It would hardly seem like Easter without colored eggs, an egg hunt and a plate of deviled eggs at the day's feast. Centuries before Christ was born, pagans celebrated the return of the sun and the rebirth of nature with eggs. Eggs also play an integral role in the Passover seder plate, which features a roasted egg to symbolize the temple sacrifice and the continuing cycle of life.
According to the American Egg Board, more than 100 million dozen eggs were sold last year during the week of Easter alone. It's important to use all those eggs safely, so we've answered some common egg queries, and recommended recipes that go beyond the typical deviled eggs.
Q: Do you have any egg-buying tips?
A: Purchase eggs from a refrigerated case. Buy eggs before the “sell by” or expiration date on the carton, and always open the carton to make sure all dozen eggs are clean and uncracked.
Q: How can I tell if an egg is raw or hard-boiled?
A: If your hard-boiled eggs aren’t decorated, it’s easy to mistake them for raw ones. To see if an egg is raw or cooked, give it a spin! A cooked egg will spin easily because it is cooked through inside; a liquid egg will wobble.
Q: How should I store eggs to keep them as fresh as possible?
A: Eggs should be refrigerated as soon as possible after purchase. Store the eggs large-end up in the carton they come in to block out odors – eggs can easily take on the taste of strong-flavored foods stored nearby (like onions). Store the carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator rather than the door.
Q: How long do eggs keep?
A: Eggs used within a week of purchase will have the best flavor and cooking quality. However, if you want to beat out the Easter and Passover crowd, you can use intact eggs up to a month after purchase.
Hard-cooking removes the natural coating from eggs, making it easier for bacteria to enter through the shell's pores. Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated no longer than one week. Egg dishes like deviled eggs and egg salad should be used within three to four days.
Q: Is it safe to use eggs with cracks?
A: Bacteria can enter eggs through cracks, so check your eggs at the store before your choose your dozen. If eggs break on the way home, break them into a clean container and cook within two days. If eggs crack during hard-cooking, they are safe.
Q: How do I make hard-cooked eggs?
A: Boiling eggs can make them tough and rubbery, and eggs that are cooked too long or at too high a temperature can get green rings around the yolk. While these eggs are still fine to eat, it's better to use a gentler cooking method. Gentle cooking also helps prevent cracking.
To make hard-cooked eggs, place clean, uncracked eggs in a single layer in a saucepan. Because fresher eggs are harder to peel, older eggs make better candidates for hard-cooking.
Add enough water to come at least 1 inch above eggs. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, letting eggs stand and cook for 15 minutes. Run cold water over the eggs and refrigerate.
Q: What dyes are food-safe?
A: If you plan on eating eggs you color, be sure to use food-safe dyes. It’s safe to use commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring and fruit-drink powders. Other inks, paints and metallic dyes are fine for eggs as long as they are not consumed.
You can also dye eggs with natural hues. You can experiment with different foods, or try the following combinations with hot water and a little vinegar:
Orange – yellow onion skins
Yellow – turmeric, orange or lemon peel, carrot tops, celery seed or ground cumin
Pale Green – spinach leaves
Blue – red cabbage leaves, canned blueberries or yellow delicious apple peels
Brown – strong brewed coffee
Gray – beet or red grape juice
Q: How can I make sure my Easter eggs are safe to eat after the hunt?
A: You don’t have to give up your annual post-hunt egg salad or deviled eggs – just make sure you treat them with caution.
Keep the eggs in the refrigerator until just before the hunt. When hiding the eggs, avoid hiding cracked eggs, which are easier for bacteria to contaminate. Choose hiding places free from dirt, pets and other sources of bacteria.
Once all the eggs have been found, put the eggs back in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Eggs should be out of the fridge no more than two hours – longer than that and they can become unsafe to eat. When the temperature is 85 degrees or higher, eggs should be out the refrigerator for less than 30 minutes. Eggs found under Easter baskets several hours (or days) later should be thrown out.
To make your hunt even safer, consider purchasing pasteurized shell eggs for your hunt. Pasteurized eggs are treated with heat to kill bacteria and viruses, and can stay out of the refrigerator for about four times as long as conventional eggs. You can also use plastic or wooden eggs to avoid all possibilities of foodborne illness and, of course, that dreaded forgotten-egg smell.
Q: I'm tired of egg salad sandwiches. How can I spice up my Easter egg recipe repertoire?
A: Deviled eggs and egg salad are delicious, but sometimes you want to kick your egg recipes up a notch. Try these traditional favorites and new twists:
Easter Egg Recipe Inspiration
Chunky Egg Salad
Potato-Egg Salad (Ensalada de Papas y Huevos)
Asparagus with Vin Santo Vinaigrette
Biblos Grilled Tuna Nicoise