A Most EGGcellent Egg Tutorial
Eggs are no yolk…see what I did there? 😉 All kidding (and puns!) aside, eggs are an important part of a cook’s life. They take part in so many different kinds of recipes. Yep. It’s true. So, consider this a crash course in eggs. They really are everything they are cracked up to be (ok, ok, I’ll stop) 🙂
Let’s start with basic egg knowledge
Why do we use eggs in so many recipes? What makes an egg bind your meatballs together? How is it meringue is so light and airy? It’s simple: the egg’s composition. An egg consists of two parts – the white and the yolk – and each work differently to help us create delicious cuisine.
The yolk contains all of the fat and most of the flavor of an egg. The fat gives sauces (like hollandaise) it’s creamy body and typically holds nutritional value. When you crack a fresh egg, the yolk is plump and firm. As the egg ages, the consistency can become more slack. Each consistency is important for different reasons; we’ll talk about why later.
The white of the eggs is the liquid consistency you see when you crack an egg. Did you know it holds 2/3 of the egg’s liquid? It also houses over half of the egg’s protein. Egg whites, when whipped, can multiply many times over its original volume by becoming fluffy and foaming. This does not work, however, if any fat (the yolk) is present when whipping. So, if you’re making macarons or meringue, make sure no yolk is present. Separate your eggs as best as you can.
Fresh vs. refrigerated eggs
First, let me be clear that all eggs should be refrigerated. However, as mentioned above, when you crack a very fresh egg, everything will be firmed in texture and consistency. This is important for when you fry, poach, or bake eggs. The shape will look more beautiful than one that has been refrigerated for a couple of weeks.
An egg that has been in the refrigerator longer will have a more watery consistency and the yolk will be much less firm. This is a good thing when you are hard boiling an egg. Why? The membrane inside the shell loosens with time, making your hard boiled egg easier to peel. When you’re scrambling eggs for omelets, using them in cakes and cookies, and for many other recipes, older eggs will do just fine.
TIP: If the shape of the egg matters, use fresh. If it doesn’t, or needs to be peeled after being cooked, older is fine.
How long do they last?
Eggs typically keep for four to five weeks past the expiration date on the package. If you wait longer, the quality of the eggs starts to go down drastically due to air pockets being formed. Remember: if they egg starts to smell, don’t risk it. Throw it away and buy new.
Can you eat raw eggs?
You can eat raw eggs but pregnant women, babies and young children should avoid them as a precaution. With any raw food, bacteria is present and can be harmful, so eat at your own risk. Egg substitute is a good alternative if you’re concerned.
How to pick the right eggs when shopping
Now that you understand the basic egg makeup, let’s talk about actually purchasing the eggs. Here’s what you need to know:
Understanding the carton labels
- What grades of eggs are there and what do they mean? – The USDA grades eggs as AA, A, or B. The grades are determined by appearance, texture and flavor. Grade B eggs are the best quality and are typically not found in supermarkets. Commercial restaurants and bakeries use these most often.
- What size should you buy? – You can buy eggs in sizes from peewee to jumbo. However, the Kitchen Chicks recommend by “large” sized eggs. These are what you will most often see used in recipes unless otherwise stated.
- Brown vs. white eggs: Does it matter? – In short, no. Brown eggs, unlike bread, is not inherently healthier or more nutritious than white eggs. They are not anymore natural either. The color of an egg is determined by the color and the breed of the hen that laid it. So how did the brown egg get such a good reputation? Typically, hens that lay brown eggs are found on smaller farms while commercial eggs tend to use hens that lay white eggs. They are more expensive because hens that lay brown eggs tend to eat more, making the entire production a bit more costly for the farmer.
- Should you buy organic eggs? – This is a personal choice. In my opinion, organic eggs are a more pure bet. Eggs that have been certified organic have come from hens that are fed organic food, meaning no pesticides or commercial fertilizers were used while raising them. “Organic” labeling is determined by the USDA.
- Free-range vs. cage-free: Isn’t it the same? No. Free-range hens have access to the outdoors. Cage-free means there are no cages, but the hens may or may not see the light of day and could be packed tightly into a barn of sorts.
- Low-cholesterol eggs – Seems odd maybe, but actually low-cholesterol eggs are possible because of a change in a hen’s diet.
- Omega-3 eggs – Similar to low-cholesterol, the farmers feed the hens diets that are rich in foods like flaxseed and fish oil which, in turn, makes the yolks of their eggs have three to five times more omega-3 levels than standard eggs
What other questions do you have about eggs that weren’t answered here? Let us know in the comments!