The Scientific Way to Peel a Boiled Egg

The Egg. Source:

– By Syeda Qudsia, NUST Science Blog

This is very serious, and let me tell you that the fight between Lilliputians and Blefuscudians was on no little matter. Oh, yes! Jonathan Swift developed a really cunning plot. Peeling boiled eggs can be a critical business and, to me, there is nothing more annoying than a boiled egg that does not peel perfectly. Half4 (that is, half of half of half of half) of my life has gone into discovering the ONE way which should yield 100% results – and undamaged, uniform surfaces from beneath egg shells, free of membrane, complete with a gleam when hit by photons.

The standard method I have applied most of the times is to dunk an egg fresh out of pot of hot water into cold water… Although it never made any sense to me: If it was supposed to contract the egg-white inside but not the shell outside, so that the shell would become bigger and generate a gap between itself and the inside matter, then the method shouldn’t work. It’s the shell that’s in contact with cold water, so it should be the shell that contracts; considering the egg and its shell are in the same system.

Well, anyway, things sometimes worked, and sometimes didn’t, an indication of the fact that the forces that do not allow the perfect peeling of the egg are beyond… and much more sinister than simple expansion and contraction.

But let’s just look at the science proposed that goes in this method. The trick is supposed to generate steam between the egg shell and egg white, which makes the shell come off easily.

Anyway – Internet is the answer to everything, which also brings forth how serious peeling eggs can really be. And how, no one so far, has come up with just one way to do it. There is this article on wikihow “How to Peel an Egg” which has been edited by Josh Hannah and 42 others! And it goes on with a primary method, and then a set of alternate methods with the last one saying “If all else fails, try checking out this article”. Are you kidding me, Josh Hannah and 42 others?! Meaning that all 1+42 of your minds couldn’t come up with one simple method to easily peel a boiled egg and save the world? What about the promise at the start of the page “with this simple process it will take you five seconds every time”? Well, it took half4 of my life…

Microwaving your way through! Hang on! comes with a warning. Source:

And if you follow the other article, they tell you to microwave your egg. My mom will kill me before I can eat that egg if I do that to her microwave! But sure, thanks, I’ll love to try it when I have my own microwave in my own lab. And, excuse me, what warning were you talking about?

Most of the methods come from some superhuman-in-the-field-of-peeling-boiled-eggs called “grandmother”. There’s this one that requires you to crack the egg and roll it gently on your worktop to induce small cracks all over the shell. Theoretically, the air bubble mostly located at the broad end is distributed all under the shell and detaches it from the whites. Well, been there, done that; and it also doesn’t always work.

Grandmother knows the trickses!

So now I’m going to come to the real scientific way that I have found so far on internet. And I’ll tell you why it is so scientific: For one, science is a slow and patient process, and the method I found requires you to know 3-4 days beforehand if you want to eat a boiled egg. Secondly, it’s seems to be supported by experts and is reviewed to be worth it by peers. And thirdly, sadly, and scientifically, not much is known about the dynamics of the process.

The theory goes that a fresh egg is almost neutral in pH and this makes the shells stick to the albumen (that’s the membrane under the shell), making half the white come off with the shell when you peel it. As the egg gets older, the egg loses carbon dioxide which raises the pH (almost as much as from 7.5 to 9!) and makes the egg white more basic. Side by side, the eggs also lose moisture, making the air bubble at the broad end to increase in size. So, it’s always good idea to wait 3-4 days between deciding and really eating a boiled egg.

But here’s the best part: you may not have to wait after all. Just add a bit of sodium bicarbonate to the water before boiling. It makes the water basic and helps in peeling later on. I mean, this makes it good enough. Why go and buy automatic Eggstractor egg peeler? The guy here practically blew the egg out of its shell using the power of baking soda!


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