How To Make the Best Egg Salad

Like deviled eggs, egg salad is known as a Southern classic.

Southern cooks have always had a deft touch with eggs. We are, after all, experts with the deviled kind, knowing just how to make them extraordinary. It pays to use those same strategies for egg salad: Start with perfectly hard-cooked eggs, season them generously, and finish with a dab of your favorite mayo. Beyond that, it's much easier than making deviled eggs because you don't have to fret over ragged yolks or runny filling.

There's nothing wrong with simply devouring it straight from the bowl, though it's easy to spoon onto a lettuce leaf or a pile of tender greens. Egg salad is also de rigueur for elegant tea sandwiches, those two-bite delights made with thinly sliced bread, crusts optional. If you moisten the perfectly cut edges of the sandwiches with mayonnaise and dip them in minced herbs, they are worthy of a tearoom or bridal shower.

Countless Southern meals and recipes rely on eggs because they're so easy and plentiful that we consider them a staple. Back when many families lived on farms or in rural communities, chickens usually pecked about the barnyard, so they were a reliable homegrown protein. As more and more people moved into town, we turned to mom-and-pop markets and shiny grocery stores to keep us supplied with fresh dozens. These days, some of us do both—buying them at the market and collecting them from our own backyard birds.

Whether eaten as a workday lunch or special-occasion fare, egg salad will come together in minutes and keep for days. It's not fast food; it's quick food—and homemade to boot.

Picnic Egg Salad on Toast
Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Cat Steele

Hard-Cooking Eggs

We commonly use the term hard-boiled eggs, but hard-cooked eggs is more accurate because you shouldn't leave them in boiling water long. Arrange the eggs in a single layer in a saucepan; add water to submerge them by 2 inches. Cover and cook over medium-high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Immediately transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water, and let cool before peeling.

Mastering Egg Salad

Four tips that will improve any recipe

  1. Crumble, Don't Mash: For a salad with hearty texture that won't turn gummy or pasty, use your hands to crumble the eggs instead of chopping the whites and mashing the yolks with a fork.
  2. Don't Overdo the Mayo: Use a light hand with mayonnaise and other binders to keep it from turning gloppy. The mixture might seem dry at first, but continue folding gently (to avoid overworking the eggs) just until it comes together.
  3. Play with Flavors: Be creative with variations, as long as the proportions remain the same. Replace the finely diced celery with seedless cucumbers or radishes. Fresh chives, parsley, or tarragon can stand in for the dill.
  4. Season Well: No matter what else you put in your egg salad, be sure to use a generous touch with the seasonings because refrigeration can dull those flavors.
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