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The Correct Color Palette for a Hard-Boiled Egg

We hard boil eggs at my work. Lately the whites keep turning a brown/orange color. I think it is because they cook them too long, because the yolk turns green, too, indicating that they are overcooked. Others think it is because the eggs might be bad. Any thoughts?

We had no idea there were whole businesses in this country dedicated to hard boiling eggs. No wonder you want to get it right!

You may be right about the greenish ring, which can come from overcooking the eggs. It can also result from a high concentration of iron in the cooking water.

To avoid the green yolk syndrome, cook the eggs at the proper temperature for the right amount of time, and cool them immediately. You might conduct an extravagant experiment by cooking a batch of eggs in distilled or bottled water to see whether the problem is the concentration of iron in your tap water.

Your egg-white problem is quite possibly related.

According to the American Egg Board, the white of a hard-cooked egg may darken to a caramel shade due to a high amount of iron in the cooking water (could that be the brown/orange color of your description?) Again, that costly store-bought water experiment may solve your problem.

The egg board says a carbonylamine-type reaction is the other possible cause of caramel colored whites. This is a reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars, and is the first stage in Maillard reactions — the browning that occurs in meat and bread when cooked or toasted over high heat (and which some people mistakenly characterize as "carmelization," which only occurs with sugar.)

We have no idea what to suggest if your eggs are undergoing carbonylamine-type reactions, but feel sure that those are related to too much heat for too long.

We do not think your eggs are bad.

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