Steaming eggs, rather than boiling them, makes for the easiest and best way to peel hard-boiled eggs perfectly.

“Are you tired of egg acne?!”

I felt like I was caught in some surreal infomercial nightmare: “Are you tired of egg acne?” I heard an overly testosteroned voice in my head ask me. “Do your deviled eggs look more bedeviled than egg? Do you gouge your hard-boiled eggs every time you try to peel them?!”

The truth was: yes. I was tired of pockmarked eggs. I was pulling off a quarter inch of egg white in the name of peeling off the shells. And, if I’m honest, I think my eggs were as terrified of me as I was of them.

a six-pack of eggs with scared faces drawn on them
: stokkete

So I tried every trick there out there. I let dozens of eggs languish in the fridge because “gentle-aged” eggs are supposedly easier to peel. (Not necessarily.)  I attempted adding the eggs to the water and then bringing it up to a boil. (Most cracked.) I simmered the water instead of boiling it. I added salt; I added baking soda. I gave shocking the eggs in ice water a twirl. I even let them sit in the fridge overnight before peeling. Needless to say, I ate far more than my share of egg salad sandwiches in the name of screwups.

Why are hard-boiled eggs so hard to peel?

I’m not a food science guy, but the basic idea is that there’s a membrane just below the eggshell. It’s that thin, papery covering you curse at when you’re having a bitch of a time peeling eggs. The reason it clings so ferociously to the egg white is the pH level of an egg white is naturally more acidic and that acidity acts as a glue, binding white to membrane, especially in fresh eggs. The solution many cooks swear by (not me, though) is to use older eggs.

The problem with that is the whites in older eggs tend to thin a bit over time, allowing the yolk to wander off center. And that’s why you get googly-eyed deviled eggs. Not exactly the best look on the buffet table.

Why should I steam rather than boil my eggs?

I first heard of the concept of steaming eggs a few years ago from Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks. By steaming eggs, the water vapor permeates the shell and helps to loosen the white quickly from the membrane.

How do I steam my eggs?

  1. Place a steamer insert into a saucepan and add an inch or so of water. Cover tightly.
  2. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. Carefully nestle large eggs directly from the fridge into the steamer insert. (Steam van burn!)
  4. Cover tightly.
  5. Steam.
  6. Immediately dunk the eggs in an ice bath.
  7. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them. (I find I don’t need to peel under running water.)

How long should I steam my eggs?

Steaming eggs is similar to boiling eggs in terms of timing and results. I like my eggs with a bit of creaminess to the yolk, so I steam them for 8 minutes. The One likes them more cooked, so I cook his 10 to 12 minutes.

Keep in mind that the size, temperature, and number of eggs will affect cooking time.  The visual chart below gives you a great place to start for large eggs directly from the fridge.

Hardboiled eggs at different levels of doneness.
: mikhaylovskiy

How do I avoid that hideous green ring in my hard-cooked eggs?

Ah, the gruesome green ring that circles the yolk. That occurs due to a reaction between the sulfur in the egg white and the iron in the yolk when you’ve cooked your eggs too long or at too high a temperature. The great thing about steaming eggs is it’s gentler than furiously boiling them. An immediate plunge in ice water afterward also helps stave off the green.

And, last: Aren’t eggs bad for me due to high cholesterol in the yolks?

Thankfully, no. At one time people were leery of eating eggs because of the cholesterol in egg yolks. Recently, researchers have found that eggs actually raise the good cholesterol your body needs, and the Federal dietary guidelines were changed to reflect that. Now they no longer warn against dietary cholesterol that suggested folks limit the number of eggs they consume. Translation: Bring on the egg salad!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. This method worked perfectly! My husband and I both love egg salad but it’s always been a chore to make, but not any more. I might even attempt deviled eggs once in a while!

    1. Thanks, Lisa! We are delighted this method worked so well for you. I hope there are many wonderful egg dishes in your future.