Wednesday, January 30, 2008

*egg spearmint.

Ali and Foreman. Kerry and Bush. Lohan and Duff. The opponents are legendary. The battles, hard-fought and hard-won. The legacy? One fat-busting indoor grill, one aw-shucks disaster, and some tremendously awful pop music.

But I introduce to you a new rivalry: Cooks Illustrated vs. Gourmet. Bear with me; it appeals to a niche audience. The outskirts of Vegas, we'll say. Cooks is considered "America's Test Kitchen," and the reputation is deserved. G is the domain of nouveaux foodies and Ruth Reichl devotees ... the NKOTB, if you will.

The dispute? How best to hard-boil an egg. What's that? "Easy," you say? A "no-brainer?" HA! I scoff. This is science. There are always loopholes. So here's how the cookies crumble:

Cover eggs in cold water in a saucepan.
Bring water to a boil.
Remove pan from the heat.
Let eggs sit 10 minutes.*

Cover eggs in cold water in a saucepan.
Bring water to a boil.
Reduce heat to moderate/high, and cook eggs at a gentle boil, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Pour out hot water and cover eggs in cold water.
Let eggs stand in cold water 15 minutes.**

*This is America's TK version. According to the American Egg Board, the eggs should sit 15 minutes. Fun with variables! We'll attempt one of each option.

**Why? What if you peel the eggs and don't let them sit 15 minutes (who has the time)? Let's allow one to rest 15 minutes and peel one right away.

The gloves are up, the bell has rung, the spit buckets are in place. The eggs go in:

Then ... there's some waiting. The first batch are CI eggs. They get all excited until the water boils, but then the fun is over. They move to a back burner to wait out their 10 and/or 15 minutes.

The second batch are G eggs. They have a big time. They bounce around in the (gently) bubbling water for the requisite time.

And then? Every egg is down for the count. The contestants rest, and the judges deliberate.

At the risk of complicating things, the above photo portrays (clockwise from top): 1. CI eggs left to sit 10 minutes. 2. CI eggs left to sit 15 minutes. 3. G eggs immediately removed from boiling water and peeled. 4. G eggs left to sit in cold water 15 minutes and then peeled.

The most vital point about the variables is that, in both cases, the "sit time" made virtually no difference. #1 and #2 were almost identical, as were #3 and #4. The CI versions looked like this:

and the G versions looked like this:

The first was orangey, soft, and creamy yolked. The latter was light yellow, dry, and firm. Both ways managed to elude the dreaded green-gray ring around the yolk, but the verdict lies with personal preference: How do you like your eggs? I prefer the softer (#1 and #2) versions, but that's if I'm having a hard-boiled egg for breakfast (and I think I will). If you're making egg salad, you probably want something more sturdy.

But the real surprise was the trouble factor. The first two eggs, while delectable and moist, were HELL to peel. Like are-you-kidding-me hard. The second two, chalkier and more "cooked," shed their shells like hermit crabs. Despite the trouble, though, I still give this one to Cooks Illustrated. I prefer smooth, yielding egginess to dissolving styrofoam peanuts. Even if it is encased in steel.

And now I really want these. If only because I absolutely must make this.


Julie says:
at: 2:16 PM said...

I'm well and truly amazed by your dedication to this venture. Not being a fan of the hard-boiled egg (call me P-I-C-K-Y if you must), I'll trust your expertise if ever called upon to cook up a batch for ... Easter, or something. Till then I'll just give you a gold star for thoroughness. As for me, I'll stick to scrambled. And Cadbury's.

K. says:
at: 2:21 PM said...

thankya kindly! i can't call you P-I-C-K-Y, however, because i think cadbury's = snot wrapped in chocolate. so what do i know?

although yes, i recommend the hard-boiling before A does any dyeing. possibly for a half hour or so.

just don't tell him i didn't believe in that bunny, neither.

at: 7:32 AM said...

One of the few things I have figured out in the kitchen. If you let the eggs get to more of room temperature (I just put them in warm water for a little big while I'm getting stuff together) the white doesn't stick to the shell. And then ... I'm with you .... I like to bring them to a boil and then take them off the heat for about 15 minutes.

K. says:
at: 8:58 AM said...

that would make sense ... the second batch of eggs did have to be on deck while the first two boiled. so they would have had less chill on them. either way, J gets the yolks (heart healthiness for me, a smooth coat for him), and he thinks they're the cat's pajamas!

at: 8:13 AM said...

Hmmmm I am not giving up the yolks! That's the whole point for me.

K. says:
at: 7:57 PM said...

well, technically he only gets half. i'm not THAT heart healthy.



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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.