10 Things You Need to Know About Eggs
Every egg lover should have these tips, tricks and facts in their back pocket.
Be an "Eggs-pert"
You eat 'em for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And with the following essential knowledge, you can also crack the code on carton labels, storage, cooking techniques — and how to finally make peeling shells for deviled eggs easier.
Color Doesn't Matter
When it comes to nutrition and flavor, an egg's shell color has no significant impact. White and brown eggs simply come from different breeds of chickens. If you find brown eggs a little pricier, it's often because the types of hens that lay them eat more food.
Some (But Not All) Labels Make a Difference
Some labels are a helpful indication of how your eggs' hens are treated: "Cage-Free" means that hens are not confined to small enclosures and are free to roam in large chicken houses or barns. "USDA Organic" eggs come from uncaged hens that are given organic, vegetarian, GMO-free feed and have access to the outdoors (these are the kind of eggs we use in Food Network Kitchen).
But other labels you can basically ignore: "Natural" means nothing was added to the egg, which is true of all eggs. "Produced Without Antibiotics" is irrelevant since hens in the United States aren't given antibiotics on a continuing basis anyway. If you like, you can spring for "Omega-3" eggs, which come from hens fed a diet rich in the fatty acids — but keep in mind that oily fish (like anchovies and wild salmon), walnuts and flaxseeds are also great sources of Omega-3s.
You Need to Refrigerate Eggs — But Don't Put Them on the Fridge Door
Don't be seduced by dreamy shots of English country kitchens with baskets of eggs out on the table. In the United Kingdom, farmers vaccinate hens so the eggs aren't as vulnerable to developing salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. Not so, here in the United States. Instead, processors wash and sanitize the eggs themselves. The eggs are then refrigerated, per USDA requirements. And once refrigerated, they should stay that way. "A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the movement of bacteria into the egg and increasing the growth of bacteria," the organization warns.
Eggs should be stored in the back of the refrigerator, which tends to be colder than the space on the door. (All that opening and closing exposes it to more room temperature air.) Need another reason? Agitation and movement can also thin the whites, which can lead to a runnier egg in the pan, says food scientist and author Harold McGee.
Older Eggs Are Easier to Peel
That's because in fresh eggs, the albumen (that thin skin on the outside of an egg white) sticks to the inside of the shell. As an egg ages, its contents contract and the air cell between the membranes increases. With more separation, the peel comes right off.
Water Can Help You Test an Egg's Freshness
The fresher the egg, the faster it will fall to the bottom of a bowl of cold water. Any eggs that float should be discarded. Eggs should last up to 5 weeks after you bring them home from the store.
Crack on the Counter, Not on a Bowl
When you crack an egg on a flat surface, you get an even clean break. Knock it on the rim of a bowl and shards are forced inside to the white (and could end up on your plate later!).
You Can Separate Eggs with Your Hands
Cut down on drawer clutter and toss that gadget separator. Freshly-washed, clean hands work just as well. Here's how: Break an egg into your hand and let the whites run through your fingers into a bowl placed below.
Pro move: If you are separating a bunch of eggs, don't do it over one big bowl. (If you break one yolk, your whole batch of whites will be ruined.) The better way is to separate each egg over a small bowl and then add it to a large bowl of whites.
You Can Freeze Extra Egg Whites
They will still whip up to a nice froth after they've been thawed (though it will take a little more work). Yolks don't freeze well, so if you have some left over, seize the day and make them into a custard, hollandaise or ice cream.
Bring Eggs to Room Temperature in Hot Water
Many baking recipes call for eggs between 65 and 75 degrees F. If you forget to take them out of the refrigerator ahead of time, place them in a bowl of hot tap water while you gather your other ingredients.
A Hard-Boiled Egg Spins Like a Top
Can't remember which eggs are raw and which have been cooked? Place the egg on a flat surface and give it a spin. A raw egg will spin slowly or wobble. A cooked one will turn quickly and steadily. Hard-boiled eggs will last 1 week in the fridge. Want to make salad from Easter eggs? Only use those that have been left out for 2 hours or less, preferably in a spot away from dirt, pets and other contaminants.