Hard cooked eggs need a gentle hand when being cooked

April 16, 2014 Updated: April 17, 2014 at 7:30 am

On Sunday, any Peter Cottontail worth his carrots will be looking at an Easter basket full of colored, hard-cooked eggs.

So what to do with this bounty of protein? Eat them, of course!

Before hopping to work on the recipes, take time to peruse these cooking and safety tips.

The 'hard cooking'

First things first: Hard-cooked eggs are not hard-boiled eggs. In her cookbook "Deviled Eggs," author Debbie Moose writes, "Only film noir detectives are hard boiled." As a matter of fact, if eggs are boiled until they are hard, you'll end up with an ugly, green-ringed yolk and rubbery egg whites. What we're looking for is a bright yellow yolk and silky egg whites.

When eggs are boiled violently, a chemical reaction occurs. Water is squeezed from the whites, leaving them tough and dry. And iron sulfide, that green color, is created from the combination of iron in the yolk and sulfur in the white.

Eggs are tender and should be cooked gently. Follow the directions from the American Egg Board and you'll be rewarded with green-free yolks and creamy whites.

- Place the eggs in a saucepan large enough to hold them in a single layer. A pasta pot with a removable draining basket would be ideal.

- Cover the eggs with cold water, about an inch over the tops of the eggs. Place the pan on the heat and bring to a boil.

- Just when the water hits a full boil, remove the pan from the heat and cover. Let the eggs sit, covered, for 18 minutes.

- Drain. Put the eggs in a bowl of cold water for at least 5 minutes, replacing the water as it warms. You also can place the hot eggs into a pan of ice water for 5 minutes.

Now you're ready to start peeling. Hard-cooked eggs are easier to peel right after cooling. Start peeling at the large end, holding the egg under cold running water to help ease off the shell.

Another tip: Eggs that are 7-10 days old before being hard-cooked are easier to peel. The American Egg Board says very fresh eggs end are difficult to peel. So before cooking fresh eggs, let them rest in the fridge a few days. The eggs will take in air, which helps separate the membranes from the shell.

Now about the hunt

Food safety experts say that if you plan to eat the dyed eggs, don't plan on using them for your Easter egg hunt. You could regret it. Hard-cooked eggs are safe at room temperature for about two hours. Consider the time the eggs might have been out of the fridge for coloring, decorating, hiding, finding, picture taking and possibly being hidden again. No wonder these folks wring their hands.

It's better to keep the pretty hard-cooked eggs in the fridge and let the kids hunt the plastic ones. You can fill those up with other goodies and keep the real eggs for making into delicious dishes.

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