All About Eggs
We all know about scrambled, fried, poached, and hard-cooked, but there’s a lot more to eggs than you ever imagined. They’re so versatile, it’s no wonder they’re considered incredible. Read on for a refresher on eggs, then check out the four recipes that show off their diversity.
Let’s face it, eggs serve so many functions in the kitchen that it’s practically impossible to cook without them. But aside from eating them for breakfast or using them in baking, have you ever stopped to think about eggs’ quirkier characteristics? Like, what’s the difference between white and brown ones? (Nutritionally, nothing, they simply come from different breeds of hens.) Or why are some hard-cooked eggs so difficult to peel? (Because they’re too fresh.) These are just two of the mysteries behind this culinary wonder.
It’s true that eggs are a bit high in cholesterol, but they can still play a part in a healthy diet, and are one of the best forms of protein you can eat. At 70 calories, a large egg contains 13 vitamins, is one of the only natural sources of vitamin D, and contains just 6% of the daily value for fat.
How to Select Eggs
When purchasing eggs, avoid those that are cracked, broken, or leaking. And although the shell is a great protective barrier, it is porous and not impenetrable, so make sure the outside of the eggs are clean.
How to Store Eggs
Eggs are best stored in their carton for a variety of reasons. Because egg shells have thousands of pores in them — like our skin — odors in the refrigerator can easily permeate the shell and taint the flavor of the egg. The pores also can cause the egg to dehydrate. Storing eggs in their carton protects them from odors and from drying out. And, eggs refrigerated in their carton, on an inside shelf, will keep for up to 4 weeks. Don’t store them in the door — it tends to be warmer there which can cause them to spoil faster.
The best way to avoid salmonella is to store eggs properly and cook them thoroughly (until the yolks are firm).
Egg Buying Know-How
How to Determine Egg Freshness
The date the eggs were packed is often indicated on the carton by a number from 1 to 365, representing consecutive days of the year (this is its Julian date). The carton below was packed on day 58 — February 27. If properly refrigerated, eggs are good 4 weeks beyond this date, indicated by the “sell by” or expiration date on the carton. This date, represented by a month and day, cannot exceed 30 days past the Julian date.
You can also tell an egg is fresh if it has a perky yolk, thick whites, and thick chalazae. Older eggs have flatter yolks, runnier whites, and the shells are much easier to peel after hard-cooking than very fresh eggs (less than a week old).
Eggs are graded according to their interior characteristics, not by how they taste or react when cooked. Grades AA and A (the most common) have tall yolks and thick whites that don’t spread much. However, Grade A whites are not as thick as Grade AA. Grade B eggs (which are often used in food service) have flatter yolks and thinner whites than Grades AA or A.
The three most common egg sizes are medium, large, and extra large. Most recipes (including Cuisine’s) are based on the use of large. If using up to 3 eggs, these sizes are interchangeable. But if a recipe calls for 4 or more eggs, use the following conversions:
4 large = 4 extra large = 5 medium
5 large = 4 extra large = 6 medium
6 large = 5 extra large = 7 medium
The Anatomy of an Egg
WHITES Also called albumen, egg whites are a key element in baking recipes. When whipped to a foam, they help cake batter rise.
SHELL Although the shell acts as a protective barrier for the inside of the egg, it still has 17,000 pores through which air flows.
AIR CELL When an egg is laid, it’s warm. As it cools, its contents contract and this pocket of air forms, usually at the wide end.
YOLK The yolk contains all of an egg’s fat and is used in cooking largely for its emulsifying and thickening properties.
CHALAZAE [kuh-LAY-zee] These thick, ropey, white strands are attached to two sides of the yolk and anchor it to the egg shell.