The eggs in question. Photo: David Hammond

Walking through Trader Joe’s last week, I spotted a bag of half-a-dozen hard-boiled eggs, peeled, for $2.60. This, I thought, is ridiculous: is it possible there are some people so lazy, or so unfamiliar with the ways of the kitchen, that they can’t boil water and put eggs into it for a few minutes?!

I posted a photo of the eggs on Facebook, and initially others in the FB community shared my disdain; here are representative comments:

“What is going to happen to our kids and grandchildren? …this is just plain sad.”

“There really is no defense for removing a food from its natural packaging, which is compostable, to put it in plastic that is nothing but toxic pollution  because people can’t boil their own freaking water.”

As the conversation progressed, however, several people started speaking in defense of this product by noting:

“Many people are intimidated by cooking at home. I’m a very experienced cook and even getting perfect hardboiled eggs – from the aesthetic standpoint only, not the rest of it – is a pain for me. Being judgmental about this sort of thing is exactly why so many people fear cooking.”

“Some folks lack mobility or physical ability, others lack appliances, and others lack time. It is not what I would do at this point in my life, but I don’t need anyone to justify why they would use this product.”

Others echoed this supportive attitude, and it’s certainly valid: if a person has severe arthritis or other physical impairments that make it impossible to peel eggs, or oranges, then sure, this product makes sense. And in a world where people pay upwards of a fin for a cup of joe, it’s hard to get worked up about paying a buck and a half for six hard-boiled eggs.

Having gone around and around on this topic, I decided the only reasonable next step would be to go back to Trader Joe’s and buy that bag of peeled hard-boiled eggs and see, for myself, how they were. Monday morning, I opened the package for breakfast and with surprising immediacy, the sulphuric scent of the eggs hit my nose. They were sitting in water and were a little slimy. That was disconcerting, and I cut into the eggs expecting to see a dark corona around the yolk, indicating an over-cooked egg, I was surprised to see a perfect yellow in the center, no discoloration, no off-flavors. In fact, although the eggs may have been a little softer and smaller than the hard-boiled eggs we usually make at home, I thought these were not bad, not bad at all.

So, although I still look askance at – and am concerned about the environmental impact of –  plastic containers holding pre-cut vegetables, pre-peeled oranges and hard-boiled eggs, I can understand why some people might want to buy them, even if those people have the skill and mobility to hard boil and peel eggs all by themselves. Peeling eggs can be a drag, as the eggs (especially very fresh ones, it seems) seem frequently to become mangled as the shell clings tenaciously to the thin membrane around the egg white. It can be very frustrating getting a hard-boiled egg just right, and in this particularly period of American history, maybe it’s best to dial down the frustration whenever possible.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...

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