Readers ask The Kitchen Shrink culinary questions

Curious readers are constantly encountering culinary quirks at supermarkets, farmer's stands and in the kitchen. Every question is an insightful one that deserves a thoughtful answer. Here are the answers to some of your best questions:

No more egg on your face

Question:

My family loves chopped egg salad, but not mine. I have the darndest time making hard-boiled eggs. They stink, have a grey circle around the yolk and are difficult to peel. Sometimes big chunks of white tear away with the shell. I'm so frustrated, even my 12-year-old niece makes better chopped egg than me. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  • Evelyn T.

Answer:

When eggs are overcooked, they smell sulfuric and form those unsightly grey circles around their orbs. As for the peeling problem, if the eggs are very fresh, they'll be difficult to peel. So use eggs that have been sitting in your refrigerator for a few days since the white will shrink slightly from the shell over time, making it easier to peel.

For perfect hard-boiled eggs, start with a shallow pan and add enough cold, salted water to cover the eggs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow boil. Cover and continue cooking for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the eggs from the heat and add some cold water to the pan before pouring it down the drain to prevent cracking the pipes. Place the eggs in a bowl of ice water for a few seconds to create a pocket of steam between the shell and white, making it easier to peel. Tap the end containing the air sac on a hard surface, and peel away.

Musical foods

Q:

I like beans but they don't like me. I get terribly bloated among other things. How can I lessen this?

  • Patty S. (A Loyal Reader)

A:

To this day when I think of beans I recall the childhood ditty, "Beans, beans, good for your heart ..." To lessen the side effects from these lyrical foods, simply drain the water that the beans have been soaking in and rinse them several times. Sipping a cup of ginger-infused tea after the bean-fest might also relieve some of the symptoms.

Sticker shock

Q:

I've always wondered what the numbers on the sticker labels on fruits and vegetables indicate?

  • Martin T.

A:

The sticker tattoos on produce are forms of identification that tell you how the fruit and veggies have been grown or harvested. Five-digit numbers starting with nine like 92348, mean the produce has been organically grown. Four-digits beginning with numbers other than nine - for example 4367 -mean they are conventionally grown with pesticides and herbicides. Numbers beginning with eight brand them as genetically modified produce. I recommend buying nines and, where possible, locally grown.

When buying frozen packaged produce, the bar codes also identify the place of origin so you can scrutinize your foods more closely and avoid blacklisted countries or those with unsafe food reputations. Foods having bar codes starting with 00-09 are made in Canada and the U.S.; 690-692 are made in China; 30-37 are imported from France; 40-44 Germany; 47 Taiwan; 49 Japan; and 50 the United Kingdom.

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