Today’s post is a little bit longer than normal, because I’m going to talk about three things – buying, storing, as well as how to boil an egg. If you just want to know about the boiling part, skip ahead.
Eggs are a staple food all over the world. Apparently, the average American eats about 250 eggs per person, per year, and the average hen lays about 250 eggs per year. So somewhere out there, there is one hen whose sole purpose is to provide you with your eggs. Fortunately, the grocery store acts as the middle man.
When buying eggs you get to choose which size and color you want. Size matters, color doesn’t. White, brown, or South American light blue and green eggs are all the same on the inside. Official sizes are Peewee, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and Jumbo. It is rare to see Peewee and Small eggs in grocery stores here in the USA.
Sometimes when you open a box of eggs one or two seem smaller than the rest. The cartons of eggs are actually sold by the total weight of the carton, not each individual egg. Most recipes nowadays use large eggs as the standard size.
Before putting a carton of eggs in your grocery cart, open the carton and make sure there are no cracked eggs. Move each egg slightly to make sure none are stuck to the carton. If any are stuck, choose a different carton.
Always buy eggs before the sell-by date on the carton. If stored properly in the refrigerator they should keep 3-5 weeks from the time you bring them home from the grocery store.
Here’s what to look for when you crack open an egg: If the sticky stuff surrounding the yellow yolk in the center, (known as “the white”), is somewhat cloudy, that means it’s a very fresh egg. A clear white means the egg is ageing, but still fine to use. If the white is pink or “iridescent” then the egg has probably gone off and should be thrown out.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, by the time you get home from the grocery store, you end up with a cracked egg. It may have been cracked from the very beginning, and you just didn’t notice when you were checking them in the first place.
For whatever reason, just throw the cracked egg away. There is no point eating an egg that may have an unwelcome history of germs!
The only time it really is OK to eat a cracked egg is if it cracked while you were cooking the egg. That should present no problem.
Although virtually all refrigerators in the USA have egg-holders on the door, that’s not really the best place to store eggs. There is too much temperature fluctuation on the door shelves. Consequently, the best place to store eggs is in the original carton that you bought them in.
Buying and storing eggs is different through-out the world. My post “Born in the USA” explains why.
(Briefly “In the USA, government standards say all eggs must be washed and stored at temperatures no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Washing the eggs is a good thing but it does leave the eggs without an outer coating and very susceptible to invasion by bacteria. Hence refrigeration of washed eggs is absolutely necessary.” Unwashed eggs do not need to be refrigerated)
Can Eggs be Frozen?
You can freeze eggs BUT it can be a bit more complicated than just popping them in an ice-cube tray. PLUS both the taste and texture will be compromised.
There are several very good sites that describe how to freeze eggs (if you must!) including oChef, the National Center for Home Preservation, What’s Cooking America.
Also the USDA has a great general information page on eggs.
Very few cooks (or cookbooks) agree on how to cook an egg. In fact, the BBC News announced a foolproof way to cook eggs. A temperature-sensitive ink stamped on an egg lets you know if the egg is cooked by changing color as you cook the egg!
I don’t know why everyone uses the term soft boiled or hard boiled eggs. One should never ever boil an egg. In fact, you know when a “cooked” egg is overcooked by that green ring that you sometimes see around the yolk. It is perfectly fine to eat, but it doesn’t look great.
When hard cooking eggs it is best to use eggs that are at least one week old. You will find that they are much easier to peel.
OK, here we go!
Place the eggs tightly in a single layer in a saucepan. (One egg or 10 eggs will all take the same time to cook, as long as they are in a single layer.) Add one Tablespoon of salt to the water. (This will prevent the eggs from cracking.)
Then cover the eggs with water.
Place it on your stovetop on high heat.
Cover the pan.
Bring the water to a boil.
A lot of recipes will ask you to gently place the eggs in boiling water but I don’t like to do it that way. Too often while placing the egg in the water it has slipped, cracked and …well…hello poached egg!
After the water comes to a boil, immediately shut off the stove and let the pot of eggs just sit on the stove, covered, for 15 minutes for large eggs. Some people say to remove the pan from the stove top to avoid over cooking. All pans hold heat differently. Once you make the perfect hard cooked egg, try to use the same pan and timing to make all future hard cooked eggs.
After 3-5 minutes you will have a soft cooked egg.
A hard cooked extra large egg should sit for 18 minutes.
Drain the hot water from the saucepan and let cold water run over the eggs.
It’s best to peel the eggs right before you use them.
I know two ways to make the peeling easier. One is to crack the shell at the ends of each egg and return them to cold water. This allows the water to seep in.
Or after the eggs have cooled just put them in the refrigerator for a few hours. Cold eggs are much easier to peel.
A hard cooked egg should be put in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking and will keep in the refrigerator, unpeeled, about 1 week.
That’s it for eggs!
More startcooking.com egg posts:
If all you’ve got in your refrigerator is eggs, milk and butter, you’ve got yourself a meal.
There isn’t a single time of day that scrambled eggs don’t taste good! Who knows, this simple meal may become one of YOUR signature dishes.
Here is a list of the equipment you will need to make scrambled eggs:
- A small cup to first crack the eggs into to check for shells
- A small bowl to put the eggs in for mixing
- A fork or whisk for mixing
- A small sauce pan or fry pan, preferably non stick
- A silicone spatula
- Measuring spoons
For 2 servings, or 1 ½ eggs per person the Ingredients are;
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tablespoons of milk
- 2 teaspoons of butter
- Salt and pepper to your taste
When you buy eggs in the grocery store, check that there are no broken eggs in the carton.
In the United States, by USDA requirement, eggs come already washed so you can use them straight away.
Begin by cracking each egg individually into the small cup. Check the egg to see that it looks okay and that there are no shells. Then add the egg to the mixing bowl.
Now add a sprinkle of salt and black pepper (to your taste), and 2 Tablespoons of milk to the eggs. (There is some debate – see comments below – about when to add the salt – before or after cooking.)
Beat this mixture with a fork, or a whisk, in a vigorous elliptical motion until the yolks and the whites are all a nice bright yellow and completely blended together.
(Graydon, in the comments below, likes to skip all these steps and just mix everything up in the pan you are cooking in!)
Put the beaten eggs to one side, and melt 2 teaspoons of butter over medium low heat in a non-stick pan. If you turn the burner up too high the eggs will cook faster, but you will end up with very watery, soggy tasting eggs. So be sure to keep the temperature at medium-low.
(Non-stick pans make cleaning up so much easier! However, Non-stick pans can easily be scratched with metal utensils. You’ll need to buy a silicon spatula or scraper. Caution: if you have an old fashioned rubber spatula and not silicone, it will eventually melt when you cook with it.)
When the butter has melted, add the eggs to the pan. As the eggs begin to cook, GENTLY move them around with the spatula so that they cook evenly.
GENTLY and slowly stir the eggs.
Continue cooking the eggs until they are thickened but still soft.
Some people like really soft scrambled eggs, other people like really dry scrambled eggs. Just keep gently stirring the eggs until they look like what you think the perfect consistency is.
Transfer the eggs to the plate and serve them immediately. (As Jon pointed out in the comments, the eggs continue to cook even when removed from the pan and will get rubbery if left in the pan.)
If you wish, you can add some extra ingredients while the eggs are cooking. For example, try tossing in some chopped ham, sprinkling in slowly as you stir the eggs. Or you might try adding some shredded cheese, or chopped green onion or chives. My favorite addition is chopped parsley.
To find out even more about eggs, be sure to check out my post “How to: Eggs“.
Five Second Rule lives!
YIKES! When I was taking the photographs for this blog post I dropped my camera into the egg mixture! I scooped it out and wiped it off. The automatic lens sticks a little but my camera still works! Who knew?
(Although some of the photos do look a bit hazy!)
Eggs, eggs and even more on eggs!
At startcooking.com I have written and filmed quite a bit about eggs. Here I’m updating “The Incredible Edible Egg” story and will finish with the links to many of my recipes that include eggs.
These categories include:
- The Basics of Cooking Eggs
- The Basics of Buying Eggs
- Breakfast & Brunch
- Recipes Using Hard Boiled Eggs
- Hidden Eggs
- Sweets and Desserts (My favorite category!)
How to: The Basics of Cooking Eggs
Separating the yolk from the white part of the egg is an important thing to learn, as many recipes call for just the white part of the egg and other recipes have you add extra yolks.
For experienced cooks, cracking an egg is second nature. For new cooks, it can be a bit nerve-wracking. My video on Cracking and Separating Eggs has some great tips that will help the beginner.
Technically speaking, a hard or soft “boiled” egg” should actually be called a (hard or soft) “cooked” egg. However, I intentionally used the term “boiled” since that is the term most beginner cooks will recognize.
Many people wrote in to ask me how to make a “soft-boiled” egg. I was so busy making the hard-boiled, I forgot all about the soft-boiled egg!
To make a soft-boiled egg, follow the directions in the video of How to Boil an Egg BUT after the water boils, turn the heat down to simmer and continue cooking the eggs for between 3-to-5 minutes. The size of your egg and how “runny” you like the yolk will determine the cooking time. You will probably have to do a trial run to see what works for you!
As for Scrambled Eggs, I really keep thinking I should re-do that post. The information is great but, that’s the post where I dropped my camera in the bowl of raw eggs! The photos work but they are a bit hazy. (Plus it is the only post in which I’m wearing red nail polish, which I find it very distracting!)
The Basics on Buying Eggs
Buying and storing eggs is different through-out the world.
There is a reason eggs are stored differently in Europe than in the USA. My post “Born in the USA” explains why.
“In the USA, government standards say all eggs must be washed and stored at temperatures no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Washing the eggs is a good thing but it does leave the eggs without an outer coating and very susceptible to invasion by bacteria. Hence refrigeration is absolutely necessary.
In Europe eggs are not washed and don’t have to be refrigerated.” Who knew?
Breakfast and Brunch
My Quiche video and the Sausage and Egg bake video are recipes for dishes that never go out of style. Quiche is my very favorite thing to serve to company, any time of the day. All the different parts can get prepared in advance. Then it is just a matter of assembling it and baking it!
(And of course what’s better than bacon to accompany eggs for breakfast or brunch. Here’s 50 Ways to Cook Bacon.)
Recipes Using Hard Boiled Eggs
Once you know How to Boil an Egg there are all sorts of things you can do with it.
I am always amazed by the popularity of Deviled Eggs. They are perfect for parties and both kids and adults love them! Plus hard cooked eggs are great added to salads!
Raw eggs are often used to bind, or hold together, other ingredients. Sweet and Sour Meatballs and Meatloaf are just two examples of this. When making Chicken Cutlets or Eggplant Parmesan you dip the chicken or eggplant in eggs to make the bread crumbs stick to it.
Sweets and Desserts (my favorite category!)
Eggs act as a leavening agent in baked good. Another words, it makes thing rise.
It’s important to note that most recipes are based on “large” eggs unless otherwise indicated. If you do not use the correct size egg in baking, it can totally throw off the recipe. Egg size is definitely not as important when making savory dishes.
Here is a great Egg Size Equivalent Chart.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
“Eggs existed long before chickens. These all-in-one reproductive cells, incorporating the nutrients to support life, evolved about a billion years ago. The first eggs were hatched in the ocean. As animal life emerged from the water about 250 million years ago, they began producing an egg with a tough leathery skin to prevent dehydration of its contents on dry land. The chicken evolved only about 5,000 years ago from an Asian bird.”
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee.