How to Crack an Egg

The Best, Safest, Tidiest Method

Man cracking an egg into a bowl

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If you've done much cooking, you've likely cracked your share of eggs. The most common method is to crack the egg against the rim of whatever bowl or pan you intend the cracked egg to go into. This generally works just fine, but is there a better way?

Issues With Cracking Eggs

There are two main issues most people have when cracking eggs:

  1. The yolk can rupture when you crack the egg. If you're scrambling or beating the eggs, this doesn't matter, but if you're making fried eggs, it does. 
  2. Pieces of shell can end up in the bowl or pan along with the egg, which is a pain no matter how you're using the eggs.

And that's pretty much it. When it comes to egg-cracking methods, "It's not fast enough" and "It's not fancy enough" are not pressing issues for most home cooks. If you work in a restaurant, or perform live cooking demos at a circus, that's a different story. But if that's you, you probably already have your technique down pat.

Otherwise, it basically comes down to not getting bits of shell in the egg and not breaking the yolks. And it turns out there is one super-simple method that makes both of these things less likely. 

Crack Against a Flat Surface

Some might argue that how the eggs are used in a recipe should determine how to crack the egg. But this makes no sense. After all, there is no recipe where you are trying to get egg shell into the dish. So whether you're using whole eggs for baking, making omelets or scrambles, using just the yolks (like for custard or pasta) or just the whites (meringues, pavlova), you should crack your eggs the same way: against a flat surface like your countertop. 

The reason this method is superior to cracking against the rim of a bowl or pan is that the rim method is more likely to (1) drive fragments of shell into the egg and (2) rupture the yolk. It's also messier, leading to raw egg dripping down the outside of your bowl, or worse, down the side of the pan, where it will burn.

(Some cooks point out that the flat surface method is better in terms of food safety, since it's less likely to drive bacteria from the surface of the shell into the egg.) 

To crack an egg on the countertop, aim for the side of the egg, midway between the pointy end and the round end. Give it a gentle tap, using just enough force to break the shell, but not tear the inner membrane. Then hold the egg over your bowl or pan and pry the crack apart using your thumbs, releasing the raw egg into the receptacle. Be sure to open the crack wide apart, so the yolk doesn't tear as it passes through. This method is much less likely to result in a broken yolk or fragments of shell in your egg, and it's less messy. 

How Not to Crack an Egg

Some home cooks like to crack the side of the egg with a knife's edge, then pulling the crack apart with their fingers. Apart from needing to use (and wash) a separate utensil just for this, this method is also highly likely to drive tiny fragments of egg shell into the egg. So, not the best method.

Other cooks use an egg cutter, the sort used for opening a soft-boiled egg, to cut the top off the raw egg and then pour it out. Unless you want to preserve the shell for presentation purposes, there is no reason to use this method.

Cracking Boiled Eggs

Cracking a hard-boiled egg is a different matter altogether, but we may as well address it. There's the roll method, where you roll the egg under your palm against the countertop while pressing down gently. If this works for you, go for it. Likewise, you can tap the top or bottom end of the egg to find the air pocket, then peel the egg from there. And of course, you can peel it either submerged or under running water. If any of these works for you, great. There is no major revelation to be had here.

Cracking Eggs with One Hand

Cracking with one hand is something many restaurant cooks do, mostly because they're in a hurry, and like to do an egg in each hand. It's messy, however, and leads to broken yolks and bits of shell in the egg. There is certainly no culinary reason to do it.

But if it strikes your fancy, simply grasp the egg firmly in your hand with your fingers spread apart and your thumb and pinky underneath. Crack the egg on the counter, then pull the halves apart with your fingers. You'll get egg on your hands and everywhere else, and have to end up fishing shell fragments out of the egg, but you might enjoy yourself.

By no means should you use this method when separating yolks from whites, as you'll most likely break the yolk, and end up with egg whites with specks of yolk (along with shell) within it.

Egg Cracking Hacks

  • If you do get a piece of egg shell in your egg, you can use one section of the shell to scoop it out. And if you're concerned about salmonella, the CDC estimates that 1 in 20,000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella. So you might encounter an egg with salmonella once every 100 years or so, if you eat 200 eggs a year.
  • Crack your eggs into individual bowls or ramekins when making poached eggs, then use this dish to gently place the egg in the poaching liquid. You can also use this technique when making sunny-side up eggs.
Article Sources
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  1. Handling eggs safely to prevent Salmonella. University of Minnesota Extension