In my years as a cook and caterer I have boiled and peeled thousands of eggs, most of them destined to be deviled. I don't know if I even really like deviled eggs anymore because I've made so many of them. Even so, I'm not sure I could host a party or show up at a potluck without a tray of perky eggs, sprinkled with fresh chives and a dusting of paprika. Inevitably they disappear in a flash. Even humble egg salad manages to surprise. Once, when I was running my catering and brunch restaurant, we returned to the kitchen one night after an event to find that an entire pan of deviled eggs never made it out of the fridge and to the party. The next day was Sunday and we were open for brunch so I did what savvy cooks have always done – adapt and make do. The eggs went into the food processor along with some celery and sweet onion and out came the blue plate special of the day: egg salad on whole-grain toast, sprinkled with microgreens. It looked beautiful, but I remember thinking, "Is anyone actually going to order egg salad?" We sold out that day and before long the dish had made its way into our regular menu rotation.
The truth is eggs are hard, so to speak. My sister called me not long ago, frustrated. "Am I lame for buying pre-peeled hard-boiled eggs? I can't ever peel them without destroying them." I assured her that the difficulties she was having were normal. Lots of people struggle peeling eggs, as evidenced by all the different methods and discussion forums floating around the internet.
The first and most important factor in easily peeling hard-cooked eggs is the age of the eggs. According to the USDA: "The air cell, found at the large end of the shell between the shell membranes, increases in size the longer the raw egg is stored. As the contents of the egg contracts and the air cell enlarges, the shell becomes easier to peel." In other words, older eggs are easier to peel.
How they are cooked can also make a difference. The most basic method is to cover the eggs with cold water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 12 minutes. Although simple and low tech, I find that eggs cooked in this way are not always the easiest to peel. I prefer to use an egg cooker, one of the few single-use kitchen gadgets that I keep in my kitchen. Shaped like a flying saucer, it essentially steams the eggs, and as long as the eggs are not super-fresh they always peel easily. When cooking large batches of eggs I've taken to using my multicooker, which works in much the same way. Place the eggs in the steamer basket of your multicooker and add a cup of water. Cook on low pressure for three minutes for soft-boiled eggs or five minutes for hard-cooked eggs. Beware of baking eggs in muffin cups as I saw suggested online. After a few disastrous attempts I finally gave up.
As soon as the eggs are done cooking, dump them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and gently tap each egg against the side of the bowl to crack the shell. This helps to loosen the shell and speed up the cooling process. Once the eggs are cool the shells should slip off easily.
Deviled Easter eggs
12 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
Food coloring of choice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, to taste
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon each cider vinegar and lemon juice, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Minced parsley or chives, to garnish
Dilute a few drops of food coloring into quart jars (one jar for each color) filled halfway with cold water. Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Pop out the yolks and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Divide the whites among the jars of food coloring and let them sit while you prepare the yolk filling.
Add the mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper and hot sauce to the egg yolks and process until smooth. (Alternatively you can mash them in a bowl with a fork.) Taste for seasoning.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the egg whites from the jars of food coloring and place them cut side down on paper towels to drain. Scoop the yolk mixture into a piping bag and fill each egg white with about 1 ½ teaspoons of the yolk mixture. (You can also use a zip-close bag with a corner cut off, or simply use a spoon.) Arrange on a serving platter and garnish with minced herbs as desired.