My 5-year-old niece loves to bake, but there’s one task that makes her crinkle her nose-cracking an egg. She reasonably protests that the egg makes a mess, meaning she has to pause her baking to wash her hands (not a beloved task).
I can relate. Though I bake bread every week-sourdough, of course-I still groan at the task of cracking eggs, tweezing out the tiny shells that spill into the batter (which always seem impossibly stuck in the egg white, as though it’s lava-what’s up with that?), and, yes, washing my hands and wiping the counter once I’m done. On TV and in movies, the egg doesn’t seem nearly so finnicky. With two fingers, chefs crack the egg, tossing the crumpled shells aside like magicians flinging away silk handkerchiefs. Audrey Hepburn cracks dozens of eggs in Sabrina; I doubt that Julia Child paused in making her cakes to wash her hands. (New to baking? Work your way through our bucket list.)
Determined to improve, I asked our Test Kitchen cooks to share the pro’s secrets to cracking an egg with no fuss and no muss. They shared their three favorite techniques:
Beginners: Crack on the Countertop
No shame in using this basic method: Our Test Kitchen cooks use it as their default.
How to do it:
Imagine that the egg is standing upright. The middle or equator of the egg, where it might wear a belt, is its weakest point. You want to target this area when cracking.
Gently but firmly grasp the egg. Rap it against the countertop, so its equator lands squarely against the surface. Be calm and confident. It’s better to give it one sharp tap than several gentle, tentative cracks. Multiple hits can increase the risk of shattering the shell into lots of small pieces. You ideally want one larger split. That said, don’t overdo it, either. Smashing the egg too hard can crush the shell, making it nearly inevitable that you’ll wind up with fragments in your egg. Not fun.
Once the shell breaks, you’ve got to work the opening to release the egg. Use your thumbs to press inward and separate the shell, then pour the yolk and white from the shell into a bowl.
Test Kitchen Tip: Did you drop eggshell into your eggs? Fish out the pieces with one of the shell halves instead of your finger – shell tends to stick to shell.
Why not crack the egg on the rim of a bowl?
My mom always used the rim of a mixing bowl to crack her eggs open. But, this method increases the risk of small pieces of shell falling into the bowl. Why? First (and most obvious), because you’re cracking it right over the bowl, so that if the egg shatters, that’s where the pieces will fall. The method also breaks apart the membrane just below the surface of the shell, meaning that the tiny shards won’t stay stuck to the egg. When you crack the egg on a flat surface, like a countertop, the membrane remains intact, and will help hold the small shell pieces when you break the shell open and let the egg fall into your bowl.
Test Kitchen Tip: Crack eggs one at a time into a separate small cup or bowl before adding them to the rest of your ingredients. That saves you from accidentally adding bad eggs to a batter, spoling all your ingredients. It also makes it easier to fish out a shell if any does fall in.
Intermediate: Hit 2 Eggs Together
Nothing like a display of simple physics to impress your friends and dazzle your guests. In this method, you’re going to crack one egg by hitting it against another. The trick? The other egg won’t break.
Here’s how to do it:
Hold an egg in each hand. Tap the eggs together (again, tap at the equator, where it’s easiest to break the egg). One egg will be cracked.
As before, use your fingers to split open the eggshell, then pour the yolk and white out into a bowl.
Once you’ve cracked all your eggs but one, crack the final egg against the countertop.
This is a fun way to get kids to crack eggs. Kids can help with all of these delish dinners.
Advanced: 1-Handed Egg Crack
Want to look like a flashy, confident prime-time-worthy chef? Learn to break an egg with one hand.
Test Kitchen Tip: This method may be the most satisfying, but it isn’t the tidiest. Plus, it has a higher likelihood of dropping shell into your bowl. If that happens, remember to use one of your shell halves to scoop out the pieces for easier collection.
Here’s how it’s done:
First, hold the egg in one hand. Position your fingers so your thumb and index finger are on one side of the equator, and your middle and ring fingers are on the other (your pinky can just hang out at the end). You’re going to pull your hand apart to open the egg, so this hold is important.
Ready? Sharply crack the egg against the side of a bowl.
Immediately pull the eggshell apart using your thumb and middle finger. Use a smooth, sure motion, and the egg will plop triumphantly out of the shell.
Then again, there’s no shame in rapping it against a countertop and relishing the speed and ease of a slime-free baking session.
Want to master more kitchen skills? Check out the 35 essential recipes you should master by 35.