Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Mystery of the Exploding Eggs

Young Master Julien Slate-Aussoleil
holds the explode-o egg so Mom
can take an out-of-focus photo.
A couple of whiles ago, I was working on a book called Scratch (written by Maria Rodale, of the Rodales), in which I learned that to get really consistently peelable eggs, you steam them. Genius! And I've been doing that ever since.

But every so often I would get what I call a "crater egg." It appeared that for some reason the air inside the egg couldn't get out (eggshells are porous, n'est-ce pas?) and pushed the egg white up against the shell at the opposite end, leaving an egg-white crater behind. Net result = the most unpeelable egg you'll ever meet, times a million.

Then, even weirder, some eggs would simply explode in the steamer, with loud (relatively speaking) egg bangs. Of course these were beyond peeling: They needed to be scooped out of the shell.

Why, why? My perfect system! What was wrong with it?

Research on the Google Interwebs Machine.

WAX

Yes, wax. Some egg producers wax their eggs* to increase the shelf life. The wax prevents the egg from "respiring"—a process that over time introduces more air into the egg and eventually makes it go bad. (This is why you can test the age of an egg by seeing if it floats in water.) When you cook an egg in boiling water, the minute you immerse the egg, the hot water melts the wax off (though this is just my guess). But with steam, apparently, not so much.

Just for the record, Trader Joe's organic eggs don't explode, so I'm going to go ahead and say they are not waxed. Other eggs (Fresh Direct, I'm looking at you) have a fairly high Explosion Rate.

New experiment: Poke a hole in the wide end (the end that typically has an air pocket) and give it an escape route. To be continued.....

*Anyone who has ever stocked a sailboat's pantry in preparation for a long cruise also knows this trick. With limited fridge space on a small boat, eggs are one thing you can keep at room temp, as long as you dip the eggs in paraffin.