you can replace the natural bloom with light coating of oil

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  • total failure here. I even put the eggs in the freezer before putting them back into the boiling water, after the complete cooling in the ice water didn’t work. Everyone always says they have the fail-safe method. Fresh eggs even aged a flipping month -do NOT peel for me. Baking soda and all tat rot — none of it works. This is a great softboiled egg though. Just don’t hope to peel it flawlessly.

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  • Thank you for this post!! My eggs were cooked a few min longer, but your exact method worked like a charm!!

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  • Do a simple test. Next time you buy eggs set a few aside for 2-3 weeks. When your time period is up boil the eggs you save in one pot and then boil some fresh eggs in another pot and see which eggs are easerier too peel. A friend (a egg farmer) told me fresh eggs are harder to peel then older eggs.

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  • When we use fresh eggs and want to make hard boiled, we have used the double boil method. We boil the first batch for 3 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let sit for about 10 minutes. Then remove eggs from water and dip in ice bath, bring water to boil, add eggs and do the same as above. As soon as the second 1o minutes are up, we drain and let them sit in cold water until they can be used again. I have not had any problems with peeling them with this method. I will need to try your method and just cook them a little bit longer, as I like a HARD yoke. Thanks!

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  • I put eggs in cold water, turn on gas to high until it starts to boil, reduce heat to keep at a boil, 15 min at boil for hard boiled eggs. remove from stove, pour off water and place pan in sink, fill with cold water until eggs are still warm but not too hot to handle. crack and roll each egg and place back in water. then start peeling. this has worked for me for many years with store bought eggs and when I visit a friend with her fresh eggs. just make sure the eggs are still warm when you peel them, the water will be warm not cold and I usually do not have a green ling around the yolk.

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  • I use baking soda in the water–I think it helps. Like you, I put my cooked eggs into ice cold water to cool, and then I peel them under really warm water from the faucet. It seems to work fine with my fresh eggs. It’s the same method I have used for years with both store eggs and fresh eggs and I have not had problems peeling them. It’s easier than the putting them back into boiling water—and the same science properties are at work.

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  • Yesterday I boiled 1 1/2 doz eggs to make deviled eggs for a Superbowl Party this afternoon. I was only able to peel 1 egg cleanly! Couldn’t take them to a party! Had to run to the store for more eggs and while they were boiling, I searched on-line for how to peel them cleanly and found your method. Just finished peeling all my eggs using your method and it worked beautifully! Thank you so much! Guess I’ll make egg salad with the 1st batch I did NOT using your method!

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  • I always get the egg peeling job in our house thanks to my grandfather showing how to peel them with a spoon back in the 70s, This makes peeling a snap,Its at least twice as fast,I must admit that there was once that i had a really tough time but i think they were way over boiled.

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  • I wanted to have an egg at work but didn’t want to microwave it. So I piled some of my fresh eggs into the coffeepot and ran some water and vinegar through the machine. After 45 minutes I had a nice, soft-cooked egg. Two hours and they were good for the deviled eggs I love so much. And I finally found a way to cook them that half my whites don’t peel with the shell, yay!

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  • I tried your way and I love it! Thank you for posting it.

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  • Thanks! This was very helpful. I just did a dozen following your instructions. Most peeled very easily, but a few were stubborn and resistant. Still, the results were much better than the other methods I’ve tried. :)

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  • Did not work at all for me. I boiled 4 eggs according to the instructions, and they were just as hard to peel and had just as much white come off with the shell as any other method I’ve tried. We have chickens so these were not store bought, and were even a few weeks old. Still looking for that foolproof method of peeling farm-fresh eggs…

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  • This teqnique did not work for me =(

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  • thank you sooooo much for your information ,it really works! Sharing the science behind it is what made me try your method on a very fresh egg .Peeled so easy Thanks.

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  • fantastic! took me 75 yrs. to learn how to cook & peel fresh eggs — Thank You So Much!!!!!!!!!

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  • I have 2 dozen fresh out of the chicken eggs to turn into deviled eggs for an event. I’m hoping this works!! Will let you know

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  • I tried 6 eggs at a time, 6 different times. It does not work any better than any other way. I have one egg that peeled well, not perfectly. I did the batches to be certain I was following your directions. Just awful results. I made a lot of egg salad. What a waste of time.

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  • I am assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that you are using an electric stove. I left my water boiling for the 8 minutes on my gas stove, as once you turn off the heat, it no longer cooks. Whereas, when you turn off the electric the heat is still present. It worked.

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  • It work perfectly…my fresh eggs look percect

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  • Works like a charm, 100% success, We have our own chickens and fresh eggs were impossible to peel until using this technique. I read all of the comments first and I decided to prick the shells first, I placed the cold eggs in salted boiling water, simmered for 16 minutes, removed eggs from hot water and placed in ice water. I let them cool in iced water for 15 minutes then one at a time I dipped each egg in boiling water for 10 seconds, removed and peeled. This worked for me perfectly. I suspect the real key is the dipping back into boiling water.

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    • Update, I just tried 6 eggs, the first four as before worked great. Then I decided to prove the technique and peeled the last two with out the second boiling….. they peeled even better ! For Thanksgiving I will keep boiling water handy but will try with out it. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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  • These are the first eggs we have gotten from our little young hens and when I boiled 6 of them, everyone of the peelings came off with the whites. Made me sick!!! Thank you so much for your advice and trick!! Going to try this tomorrow for Thanksgiving!!!!!

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  • This worked so well. Thank you so much.

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  • I just tried this method, and though it helps a little, my eggs are ripping apart! These eggs are even a few weeks old! They aren’t spoiled, but I kept them in the spare fridge this whole time. Started with cool water and brought to a boil, then boiled for about 10 minutes just to be sure all the big ones got done, then immediately transferred to ice water. Tried dipping them back into the boiling water, and even cracking them before dunking…nothing. Wah.

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  • I’m going to cook some in the microwave (science oven)

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  • It did not work for me :( I have better luck breaking the shell after cooling, letting them sit in cold water for 1/2 hour, then peeling underwater. It’s important to get under the membrane, I have quite the time peeling these fresh eggs for pickled eggs.

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  • Thanks for the help ! I will let you know how i make out !

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