Steamed Eggs

The perfect hard-cooked egg is cooked by steam. Thank-you to Terry P’s comment yesterday, saying that steaming eggs for twenty minutes make eggs easy to peel, I decided to do some investigating on my own. I took freshly laid (that day!) eggs, put them in a steamer basket, and to my great surprise, the peels came off easily. What was going on?

You food science geeks out there might have a more detailed explanation, (and I’d be happy to hear it) but basically, steam is a gas and so is able to penetrate the egg shell’s pores. The steam toughens the membrane between the egg shell and the whites, allowing the egg to be peeled without any trouble at all. Water’s molecules are too big to enter the egg, so although the insides become set from the heat, the membrane isn’t affected.

Why didn’t I know this? It’s one of those hit yourself on the head and go “duh!” moments. I’ve seen these egg cookers at flea markets and have thought how neat looking they were, but never thought about how they worked.

They’re egg steamers! Obviously, a lot of people knew that you could take fresh eggs and hard cook them to perfection in steam. But, if you didn’t grow up with one of these appliances, that knowledge was lost.

I know what I’ll be looking for at a flea market this spring.

By the way, vinegar has a totally different effect on eggs. It reacts chemically with the shell to break it down into calcium carbonate and gas. If you leave an egg in a bowl of vinegar, the shell will dissolve. Leave it in long enough and the egg turns into a rubberized ball! (This was one of my son’s favorite science experiments.)


  1. Terry,

    Is that the male plug I see in the photo on the bottom? just like the old waffle irons.

    • Click on the photo and it links to the blog I found this picture on. I wouldn’t trust that cord, even if I could plug it in!


    I have searched and searched the internet to the answer to this problem.

    I tested it today and it totally worked with one of today’s eggs. Not that I didn’t trust you Terry. I would maybe steam for 18 minutes instead and see how that is.

    I’m making potato salad for a party this weekend and was dreading boiling up the eggs. Not anymore.

    Now I’ll be watching thrift stores and garage sales for those old egg cookers.

    • Thanks for these links. I have a rice cooker, but it doesn’t have a timer… but I bet I could figure it out.

      • Well I know what I’ll be doing in the morning!! Thanks for the rice cooker info! I’m so excited to try this!! I’ll also be on the look out for a cute egg steamer!

  3. I am going to run home, collect today’s egss, and steam away. My husband and I have been trying so many different ways. We never thought of this. We started keeping an 18pack in the spare fridge in the garage for a month before boiling them and we still have issues. BTW, gave 2 of my hens 2 doses (baby dropper) of the epsom/water mixture. No poopy vents and watery stool. It did the trick. Amazing how the “old” remedies work.

  4. Hi Terry,

    This question has nothing to do with eggs, but chickens. We are about to get chicks-in April,for the first time. 3 Buff Orpingtons, 3 Silver Laced Wyandottes, 3 Araucanas, and 3 Barred Rocks. I chose them because they are supposed to do well with children. My daughter is possibly receiving a White Leghorn chick from school (they are hatching eggs). I had read some things about Leghorns dispositions. Do you think it will be a good add on both for the kids (will it play nice) and with the other chickens?

    Thanks for any feedback!

    • White leghorns are active and friendly. If the birds are all the same age they should get along, BUT the one white chick will not have a best friend. Chickens tend to stay with others of the same feather color. I think it’ll be fine. In my experience, the araucanas are more stand-offish than the others. But, each is an individual. You have a nice mix coming, and the leghorn should be okay with them.

      • Thanks so much! I was a bit worried. By same age… the leghorn will hatch about 3/21 and the other chicks we will get 6 on 4/18 and 6 on 4/25. Does that still work?


        • Rebecca…Terry..correct me if I may be wrong, but the leghorn will be a bit older by a month..that may be an advantage for her..Also..thank you Terry…You are the first person that has said what I always wondered…why do “birds of a feather, flock together”? I am always amazed by this and the reason I try and get 2 of whatever I order!

          • Chickens have flocking behavior, just like wild birds. How do birds know to mass together before migration? Flocking instinct. Birds recognize others that look like themselves. Doesn’t mean a mixed flock can’t get along, but it’s something to be aware of, especially when introducing new birds to the flock.

          • Thanks, Donna! Glad to know the age discrepancy will help the leghorn.

    • I’ll add my two cents.
      Rebecca I think the leghorn will be fine as well. I think the biggest key to calm, friendly birds is contact. Handle them while they are chicks, spend time in the coop with them as chicks etc.
      I can speak from years of experience with a “fun” flock and a production flock. Except to feed, water, collect eggs and clean up I ignore my production flock. They are very stand offish. I go into the coop they all run out the pop door. When I need to catch a hen in the prod. flock for any reason the chase is on!!! My “fun” flock meet me in the coop and actually get under foot, I have not problems just bending down and picking up any hen I want. Actually I have a pearl leghorn in my fun flock and she is fine. Although she is very skiddish around my dogs and the rest or not.

      • I’m not surprised your leghorn is skittish. They are definitely a more active, alert breed. If handled a lot they get quite tame and friendly. I like them – but wouldn’t want a whole flock of them!

      • Thanks, Ken and Terry!
        I really appreciate the feedback. Glad to know that the age discrepancies won’t be a problem. I am no longer worrying!

  5. Hi Terry,
    I’m glad the egg steaming worked well for you. I’ve actually never seen an egg steamer before. My stainless steel veggie steam basket works just fine. Not nearly as cute as the steamer in the picture though!

  6. Can I steam eggs in a vegetable steamer basket in a pot on the stove?!

  7. Do you start with cold water or heat the water first and then put the steamer basket in?

  8. Do you start with cold water or heat the water first and then put the steamer basket in? When do you start timing? Longer time for larger eggs?
    This is a new technique for me and of course it’s not covered in your book!! ;-)

    • Hi Carolyn – it’s new for me, too :) I don’t think the temp of the water maters when you start. It’ll just take longer if you start with cold water. I’d simply put water in the bottom of the pan, put in the steamer basket, put in the eggs, and bring to a boil. When it’s simmering, cover and start timing. Twenty minutes does the job, but I’ll have to experiment and see if it can be accomplished in less time.
      You can be sure this will be in the next book! :)

  9. So far, so good! I just finished eating my 1st hard-steamed egg. It peeled like a dream – the shell just floated off. . . I had it with a whole wheat English muffin & a little strawberry jam. The egg was so tender and tasty (add fresh-ground pepper) with no sign of green! I used a 1 qt. pan; 1/4 C tap water; steamer basket; 1 grocery large egg; bring to boil; lower to simmer; cover tightly; and yes, Terry, in 20 minutes I put it into a bowl of cold water, waited a few minutes and voila! Delicious! Will try more eggs next round to see if timing is the same. :)