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In this America's Test Kitchen video they add salt to the cold water when hard boiling eggs.

Would the salt actually permeate the shell and flavor the egg? That seems unlikely to me and is just a waste of good salt.

(Apart from the salt, that method is not new to me. My old, Mom-gave-it-to-me-when-I-got-my-first-apartment Betty Crocker cookbook has the same instructions.)

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They didn't say the salt had any effect on the flavor. I'm pretty sure the idea is to have some effect on how easy it is to peel the egg, but I don't know how effective it is or why. –  Jefromi Mar 30 '12 at 17:52

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Salt or acid is often added to the water when boiling eggs to denature egg whites faster should there be a crack and a leak.

I have not read anything that experiments whether this is effective. It also sounds like "don't wash mushrooms" or "pasta must be cooked in a ton of water" kind of old wives tales.

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Ever heard of Salted Duck Eggs??? They are an amazing delicacy! The fresh duck eggs (Eggs that are not cooked at all and have no cracks) are soaked in salty water for a couple of weeks and once they are ready to be eaten they are hard boiled. The salty water is absorbed through the shell of the egg and flavours the egg to make these amazing salted duck eggs.

But it takes a couple weeks to be able to even taste the salt so I would say that if you are doing this to flavour the egg then it is a waste of salt, but salt increases the boiling point of water so that's probably why they did so.

Please feel free to test it out for your self, I generally put salt in hot water and mix it to dissolve the salt and then put the salty water in a container or jar with the eggs and let it sit for about 3 weeks, then boil them as usual to make hard boiled eggs. There are recipes you can find if you want specific measurements.

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Salt does permeate the shell and flavor the egg, but not the quantities you're talking about.

How do I know? I grew up eating Chinese tea eggs, which are made by soaking a hard boiled egg in a salty solution. They're normally cracked but not peeled before soaking, and are soaked for a number of hours, up to a few days.

For a quick boil like this, I'm sure the flavor impact is minimal. Salt has other properties, like raising the boiling point of water and pulling moisture out of solids via osmosis.

It's possible that one of these side effects positively affect the peeling or how the egg cooks. Perhaps someone came up with this technique with one of those parameters in mind, but the goal was lost in translation.

It could also be, as Sobachatina said, just a myth. It's not for the flavor, though.

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No, salt does not "permeate the shell" - it goes through the cracks. –  Jefromi Mar 31 '12 at 5:59
    
It does. In the years of making these eggs, some slipped through the cracks and we didn't crack some at all. After soaking in a saline solution, they weren't as salty, but they clearly had a salt flavor. –  Eric Hu Mar 31 '12 at 11:04
    
Then maybe you should've put that in your answer - clearly way more is going to go through cracks than anything else, so there's no reason to think that any's going through the shell unless you say that. –  Jefromi Mar 31 '12 at 15:20

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