Note: Don’t read this if you’re vegan. I’m including this disclaimer because I once sent a vegan friend daily Snapchat videos of me poking eggs over easy with a fork — you know, those videos where the yolk oozes out of the moderately-runny egg and forms a little golden puddle on your plate — for about two weeks. I’m sorry.
Each morning in high school, for all 720-ish days, I microwaved a single egg in a white ribbed ramekin. It was part of my breakfast routine. My goal? An egg I could pass off as cooked sunny-side-up in a pan without using the pan.
The first few months were rough. I experimented. Should I do it in 10-second increments? Or all at once, for a minute? More time? Less? Should oil be involved? Do I poke the yolk? Heat the ramekin first, before adding the egg? Should I cover the egg with a plate? A napkin?
If you also microwave your eggs, or if you’ve seen videos like this one, you would know — or at least guess — that for the first year or so, about 57 percent of my eggs exploded. And that cleaning a microwave, in my opinion, is much more difficult than washing a pan. Imagine having to scrub gooey egg white off every imaginable square inch of a microwave.
It’s pleasant to hear eggs sizzle and pop in a frying pan. But I have not missed the wave of terror that hits me when that same sizzle and pop happens in a microwave. Watch this video, if you haven’t already. I am aware that some of the eggs in the videos I’m linking are hard-boiled eggs, which, of course, differ from what I was doing in the microwave, but my point still stands.
I haven’t taken any science classes at Yale unless you count ASTR130“The Origins and Search for Life in Our Universe,” so I’m not very qualified in the realms of physics and chemistry. But I wanted to know why my eggs were exploding all the time. I started with some very scientific research. There was more to this than I thought. I’m now aware that the exploding-egg phenomenon saw widespread publicity — if the New York Times counts as widespread publicity — in 2017, right around the time when I think I mastered my own microwaving of eggs.
Who knew that if it weren’t for the walls of said microwave, the pop that I already feared would be loud enough for someone to sue for hearing loss? Researchers examined the sound pressures from exploding eggs and presented their findings at a 2017 Acoustical Society of America meeting. They found that the pops ranged from 96 to 133 decibels. That’s not loud enough to damage hearing. But a 130-decibel sound is like having a jet plane engine jchillin’ 100 feet away from you? From an egg?
The main ideas: Egg yolks are more receptive to microwave radiation and thus get hotter than egg whites. And because of the way proteins clump together inside the egg, pockets of water vapor can form and get very, very hot. Keep microwaving the egg, and the pressure inside the pockets increases. Microwave it some more, and it gets released as steam. Hence the very scary explosion.
Possibly-obvious takeaways: relieve pressure inside the egg. If you don’t want to crack the egg first, or if you’re reheating a hard-boiled egg, poke a hole or two in the egg, and make sure the hole is deep enough. You can cover the egg to prepare for a possible explosion, but cover it with something that lets air pass through, like a napkin. Eggs also don’t need to get that hot to cook. I often cook them for an initial 30 seconds and additional ten-second intervals as needed — this is my version of interval training. Quarantine #gains?
By the end of high school, I had it figured out. Microwave-cooking eggs were easy. Then, I moved into my dorm. With dorm living came breakfast in a dining hall — here is my very large shout-out to Trumbull College’s very egg-cellent dining hall staff! — and daily hard-boiled eggs.
Tap, turn, tap again, peel, tap, peel. I peeled my eggs very conventionally. On some mornings, I ate a little bit of shell. On others, I peeled off what felt like half of the egg white. But sometimes — and these were the best times — I would watch my roommate blow her eggs out of their shells. I’ve never done it successfully, despite having watched her do it day after day. I thought watching these videos, two of which are aptly titled “How to Blow a Boiled Egg out of it’s Shell” and “How to Blow Out An Egg – Let’s Craft with Modern Mom,” would help, too. They didn’t.
A new challenge has presented itself, one that I am far from figuring out: how do you most efficiently peel a hard-boiled egg? My email is listed below. Please tell me! As you know, I don’t make hard-boiled eggs at home — I instead opt for microwaved eggs, tea eggs or eggs over easy. But I will happily take your suggestions as soon as I return to campus. Hopefully soon. Unlike my eggs, the pandemic will not be over easy. Sigh.
Phoebe Liu | firstname.lastname@example.org