Photo: WIN12_ET (Shutterstock)
Common kitchen wisdom dictates that hard-boiled eggs need to be “shocked” in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and make peeling easier, but only half of that is true and the other half can be easily tempered, which means you leave the ice in it can the freezer.
Dipping hot eggs in a bowl of ice water does not affect the ability to peel. I know this because I recently boiled and eaten large numbers of hard-boiled eggs and barely used an ice cube to achieve the peeling. The only water temperature that affects the eggs and how easy they are to peel is their starting temperature, which should be boiling. When you start eggs in cold water and bring them to a boil, the eggs become bound to the membrane, making it extremely difficult to separate from the shell. Start your boiled eggs in hot water and you won’t have this problem. (The only exception is pressure cooked eggswhich are also super easy to peel)
If you put your boiled eggs in a bowl of cold water only, especially if you are only boiling a few, all you need is to keep them cool enough. Once they’re not that hot, you can peel them as you normally would without damaging the white.
So ice water doesn’t affect your egg’s peeling ability, but it’s true that it stops the cooking process. Fortunately, eggs aren’t as delicate as asparagus (a vegetable that really benefits a good shock), and you can prevent the carryover heat from overcooking your eggs by simply boiling them for a shorter time at first.
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Photo: Claire Lower
The three eggs you see above were boiled under high pressure in my instant pot every five minutes, followed by a manual release. The left one was rinsed under cold water until it was cool enough to peel immediately after the cooking time was up, while the right two were transferred to a bowl of cold tap water along with another four eggs. As you can see, the yolks on the right are a bit firmer and a bit paler, but there’s no dreaded gray sulfur ring. If this little bit of further cooking is not acceptable to you, you can always take a minute less time to cook and use the residual heat to “finish” your eggs.
If you enjoy using an ice water bath, by all means go ahead. But don’t expect this to make your eggs easier to peel, and don’t panic if you boil eggs one day only to find you are out of ice. You can make perfectly cooked, perfectly peelable eggs even without these frozen water cubes.