Scientists Crack the Code on How to Un-Boil a Hard-Boiled Egg

PHOTO: Scientists can now return a hard boiled egg white back to its original state.Scientists can now return a hard boiled egg white back to its original state.Getty Images
Scientists can now return a hard boiled egg white back to its original state.

Scientists have cracked the code for un-boiling hard-boiled egg whites and it could have huge implications for cancer research.

Egg whites are made of proteins that start out with a certain shape, explained Gregory Weiss, a professor of chemistry and molecular biology at the University of California, Irvine, and the experiment’s lead researcher.

“Once you boil them, the proteins stay intact but they change their conformation,” he said.

This is a big deal because even chemists assumed once you hard-boiled an egg it was game over, Weiss explained. But his team has been able to reverse the process so that proteins can be recovered and reused.

In a sort of scientific magic trick, Weiss and his team first peeled the egg whites away from the yolks and soaked them in a chemical called urea to dissolve them.

PHOTO: Scientists from the University of California Irvine use a vortex fluid device to spin hardboiled yolks back to their original shape.Gregory Weiss, University of California Irvine
Scientists from the University of California Irvine use a vortex fluid device to spin hardboiled yolks back to their original shape.

They then placed them in a device called a “vortex fluid machine,” which spins the whites at high speeds to restore them to their original state.

PHOTO: Scientists from University of California, Irvine first dissolve the hard boiled egg whites in chemicals. Gregory Weiss, University of California Irvine
Scientists from University of California, Irvine first dissolve the hard boiled egg whites in chemicals.

The process is complete in minutes rather than days, Weiss said, and this is good news for those who use similar proteins in cancer research.

Certain proteins are quite useful in the lab but they tend to mis-fold into the wrong format, rendering a large portion of them useless. This new method is a quick and simple way to coax them back into their initial forms and prevent them from clumping up inside lab instruments.

“We are already using it in our cancer research here,” Weiss said, adding that he hoped the technique will be used on a larger scale within the next few years.

However, don’t expect this discovery to revolutionize fine dining. While it’s certainly possible to reverse a hard-boiled yolk, Weiss said they haven’t yet bothered trying. And, he said, it’s also theoretically possible to un-cook a chicken but the process would make it taste awful.