Our Top-Tested Tricks for Separating, Boiling, and Poaching Eggs
In this episode of Hit or Myth, we debunk and give you the science behind which egg-cooking tricks work and which don't.
Eggs are the prime protein-packed, naturally delectable ingredient. There are so many different ways to cook eggs, from the simple hard-boiled egg, to adding a sunny-side up egg to avocado toast or pizza, to the many deliciously decadent brunch preparations. No matter the method you prefer, there’s no denying that this food is both one of the most versatile and finicky: just because eggs are easy to make doesn’t mean there’s no technique involved. You can bring up egg cooking in a group of inexperienced cooks, culinary experts, or professional chefs alike and everyone will have strong feels about the what “secrets” are to nailing it. We’re here to figure out if three of these egg-prep tricks are true.
Are eggs easier to separate after they’ve been chilled in the fridge vs. sitting out at room temperature?
Many recipes that involve beating eggs or egg whites into a stable foam–such as soufflés, meringues, and sponge cakes–specify room temperature eggs. That’s because eggs whip up to a greater volume when they’ve had a chance to warm up. However, these desserts (as well as custards, mousses, and more) also call for separating egg yolks from whites. This can be tricky, time-consuming, and messy for those who don’t bake frequently, so we set out to see if there's an easier way to separate eggs.
The theory is that chilling eggs in the fridge will make for a firmer yolk and less-runny white, so each component should be able to hold its shape better than when they’ve been sitting out on the countertop for 20 minutes or longer. The result? It’s a hit! Though the difference wasn’t tremendous, we found that it was a cleaner, easier experience separating eggs that were directly out of the fridge versus those that had the chance to warm up to room temp.
Final takeaway: if egg-separating is challenging for you, we recommend you separate your eggs as soon as you pull them out of the fridge, then allow them to sit out until they reach room temperature before you bake.
Can you scramble an egg in its shell?
This one is goofy but totally intrigued us. There is a lot of hype on the internet about some mystical, magical food called ‘The Perfect Golden Egg.’ Rumors say this is the result of shaking a raw egg so vigorously in its shell that you break the yolk inside and the yolk and white become incorporated, similar to what happens when you whisk a raw egg in a bowl. After hard-boiling, you should peel the shell and find a perfectly even golden yellow-colored egg inside.
I tried shaking the eggs with my hands for five minutes straight while Ananda did the same using a plastic baggie holding it (= more velocity). It was impossible to tell if we’d successfully scrambled them, but we plopped our eggs into boiling water and waited it out.
Result: It was a no go. The egg yolk was perfectly intact as was the white—not a speck of “golden” in sight. This is because eggs are equipped with thick ropes of protein called chalazae. The sole purpose of this protein is anchoring the yolk in the center of the egg so it won't break. Nature is cool in that way.
Can you poach eggs in plastic baggies?
We could write a whole book on Egg Poaching Intimidation. Poaching is a huge pain point for new and experienced egg cooks alike, and there are endless gadgets and ingredients that promise to make it easier to do. The one we wanted to test was poaching an egg is a plastic baggie. Here, the idea is that you gently crack an egg into a bag and seal it, then lower into simmering water and pull it out a few minutes later—no vinegar, no swirling, no extravagant equipment—to poached egg perfection.
This was a hit! So long as you follow a couple of quick rules:
1. Make sure you coat the inside of your baggie with cooking spray or oil before you add the egg. If you forget, the egg will stick to the bag and fall apart when you try to remove it!
2. Don’t let the plastic baggie touch the sides of your pot because it will melt.
3. If you want to get extra fancy, you can add spices, butter, or other yummy egg ingredients to the bag to infuse it with other flavors.