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. 2

    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.

  2. 3

    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

  3. 7
    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?

  4. 9

    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.

  5. 12

    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!

  6. 13

    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!

  7. 14
    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.

    • 15

      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!

    • 16

      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.

  8. 17

    good also better for you, all the iPhone, iPad and iphone users could download and install as well as use another app which might be made use of to stream and watch motion pictures as well as TV serials flawlessly nice.

  9. 18

    an electric Pressure cooker seems to work fine, set on 7 minutes and quick release. Then plunge into ice water and leave for 5 to 10 minutes until very cool. Store in refrigerator unpeeled until ready to use. will peel easily and keep for a long time.

  10. 19
    Dr. Susan Udry

    Hi Alton ~ I think I might have an even easier way to cook eggs ~ I put 6 -12 eggs in water, bring it to a boil, cover it and turn off the flame. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Pour cold water on them, mark them with an H and put them in the fridge. It’s quick, they are easy to peal and they are always there.

  11. 22

    I am wondering if Alton Brown has played with the Maillard reaction in eggs (as I am sure he has read “On Food And Cooking” by Harold McGee and has perhaps seen presentations by him and Dave Arnold). If not, you should try cooking eggs at 15psi for 40-50 minutes…

  12. 24
    Play Store App

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  13. 25
    Ann Kosa

    My eggs come from my backyard gals, so they couldn’t be much fresher unless I stood there with a catcher’s mitt. Doing them in the electric pressure cooker on low for 5 min. followed by 5 min. depressurizing naturally and 5 min. in an ice bath gives me easy to peel and perfectly cooked large eggs with no greenish tinge around the yolk.

  14. 27

    OK, I’m mystified. I tried this on my instant pot for Easter eggs. Just went to crack one and it was 100% raw. I’ve never cooked anything on low pressure before, so I’m suspicious of that.

  15. 28
    Bill Shoemaker

    This is perfect. I had started buying already boiled eggs, because all mine were so hard to peel, had big pieces of egg come off with the peel, etc., etc.

    I tried this method, using my plain old stove top pressure cooker, and every one of them peeled perfectly. And the yolks were just right, too! Bright yellow without being underdone.

    Now,if I could just figure out why my, and every other homemade Mayo I’ve tried doesn’t taste as good as a good store bought (Dukes, Hellman’s, Best Foods, etc.)

    • 29

      A little late, but it took me four recipes and three oils to make good mayonnaise. I was about ready to give up and think I just hated mayo. I can’t eat the store stuff; it just tastes off to me. Try different oils and acids. Avocado is my favorite oil (if you have a Whole Foods near you, you can check out Primal Kitchen avocado oil mayo which is the only store bought mayo I love), and I use all lemon juice when I make it at home (but PK uses all vinegar–don’t know how they do it). For me I think it all comes down to freshness. Use good oil, not extra-virgin olive (too strong) and not canola/soy/corn (off taste). Don’t forget the salt!

  16. 30
    Ginny Sack

    ‘Pours’? Is that the same thing as the ‘pores’ in an egg shell? Or maybe it’s a ‘poor’ egg shell, I don’t know.

  17. 33
    Todd Ramsey

    Great idea! I love using your recipes and I’ve been a fan for years! Should you be using a galvanized rod to cook? Isn’t that toxic?

  18. 34
    Harry P

    I have been using the ATK method of steaming the eggs followed by ice bath recently with great success and perfect peeling (although I add a minute to the steaming time). I get my eggs from local farms, so they are quite fresh, and they peel easily and cleanly using this method. I think I will stick with that instead of getting the pressure cooker out.

  19. 35
    Eric Kamlin

    We just bought a bunch of chicks today, so I’ll have to try this out when they start laying 4-5 eggs a day in a month or so.

    • 36

      Please do your homework when raising chicks. Pullets won’t start laying eggs untill they are at least 16-20 weeks old, depending on the breed. Also they only lay 1 egg every 28ish hours. So please do not be disappointed when your month old girls are not laying 4-5 eggs a day.

  20. 37

    Years ago a local radio cooking show host in the L. A. area advocated prewarming the eggs in hot tap water before putting them into the pot of boiling water on the stove, followed by the usual peeling under cold running water. This has always worked great for me. The eggs warm up in the sink while I’m waiting for the pot to boil. Plus, I always buy eggs well ahead of time if I plan to boil up a bunch for a specific purpose. A pinhole in the end will get you a more perfectly egg – shaped egg, as it allows that pocket of air to be forced out, but that’s about all.

  21. 38

    Our pressure cooker doesn’t have a “Low” setting. What would you recommend for timing in this case? Perhaps bring to pressure and immediately release? If this is not sufficient, how long do I hold at high pressure?

  22. 40


  23. 41
    Bill Brothers

    If this is true Alton, you could test the theory by putting an egg in a fryer. This will heat up the exterior of the egg much faster than in a pressure cooker and test your bonding theory.

  24. 42

    So which is better for hard-cooking eggs? Fresh eggs or older ones? The show usually said to do fresh eggs, because the membrane hadn’t had a chance to fully develop… but it looks like here is saying that older eggs are better… Anyone able to clarify?

  25. 43

    CM, I noticed similar errors; I suspect Mr. Brown uses a dictation-type of software. Even the best proofreader can miss his own errors after spellcheck is used when words are homonyms….

  26. 44

    I grew up with an electric egg cooker/steamer/poacher. It had a “pushpin” sized tack secured inside the lid; we pushed the narrower end of each egg against it until it made a hole. There was a mark for the amount of water to add to the steamer (depending on the hardness of desired egg) which was below the rack on which the eggs sat. That little machine made perfect eggs each and every time. I asked for one for my wedding 30 years ago, but none were to be found, I guess….

  27. 45

    My husband and I find that adding baking soda to the water is the best way to get easy peeling eggs when boiling. Usually about 1/4 cup for around a dozen eggs.

  28. 47

    I recently heard that piercing eggshells with an office-style push pin before boiling will make them easier to peel. Have you heard or tried this?

    • 48

      It works for me. We have chickens, and home grown eggs are harder to peel. I poke a hole in the fat end with a pin before putting it in the water.

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