Should I Pierce Eggs Before Boiling?

Close-up of a person's hands peeling the shell of a boiled egg

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Despite the common belief that piercing eggs before boiling prevents the shells from cracking and makes the peeling process speedier, the American Egg Board continues to emphasize the dangers associated with doing so. Whether it is done with a pin, needle, thumbtack or other sharp object, piercing eggs prior to boiling is not a recommended practice. If you pierce, poke or prick your eggs before cooking, consider alternatives to marring the shells.

Cracking Misconceptions

After you boil a pierced egg, a quick glance can lead you to believe that there are no visible cracks in the shell. But, a closer look soon reveals tiny, hairline cracks that you may not expect. The eggshell provides a layer of protection, surrounding the contents of the egg from dangerous bacteria. Once the egg cracks, this protection is compromised and bacteria is free to enter. Consuming a pierced egg containing bacteria may make you seriously ill.

Bacteria Dangers

Salmonella Enteritidis, the bacteria that causes salmonella, is just one of several types of bacteria naturally found on eggshells. As these bacteria grow and multiply, they penetrate weak spots in the egg. Even if bacteria spores fail to enter through the cracks in pierced eggs, the possibility exists that bacteria may enter the egg via the piercing tool itself. Consuming bacteria-laden eggs exposes you to foodborne illnesses that may make you seriously ill.

A Safer Option

Instead of piercing and boiling the eggs, simmer the eggs. Gently place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan, adding water an inch higher than the top of the eggs. Bring the eggs to a strong simmer over medium-high heat, reducing the heat just before boiling. Start your timer and maintain the simmer, 2 minutes for soft-boiled, 4 1/2 minutes for medium-boiled and 8 minutes for hard-boiled. Cool the eggs under cold running water when the timer sounds to stop the cooking process.

An Easier Peel

Piercing allows water to create a separation between the inner membrane and the shell. Some cooks believe that this gap tends to make peeling a boiled egg easier. Knowing that the practice of piercing eggs can make you sick, peel the eggs immediately after cooling. Rolling the eggs on the counter before plunging them into the cold water also works to make peeling easier. You may also want to save older eggs -- not expired eggs – for boiling and the freshest eggs for other types of cooking, since the inner membrane clings more tightly to the shells of fresh eggs.