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The best way to crack an egg for every personality type

By Becky Krystal Washington Post

I’ve written about some pretty niche cooking topics over the years. But often the articles that are the most discussed and the most fun to debate focus on those mundane, everyday tasks in the kitchen. You know, the ones everyone has an opinion about.

One of the most recent topics du jour, thanks to the weekly live chat I host with my colleague Aaron Hutcherson: how to crack an egg. Here’s what one reader sent in:

“Is it really better to crack an egg on a flat surface? Every time I try this, it caves in the shell. I find it is much less likely to break the yolk if an egg is cracked on the side of a bowl. Has anyone done a scientific study?”

As commenter Cajaza later summed up: “This is one of the great mysteries of life.” (Right up there with which came first, the chicken or the egg, as fellow reader Lily Rowan pointed out.)

I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong way to crack an egg, only what feels right to you. Curious what other readers do, or looking for a new method to try? Step right up to find the strategy best suited to your personality!

The traditionalist:

On the counter

The chosen technique of Jacques Pépin, as mentioned by several readers. “Case closed,” commenter Theo23rd said. You, too, can look like a seasoned French chef! Or follow the lead of these impressive readers: “My husband taught me to break eggs one-handed back when we were dating in college,” Faithful Reader posted in our chat. “I use a flat surface so I can crack two in each hand at the same time,” Open_the_Pod_Bay_Door_HAL shared. What?!

Pros: Everyone has a counter, right? As the theory goes, cracking on a flat surface spreads the impact out over a greater area, which yields fewer, larger shards, Lan Lam says at Cook’s Illustrated. Good news for those who hate fishing out bits of shell once the egg ends up in the bowl. Not one, but two, readers said they crack their eggs on the edge of the counter, sort of a cross between the counter and bowl rim, to which I say, you’re much braver than I am.

Cons: Cross-contamination central! Hand-washing and kitchen hygiene is always important, but that’s especially true with eggs (and chicken), which do carry a risk of salmonella. So, yes, cracking an egg on my counter gives me the heebie-jeebies. As to cleaning the counter – well, a lot of people aren’t as good about sanitizing as they think they are. Crack onto a paper towel or flat plate if you must, but honestly, I’ve messily smashed more eggs this way than I care to admit. As the original poster in our chat said, you may get more of a caved-in shell than a cleanly broken one, meaning you have to pry through the exterior and the membrane to finish the job.

The risk-averse: Edge of the bowl

If you’re worried about getting raw egg on your countertop or you want to limit the number of surfaces the egg comes in contact with, this is your method. People will tell you that all the pros do otherwise, but it’s okay to embrace the bowl instinct.

Pros: Predictability. The egg will crack exactly where you rap it against the bowl, typically along the equator and often with enough force to split the membrane just under the shell, meaning you need merely to separate the halves to release the egg. You’ll also bypass any mess on the counter – should anything dribble down the outside of the bowl, you can quickly catch it before it makes contact with the counter (or set your bowl on a dish towel you can toss in the laundry, as I do).

Cons: Tiny shards of shell, thanks to the more concentrated point of impact, as Lam explains. It doesn’t happen every time, but be prepared to scoop pieces of shell out of the bowl. Not all bowls are created equal either, so depending on the thickness or shape of the rim, your mileage may vary.

The adventurer: Against each other

So you enjoy a little danger? Grab a pair of eggs and tap them against each other in a survival-of-the-strongest contest. “To do it, hold the eggs upright and gently, but with intention, tap one against the other,” while avoiding smashing them to smithereens, Eric Haessler at Cook’s Illustrated explains. “Inevitably, only one of them will crack because there will always be one egg whose shell is slightly stronger or weaker than the other.” Watch it in action in a video posted by Haessler’s colleague, Cook’s Illustrated Editor in Chief Dan Souza.

Pros: It’s fun! Plus, as reader Muniack said, “it’s much neater and I never get egg shells in with the egg.” As Haessler writes, “The break will be a clean divot right in the center of the egg, making it easy for you to work your thumbs into the opening, and the interior membrane should keep the shell fragments in place,” meaning fewer, if any, pieces to extract.

Cons: If you’re too aggressive, you’ll end up cracking both eggs – which is fine if you need two, but not if you’re only using one of them. (Ask me how I know.) And if you’re using all your eggs, you’ll have to crack the last one on something else.

The self-confident: With a handheld tool

Attention all you swift and decisive home cooks out there: If you’re confident in your ability to whack an egg with just the right amount of force in just the right spot, this one’s for you. As reader gotnoneck astutely observed, “The real art of cracking eggs is knowing how hard to knock them and when to pull your punches.” Among the preferred implements: sharp knife (reader mickrick), side of a fork (Candylandy), blade of a dinner knife (LadyBlakeney), edge of a spatula (a chat participant).

Pros: Avoids the question of bowl or counter. Whatever implement you use can go straight into the dishwasher. You also get to pick the point of impact.

Cons: Strike too hard and you may crack the egg all over your hand. Also I’m not sure if it was because I hit too hard or not hard enough, but my experiments with this led to shards of eggs flying all over my kitchen.