Like many of you, I abandoned the dream of finding one surefire method for making consistently perfect hard boiled eggs some time ago. After trying a few too many “foolproof” tricks with spotty results, I relegated easy-peel eggs to the same category as unicorns and cheap airfare: nice to fantasize about, but if they were truly real, you’d think we’d have heard about it by now.
But that’s the thing about myths — just when you’ve thrown your hands in the air and walked away, something new comes along to rekindle your hope. Like Fox Mulder, we want to believe.
For me, that something new was my pressure cooker and a friend’s improbable suggestion that I try using it to make a batch of eggs. Just like that, the dream was alive again.
I’ve actually been sitting on this revelation for a few months now just because I didn’t trust the evidence of my own eyes: Two eggs or a dozen, fresh eggs or weeks old, white eggs or brown eggs, it didn’t matter. The shells slipped easily off each time, leaving a smooth and pristine hard boiled egg.
There are a few theories for why this is. Some say that, similar to steaming eggs, the pressure cooker forces steam inside the egg’s shell during cooking, causing it to separate from the egg white. Alton Brown’s theory is that it’s more about the rapid temperature change inside the sealed pot.
Either way, it works. Making hard-cooked eggs in the pressure cooker is the only method I’ve found that has worked for me every single time.
I based my eggs on the popular “5-5-5” method for hard-cooked eggs in the Instant Pot. The idea is to put your eggs into a steamer basket and seal them inside your pressure cooker along with a cup or so of water. It takes about five minutes for the cooker to come up to high pressure, five minutes to cook the eggs, and then five minutes of natural pressure release before removing the eggs from the cooker — hence the “5-5-5” method.
I found that this basic formula worked just fine, though it typically takes my pressure cooker closer to 10 minutes before fully pressurizing.
I also decided that I like the texture of 4-minute eggs better than 5-minute eggs. At four minutes, the whites are firm but soft and the yolk is cooked through but still creamy; at five minutes, I felt like the whites started to become rubbery and the yolk was a little chalky. Give it a try both ways and see which you prefer.
Also, for those of you with stovetop pressure cookers, I recommend a quicker 3-minute cook time. Stovetop pressure cookers can reach a higher pressure than electric cookers and tend to cook food more quickly. (For reference, a friend of mine tested this recipe with her stovetop pressure cooker and her verdict was that 4-minute eggs were fine, but tasted slightly overcooked.)
The only un-perfect thing about this way of hard boiling eggs is that, every so often, one of the eggs will crack its shell during cooking. When this has happened to me, it’s usually been during the 5 minute “natural release” period after the eggs are already cooked, so the crack is only superficially cosmetic. Not ideal if you’re planning to dye a bunch of Easter eggs, of course, but perfectly fine for deviled eggs.
If your eggs seem to be cracking more often, or are cracking earlier during cooking before the whites are set, try cooking them at low pressure instead of high pressure. My own tests at low pressure gave inconsistent results, but every pressure cooker is a little different and you might have better luck with yours.
The jury is still out on unicorns and affordable airfare, but easy-to-peel eggs, at least, are real.
Don’t have a pressure cooker? Try steaming your eggs on the stovetop!