Have you ever noticed the cooks in your circles that have a favorite dish that is always requested for pitch-in dinners? There’s always the dessert folks, and the brisket baker, and, of course, the popular deviled egg favorite. Deviled eggs are always a hit, and so is the person that makes them. And, preparation isn’t that hard to do, it’s mostly a matter of boiling eggs and mixing up the yolks to go back into the egg whites. The problem with boiled eggs is the boiling and peeling. And, it seems there are always one or two that crack and leak some egg whites during the boiling stage.
There is a much better, more reliable, method that delivers great hard cooked eggs; steaming! I learned to steam eggs, rather than boiling, a few years ago while watching one of Alton Brown’s Good Eats episodes. This method has a few real advantages over boiling eggs, not the least of which is the ease of peeling them without destroying the wonderful smooth surface of the skin, and there are no cracked eggs caused by jostling about in boiling water. This method is reliable and provides perfectly hard cooked eggs.
All you need is a saucepan with a steamer basket and a lid, or, for larger batches, a Dutch oven with steamer basket and lid.
The keys to getting this just right are:
- Decide whether you want your egg yolks, soft, medium or hard;
- Decide how many eggs you want to cook in a batch (minimum is 4, I’m told);
- Determine how long to steam the eggs
- Plan the process, and get tools and accessories ready
This all comes more easily after you try it a couple of times. I usually cook in batches of 12-24, so I will focus on the Dutch oven process. As mentioned, you can cook small batches of 4 or more eggs in a saucepan with a steam basket, although I have not experimented with the smaller amounts. I have found some info on the small batches, which indicate:
- 6 minute active steaming in a single layer for soft yolks
- 10 minute active steaming in a single layer for medium yolks
- 12 minute active steaming in a single layer for hard yolk with bright color
The reason I use the term “active steaming” is because warm up time doesn’t count. If you put cold eggs straight from the refrigerator into the pan, you have to recover the heat you lost when you lifted the lid, and you have to heat the egg to room temperature before any real cooking begins. So, you put in the eggs, you replace the lid, and you watch for steam to begin to escape from your vessel, then start your timer. I also read in various comments that if you steam your eggs in a double layer, it adds about two minutes to active steaming time to get the same results as listed above.
Here’s my process for steaming 18 Extra Large eggs, which is the maximum I can get in my Dutch oven steamer basket in a single layer.
- Remove the (extra large) eggs from refrigeration 30 minutes before cooking begins, and place on the counter next to the steamer basket
- Add at least one inch of water to the Dutch oven up to 1/2 inch below where the bottom of the steamer basket will be
- Cover the Dutch oven with the lid, and bring to a boil over high heat, and when steam starts escaping, reduce the heat to medium high, to produce a steady simmer (indicated by steam escaping)
- Meanwhile, arrange the eggs in the steamer basket
- Remove the lid from the Dutch oven, drop in the steamer basket loaded with eggs, and replace the lid
- Watch the Dutch oven for signs that steaming has begun, and when it appears, start your timer for 12 minutes for soft yolks, 14 for medium, and 16 for hard
- While the timer is running, prepare an ice bath. I do this by emptying my ice maker tray into a clean sink and adding enough water to cover the eggs
- When the timer is finished, turn off the heat, remove the lid (lift the edge away from you) to release built-up steam
- Move the Dutch oven to an area near the water bath, and lift the steamer basket out, and place into the ice bath
- If you are going to peel the eggs right away, let them sit in the bath about 3 minutes so they are cool enough to handle, and yet are slightly warm in the center
To peel your eggs, roll them on a hard surface so that you crack the middle of the shell all the way around. I use the palm of my hand to roll them, but I’ve also seen chefs use the handle of a knife, too. If everything works well, you should be able to peel the cracked part off pretty easily, and then pull the ends off in whole pieces. I have had varying degrees of success with this, and believe that fresher eggs peel more easily. The longer they sit in the refrigerator, it seems, the more I have to pick away at tiny pieces to get them peeled. By the way, I use these large batches of eggs to make Pickled Eggs, an occasional, fun, treat for the family.