There is nothing more frustrating than opening a lid on a pan of boiled eggs, only to see slimy white trails of exploded egg white everywhere! Why do some eggs crack while boiling, and what can we do about this problem?
Eggs can crack while boiling because the process of heating an egg causes pressure inside the egg, which will crack at the weakest point.
So, can an egg that cracked while boiling still be saved? Cracked boiled eggs may not be as aesthetically pleasing, but they are perfectly safe to eat. The trick to avoiding cracked boiled eggs is to avoid dropping them into hot water and to add a pinch of salt to the cooking water.
Struggling to get a perfect boiled egg that doesn’t split in the pan? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about why some eggs crack while boiling.
We’ll also figure out what to do with eggs that have cracked while boiling, and how to prevent this messy problem from occurring in the first place.
Why Do Some Eggs Crack While Boiling?
A cracked boiled egg can be an irritating problem, but when we look into why this problem occurs you’ll be surprised that it doesn’t happen more often!
Every egg contains a tiny scan of air, normally towards one end of the egg. You may have noticed this airspace when peeling a hard-boiled egg.
When the egg is heated quickly, pressure builds up inside the egg and the air will start to leak out through tiny pores on the egg. However, these cannot escape quickly enough to keep up with the rapidly increasing pressure, and the shell will crack.
This doesn’t happen with every egg, but it is more likely in some than others. Eggs laid by hens that are not in peak physical condition will have weak shells that are more prone to cracking.
They are also more likely to crack if heated quickly or boiled so violently that they knock against each other in the pan.
What Does A Cracked Boiled Egg Look Like?
If you’ve ever seen a cracked boiled egg, you will instantly recognize that this problem has occurred! You will lift the lid of your pan of eggs, and quickly notice that something looks very wrong.
The worst-case scenario is that the egg has cracked so severely that the white of the egg has started to leak out. Pressure within the egg will force this through the crack made by the escaping air.
You will see one of two things happening here. In one case, egg whites will leak out in long strands that curl themselves around the egg and throughout the pan. This egg white cooks as it hits the hot water, turning it into a thick, gelatinous white substance.
If just a small amount of egg white leaks out, this can stick to the surface of the egg where it then cooks. You will see little white globules of cooked egg white located around a cracked area of the shell.
Sometimes an egg will crack but none of the egg white escapes from the crack. This is because the inner membrane of the egg is still intact.
Are Eggs That Cracked While Boiling Safe To Eat?
An egg that has cracked while boiling might not appear all that appetizing, but it is perfectly safe to eat!
After all, we cook eggs without the shell all the time without any problems. When the egg white escapes from the shell it simply poaches in the simmering water.
If you’re looking for perfect unblemished boiled eggs for a picnic or buffet lunch, then cracked eggs may be a problem. The egg can be slightly watery as water can enter through the crack while the egg cooks.
It will also not look as aesthetically pleasing, as the exterior of the cooked egg will undoubtedly be blemished.
However, there are some great ways to use up eggs that have cracked while boiling. Peel away the shell and trim off any pieces of white that escaped during cooking – these are edible but can have an unpleasant rubbery texture.
The egg can then be eaten whole or sliced or mashed to use in salads or sandwiches.
Do You Need To Eat A Cracked Boiled Egg Straight Away?
A cracked boiled egg does not need to be eaten straight away, but you will need to treat it differently than whole boiled eggs.
A whole boiled egg is protected from bacterial contamination by the shell, whereas when a crack occurs, the internal contents are then exposed to potential pathogens.
It is advisable to peel a cracked boiled egg to prevent water and bacteria from becoming trapped inside the egg. Trim away any lumps of egg white that protrude from the surface of the egg.
While a whole boiled egg in its shell can be stored for a relatively long period of time, you need to treat your peeled boiled egg like any other type of cooked egg.
It should not be left out at room temperature for any more than two hours and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
So, if you’ve got a pan of boiled eggs and just one or two have cracked, peel and eat these first. They will keep for a few days, but not as long as their uncracked counterparts.
How To Prevent Eggs From Cracking While Boiling
So, how do we prevent this annoying problem from occurring in the first place? Luckily, with just a few simple precautions we can reduce the chances of your eggs cracking in the pan!
- Avoid dropping your eggs directly into boiling water. Hard-boiled eggs can be started in cold water that is heated to a gentle simmer; this prevents a sudden change in pressure that causes the egg to burst.
- Add a pinch of salt to the cooking water. This helps to reduce cracking and also causes the white of the egg to cook faster.
- Use good quality eggs from free-range organic-fed hens. These will have stronger shells that are less likely to crack.
- Try to avoid letting your boiled eggs roll around in the pan, as they will knock against each other. Even the tiniest knock can cause a weak spot on the egg, leading to an egg-splosion in your pan!
- Use eggs that are neither too fresh nor very old. Most people find that the best results come from boiling eggs that are around a week old.
How To Boil The Perfect Egg – Step By Step Guide
Want to get the perfect boiled egg every time? We can’t guarantee you’ll never get a cracked egg, but this method will give great results every time!
- Place the eggs in a pan and cover them with cold water.
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Put the pan on medium heat and bring the water to a gentle simmer.
- Cover the pan and take the eggs off the heat.
- Let the eggs sit for around 15 minutes in the hot water.
- Drain the water and replace it with cold water until the eggs are completely chilled.
- Remove the eggs from the water and pat dry.
- The eggs can then be stored in the refrigerator, either in their shells or peeled ready for use.
For a visual tutorial and explanation on how to make soft boiled eggs as well, here’s a great video from Downshiftology on YouTube.
Now we’ve got your cracked boiled egg queries solved, let’s take a look at some other eggy questions!
1. How Long Can Boiled Eggs Sit Out For?
While we’re all happy to keep our raw eggs at room temperature, once an egg has been boiled it is more likely to suffer from bacterial contamination.
So, when you have boiled some eggs, they should only be left out at room temperature for two hours. If they are not going to be consumed within this time, they should be refrigerated.
The reason for this is that the shell of the egg is porous, particularly after it has been boiled. This means that bacteria can penetrate the shell after it has been boiled.
A great way to keep your boiled eggs safe to eat is to cool them quickly after boiling. Plunge them into icy cold water until they feel completely cold, before popping them into the refrigerator.
2. How Long Can Cooked Eggs Be Stored In The Refrigerator?
The length of time that cooked eggs can be stored in the refrigerator depends on the type of cooked egg. The reason for this is whether the egg is still in its shell or has been cooked using another method.
When eggs are cooked inside their shells, they have a greater level of protection against bacterial contamination.
Boiling eggs will partially destroy the natural barrier that prevents bacteria from penetrating the eggshell, but far less contamination occurs compared to cooking an egg without its shell.
This means that a hardboiled egg inside its shell can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
If the egg has been cooked using any other method, such as scrambled, poached, and fried eggs, it is much more likely to have bacterial contamination.
This also includes omelets, frittatas, and casseroles containing eggs. Eggs cooked in this way can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.