Eggs Under Pressure

Eggs Under Pressure

Over the years, I’ve tried almost ever method of hard cooking eggs: steaming, starting them in cold water, baking them in oven, even throwing them into boiling water. I still stand by steaming as a reliable method for perfectly hard cooked eggs that are relatively easy to peel, but recently I’ve taken to steaming the eggs in a pressure cooker for the easiest peeling I’ve ever experienced.

I realize that this method is nothing new to the interwebs, but I’ve been bothered by the various explanations I’ve found for the phenomenon. The general consensus is that the increase in atmospheric pressure inside the cooker forces the airspace inside the egg to expand. Any scuba diver who’s accidentally held his or her breath during an emergency ascent can attest to the fact that this makes no sense whatsoever. It’s just not how gases work. However, I do believe that pressure is a factor. As the temperature of the air inside the egg rapidly rises in the pressure cooker, it wants to expand and it makes sense that the increased atmospheric pressure (typically 7-8psi in most electric pressure steamers) prevents that air from escaping through pours in the shell. But even if pressure makes some difference, I don’t think it makes that much difference. Three other factors are of far greater importance in easy peelability:

  1. Age increases the size of the airspace as well as the pH of the eggs thus weakening the bonding power of the internal membranes. (The ideal pH is 8.6 to 8.9 which a typical chicken egg reaches about 10 days after being laid.)
  2. Eggs that are quickly heated are easier to peel than eggs that are slowly heated, say in cold water brought to a boil. Fast cooking prevents the white from bonding so epoxy-like to the outer membranes. Since pressure steamers can generate temperatures between 230 and 250 degrees F I suspect that this is actually why folks think they’re magic egg machines.
  3. Thorough cooling eases peeling by allowing the proteins in the albumen to fully set and harden, thus preventing tearing.

So do I like a pressure steamer for hard cooked eggs? I do. They’re fast, economical and they definitely heat eggs to a higher temperature than boiling water. But, they’re not magic and in the end you’re still better off letting your eggs age a few days before putting that cooker to the test.

Alton Brown's Eggs Under Pressure Recipe

Eggs Under Pressure
Yields 12
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  1. 12 large eggs
  2. 1 cup cool water
In a Stove Top Pressure Cooker
  1. Set the eggs on a steamer basket or a two-tiered Steel Lotus*. Pour the water into the electric pressure cooker and the steamer basket of eggs, secure the lid. Bring the pressure cooker to 'low' pressure over medium-high heat (a low hiss is a good indicator if your pot doesn't have a marker for 'low'. The pressure cooker will take about 7 minutes to come to pressure then set a timer for 6 minutes (so 13 minutes total cook time). Kill the heat and release the pressure on the cooker. (Most modern cookers use a sprig-loaded device and will feature a release switch/button.) If you don't want to wait, simply move the cooker to the sink and spray the lid and sides with cold water. Immediately plunge the eggs into an ice bath. Cool to the touch (at least 5 minutes, 20 is better) and peel.
In an Electric Pressure Cooker
  1. Set the eggs on a steamer basket or a two-tiered Steel Lotus. Pour the water into the electric pressure cooker and the steamer basket of eggs, secure the lid, close the pressure valve and set to 'steam' on low pressure for 6 minutes. The pressure cooker will take about 9 minutes to come to pressure then begin the count down from 6 minutes (so 15 minutes total cook time). Release the pressure valve until the cooker losses all pressure (about a minute) and immediately plunge the eggs into an ice bath. Cool to the touch (at least 5 minutes, 20 is better) and peel.
  1. Store peeled eggs covered in water to reduce the sulfur smell associated with boiled eggs.
  2. The famed and fabled "steel lotus" is basically what you get when you thread 3 collapsible metal steamer baskets onto a long piece of threaded stock from the hardware store. it's perfect for pressure long as you don't make it too tall for your cooker.
Alton Brown's Eggs Under Pressure Recipe


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  1. 1
    Rick Stirling

    All pressure cookers are not created equal. My electric pressure cooker’s (GoWise USA 8 qt) low pressure is equal to the InstaPot high pressure. That is useful as at my altitude of 6000′ I can still get to a internal cooking temperature of ~245 deg F. Bottom line, there is no ‘one method’ to making hard boiled eggs with a pressure cooker as there are too many variables. The method that works for me is high pressure 5 minutes, natural release, then remove eggs to cold water until they cool then pop them out of their shells. By the way, if you buy eggs with micro-cracks from rough handling, they will probably crack open when cooked in the pressure cooker.

  2. 2

    @Steve You want 6 minutes of total *cooking time* under pressure, no matter how long it takes to get to pressure. Just set the IP for a 6-minute cook time and don’t worry about the 15 minutes—He arrived at that number because many electric pressure cookers take up to 9 minutes to reach pressure (9 + 6 = 15). I routinely make perfect hardboiled eggs in the IP with a 6-minute cook time.

  3. 6

    I have a stovetop pressure cooker and an electric stovetop. This makes it difficult for me to gauge the intensity of the burners’ heat with any precision. I followed the instructions as best I could and my eggs came out great! They are hard boiled yet the yolks are still nice and creamy. They are also a cinch to peel! I will pressure cook my eggs like this from now on.

  4. 7

    I usually put eggs in a pot of water, bring to hard boil, and keep it going for 4 minutes. At that point the yolk is just beginning to cook. If I want it medium, I let it sit for a little longer with the heat off, then drain and rinse under cold water. If I want it hard, I boil for another two minutes then immediately rinse. If I want soft boiled eggs, I bring the water to a hard boil before carefully placing the eggs in and cook for 4 minutes, then almost immediately run under cold water (have to be careful, as if you’re too fast some of the white will be uncooked. I prefer the outside edge of the yolk cooked, so I take my time).

    I’ll have to get a pressure cooker so I can try this method.

  5. 8

    Similar to other Instant Pot users, my IP Duo Plus gets to pressure (low, steam) in a few minutes. I cooked the eggs for 6 and then let them site while pressure manually/slowly release for another 6 to get to the 15 minutes. Egg whites were good but yolks were chalky and not completely done. Any recommendations? Steam for longer?

  6. 11

    Alex. I was right most of you don’t know anything about cookers , that is total minuites Alton is saying , not not total cooking time as it is the time it takes to get to pressure , and the cook time it’s a lot easier going that route than to sit there and baby a pressure a pressure cooker set the time Alton says then
    Walk away ,come back and release what ever pressure is left ,I hope you can set time when finished as some go in low stand by time , Alton time is for natural release not quick release.

  7. 12

    Don’t blame Alton ,blame yourself , I been pressure cooking since marred in 1965 I was 22 , and to all of you who never got your eggs cooked get some one to show you how to use your p cooker . , you don’t have a clue what your doing

  8. 16
    Kenneth berend ii

    My eggs always crack in the pressure cooker. I have tried 4 minutes but the egg yolks are not done. What could cause this?

  9. 18

    I have an Instant Pot Electronic Pressure Cooker and make eggs 2-3 times per week. My method is really simple:
    Place one cup of water into the Pressure Cooker cooking pot.
    Place basket of eggs into Pressure Cooker cooking pot.
    Lock on lid and close Pressure Valve.
    Cook at (Manual button) High Pressure for 2 minutes.
    When Beep sounds, allow a Natural Pressure Release.
    Open when you feel like it (within reason). 15 minutes is good. If you plan to be away longer, drop the cook time to 1 minute.
    Dunk them in COLD water to cool, then refrigerate.

  10. 21

    This is the BEST way to make easy peeling eggs. I make them 2-3 times a week in my Instant Pot. For those having issues, you push the steam option and then use the minus sign until it says 6. Then don’t touch anything. Be sure the steam valve is closed. Also make sure the 1 cup of water is in the pot. Quick release the pressure valve at the end and they are perfect every time!

  11. 22

    I finally made PERFECT hard boiled eggs! They were sooooo easy-to-peel, and all cooked exactly as expected. I used our 6 qt. Rival electric pressure cooker, and placed the eggs in a single layer on a silicone steamer basket. I cooked them for 6 minutes on low pressure, followed by quick release of the pressure and then resting the eggs in the ice bath. I’ve tried several stove top methods before, but I’ve always ended up with ugly eggs with little cracks or divots in the whites because they were so difficult to peel. This is now the only way I’ll make them! Thank you, Alton! You did it again!

  12. 23
    Helen Nelander

    I tried this egg cooking method in my Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker. After 6 minutes at pressure, I turned it off, released the pressure, and plunged the eggs into ice water. The were RAW. Heated through, but raw.

    I repeated the process again with the 11 remaining eggs (having lost one, trying to peel it — Raw, remember?

    This time, the whites were slightly cloudy, but still uncooked. This had now been 12 minutes at pressure. I gave up and finished cooking them on the stove.

    Two thumbs down. You failed me, Alton.

    • 24

      Helen, did you inadvertently leave your steam valve open, instead of closed, by any chance? That’s the only reason I can come up with for the issue you had, as long as you put 1 cup of water into the pot with the eggs. It might be worth another try just to troubleshoot… with just a single egg next time, so that you don’t lose another dozen. I hope that helps!

    • 25

      Maybe there’s an issue with your Instant Pot. I just followed this recipe with my Instant Pot and 12 eggs and, if anything, the eggs were overdone as the yolks started to turn green.

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