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Insane in the Membrane: What's the Deal with Cage-Free Hard Boiled Eggs?

We received this question from an interested party who stopped by the HOMEGROWN Skills Tent at Farm Aid 2012 (which was AWESOME, by the way):


"The membrane inside the egg seems to be particularly stubborn when I hard boil eggs that are cage free, as opposed to generic white eggs. Just out of curiosity, do you know why this is? Any suggestions for a solution?"


Chicken experts, we need you! Any thoughts on how to ease the membrane-removal process? Let's spread the love: A good answer just might convert this casual passerby into a fellow HOMEGROWN member. Thanks for any help! 



Views: 2705

Comment by Lizz on September 25, 2012 at 4:34pm

From what I understand it's because they are fresh. If you allow your eggs to sit around for awhile they will peel easy. The store bought eggs are old LOL

Comment by Rachel Hoff on September 26, 2012 at 10:20am

Egg shells are porous and when they are fresh they contain very little air inside of them. As they age more air seeps into them while the water in them begins to evaporate. This causes the membrane to separate from the shell and albumen which, when hard boiled, makes them easier to peel. So far the easiest way I've found to do hard boiled eggs is: 

In a saucepan add eggs and cover with water. Turn burner on high and cook for 15 minutes starting from right when you turn the burner on. After 15 minutes cool the eggs quickly under cold running water. Peel them immediately once you can handle them under cold running water. 

This doesn't always work but it does 90% of the time for me. 

Comment by Gretchen Rosencrantz on September 26, 2012 at 10:21am

I add vinegar to the water that you boil them in, and I wait to peel them until after they've cooled in the refrigerator for a few hours. It's not completely perfect, but it seems to lessen the issue of the stubborn membrane.

Comment by Jennifer on September 26, 2012 at 10:49am

Eggcellent. I knew we could count on our eggsperts. (What, too much?) Many thanks, guys.

Comment by HOMEGROWN.org on September 27, 2012 at 9:13am

And here's the word from HOMEGROWN's Facebook page:

  • Bill Guerrant Eggs develop air between the shell and the membrane over time. The fresher the egg, the less air in there, making them harder to peel. That's why it's best to use older eggs for hard boiling, for example. That's also why eggs too old to eat will float rather than sink (like eggs that are still useable). 22 hours ago
  • Diana Baker-Willing for fresh eggs once they are done boiing and water poured off I an egg one at a time in a towel and crack it then I run cold water over them to cool. The egss peel better. 22 hours ago
  • Rural Spin The eggs are harder to peel because the egg white sticks to the inside of the shell more, because the environment is less acidic in a fresh egg over an older egg. As the egg ages, the outer protective coating slowly wears off, which makes the egg more porous. More air is therefore allowed into the egg and the egg becomes more acidic as a result, and the egg white sticks less. The egg white also shrinks as the egg ages, allowing more air between the egg and the shell. 22 hours ago
  • Stephen LaPierre Harold McGee just did an article in Lucky Peach Summer 2012 on this very subject.
  • Alisa Esposito Lucash I always assumed it's because grocery store eggs sit around for about a month before purchase and consumption, which would degrade the membrane--not to mention the poor living conditions and diet of the battery caged hens. 21 hours ago 
  • Alisa Esposito Lucash The pastured eggs have strength. 21 hours ago
  • Susan Sylvia Johnson I add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water and cook them in a metal strainer (like the as-seen-on-tv-type) then drop them instantly into an ice water bath. The ice water causes
    the egg inside to contract, pulling it away from the membrane. (I also save the cooking water for my tomato plants. Once it cools anyway! Gives them an extra dose of calcium)
    17 hours ago
  • Lucy Owsley-Goodman When i worked in commercial kitchens i learned the reason (age and pH) for hard peeling eggs. And guess what you get this from factory farmed eggs that are truly fresh as i have run into cases of truly fresh eggs from CFO's and man, they are as hard to peel as fresh pastured eggs. When I had my own hens I would always squirreled away a dozen or two to age for 3 to 5 weeks for hard boiling 2 hours ago


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