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Eggs 101

It’s just about time we have a week completely dedicated to (negotiably) one of my favorite foods (ever)…eggs!

Closeup photo of a brown egg in a carton

While my boyfriend may scoff at my level of egg consumption, pegging it as another one of my American habits, I like to think of myself as an egg aficionado. How could you not love the perfection that is an egg?! So this Egg Week Rundown is a bit lengthy because there’s just SO MUCH TO COVER!

Variations of eggs

Egg colors

The color of the egg shell can range from white to brown to olive green. The difference lies in the breed of the hen. And funnily enough, you can determine what color a hen’s eggs will be by the color of her earlobe (where exactly a hen’s earlobe is beats me). Nutritional content is the same, regardless of shell color.

The color of the yolk is determined by the hen’s diet. The rule of thumb here is the darker the yolk, the more likely that the hen was free-range. Darker yolks are attributed to diets higher in green plants and deeply-pigmented plants materials, easily accessible by free-range chickens. Lighter yolks are a result of a diet high in wheat, barley, and corn meal.

Grades of eggs

Grading of eggs is voluntary and is conducted by the USDA. The grade characterizes the quality of both the exterior and interior.

  • AA: Have a small air pocket with a white that stands well around the yolk
  • A: May have a larger air pocket and a thinner egg white
  • B: The air pocket may be large with possible staining on the shell

Egg labelling

  • Cage-Free: Hens are not confined to a cage; however, they may not be running happily around a field. Cage-free can constitute a wide array of chicken environments, from cramped in a warehouse to wandering about outside.
  • Free-Range: Hens are free to roam about outside for at least part of the day.
  • Natural: The term “natural” is not regulated so this could really mean anything the manufacturer wants it to mean.
  • Organic: The term “organic”, unlike “natural”, is mandated. Certified organic hens are fed organic vegetarian diets free from genetically-modified foods or foods produced with pesticides. The hens do not receive antibiotics or vaccines, and are often also cage-free.
  • Pasteurized: Pasteurized eggs have been heated in their shells to 140 degrees F for 3.5 minutes. This kills many of the bacteria, namely Salmonella, making this a good option for those with weakened immune systems.

Sidenote: The eggs you buy at the store are not unhatched baby chickens. 99% of the time these are eggs that went unfertilized. Were they to have been fertilized, the yolk would have been the nutrient source that the baby bird would have used to grow! But hens will typically lay an egg every 25 hours, fertilized or not.

Eggs in a grocery store

How to store eggs

Refrigerated eggs will stay good for about a month. How can you test whether your eggs are still good? Place an egg in a full glass of water. If the egg lies flat on the bottom, it is fresh. If it stands up, it’s on its way to bad. And if your egg floats, toss it.

It’s okay to store eggs at room temperature DEPENDING on production method. In America, eggs are powerwashed before selling. This removes the natural coating that protects the eggs from nasty bacteria, so we must keep our eggs below 40 degrees F to ward off potential foodborne pathogens. Some other countries choose to leave this layer on, so if you go abroad and panic because the eggs are all sitting out, it’s okay!

Egg whites tolerate freezing well, though the yolks do not. Separate the whites from the yolk and place in an icecube tray to freeze.

Eggs in a carton

How to cook eggs

Hardboiled: Set eggs in a pot full of cold water. Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. When water boils, remove pot from heat, cover, and allow eggs to stand about 12 minutes. Remove from water and either eat warm or run under cold water and refrigerate.

Scrambled: The best ever scrambled eggs are those of my grandmother, Reeree. To make Reeree Eggs, whisk your eggs up in a bowl. Add in a dash of milk for each egg, and continue to whisk. Get yourself one slice of White American cheese for each egg, tear those up, and throw them in too. Cook in a skillet, constantly stirring and flipping and scrambling, until eggs are cooked and fluffy and amazing.

Sunny-Side Up: Carefully crack egg into a pan and cook, covered, for about 3 minutes.

Poached: Bring a pan of water to a slow simmer and add a dash of white vinegar. Crack your egg into a shallow cup, then gently ease it into the water. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes. Remove and set on a paper towel to dry.

Close up photo of a brown egg in a carton

Common uses for eggs

  • Emulsifier: You know how water and oil don’t mix? Well egg yolks can make them mix. Lecithin, found in the yolk, is a phospholipid, so it has a side that loves water and a side that loves oil. The egg yolk makes water and oil stick together in what’s called an emulsion. Some common emulsions include mayonnaise, oil and vinegar salad dressings, and hollandaise sauce.
  • Glaze: A quick brush of whole egg on baked goods gives them a shiny gloss. A glaze of simple egg whites gives a matte look and aids in browning.
  • Leavening Agent: Can be used to make things rise, like in Angel Food Cake!
  • Thickener: A smooth and rich thickener to sauces.

Egg nutrition facts

Per 1 large egg (about 50g)

  • Calories: 70
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Protein: 6g
  • Fat: 5g, 185 mg cholesterol
  • The Egg White: 3.5 g protein, 0.05g fat, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium
  • The Egg Yolk: 2.5 g protein, 4.5 g fat, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Calcium, Phosphorus, Choline, Folate

Worried about your cholesterol? Research is beginning to indicate that our dietary cholesterol may not have as great of an impact on our blood cholesterol as we previously thought. Recent studies suggest that egg consumption of 1 egg per day is not related to increased risk of heart disease in healthy populations. For those with high LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) and total cholesterol, however, reduction of dietary cholesterol may be beneficial.

Brown and white eggs in a carton

Hi, I’m Sarah!

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