The Real Reason Egg Salad Can Smell So Strange

Egg salad has been around for centuries, with the egg salad sandwich dating all the way to the 1800s (via Taste Atlas). However, there's one thing that any fan of the dish knows — while you can enjoy egg salad worry-free at home, it can be challenging to eat in any type of public setting because of the smell. Even if all your ingredients are as fresh as can be, there's a distinctive odor that may cause others around you to wrinkle their noses in revulsion.

So, what's the story behind the signature scent? It turns out, it's all because of one particular protein within the egg white. The white portion of the egg has a protein called ovalbumin, which has a tiny amount of sulfur in it (via National Post). When you prepare the eggs for egg salad by boiling them, you set off a reaction in which the trace amount of sulfur in the egg white is agitated. It then reacts with the iron found in the egg yolks. Ferrous sulfide and ferric sulfide are produced, and the aroma wafts through the air. This particular reaction is also the reason that you'll see a bit of a greenish tinge around the edges of your egg yolk if you've overcooked the hard-boiled eggs (via Jessica Gavin). There's no way around the reaction, as you obviously can't make egg salad with raw eggs. However, there are a few small tips that may make the dish's aroma more palatable.

A few tips to battle the unpleasant smell

To cut off the sulfurous scent from the very beginning, there are a few steps to incorporate into your hard-boiling process. The first is to include a few teaspoons of white distilled vinegar in the water you use to boil your eggs (via Hunker), as the vinegar will help to battle any odors that may emerge. To avoid overcooking the eggs, make sure that you don't skip the step of placing eggs in a bath of icy water the moment you think they're finished in order to halt the cooking process in its tracks, hopefully avoiding that unappetizing and malodorous scent.

There are also a few helpful ingredients that can be incorporated into your recipe for egg salad. Keep the vinegar from your hard-boiling process within reach, because adding just a splash — we're talking about a teaspoon or so — into your egg salad mixture can help battle any odor in your recipe (via Leaf). Additionally, be mindful that you don't incorporate way too much mayo, as that can also contribute to a less-than-appetizing smell. Your seasoning can also play a part in eliminating any aromas. Spoon University recommends adding a tiny pinch of turmeric alongside any other spices you may include. You don't want to turn your salad a vibrant orange hue (or maybe you do!), but the spice will help to balance out the sulfur smell (via The Healthy).