Yesterday we covered buying eggs. Today let’s talk about storing and using them.
I know it looks like a dinosaur egg – but believe me, it’s just a close-up of an ordinary, Grade A large hen’s egg
Storage- Eggs should be kept refrigerated at a temperature no higher than 40 degrees F (typical refrigerator temperature) and should be stored in their re-closable container on a refrigerator shelf, not in an open plastic egg tray on the door. I always suspected that those cheap plastic egg trays that come in some refrigerators were a bad idea and yesterday I found out why. Both Harold McGhee and Noelle Carter (LA Times foodwriter) have pointed out that eggs pick up smells easily because their shells are porous. Therefore, they should be kept in closed containers, not in open trays. Also, the most consistent coolest temperature for refrigerated foods is inside, on a shelf, not on the door, which gets opened. (And in my case, this bit of knowledge is key – my refrigerator opens frequently, with long pauses as whoever opened it ponders the contents of the refrigerator, even though one of my famous “sermonettes” is that standing in front of an open refrigerator door is bad for my electric bill and for the environment!)
“Best By” dates on two egg cartons – printed on the side
Freshness – How do you know if an egg is fresh? Eggs sold in grocery stores have a “Best By” date printed on the side of the egg carton. Eggs that have been refrigerated in their carton can be used for 4-5 weeks beyond this date. If you have any doubt whether an egg is still OK to use or eat, crack it into a bowl (separate from whatever else you are cooking) and smell it – if it’s bad, you’ll know it. Ever heard the phrase “smells like rotten eggs?”
If you are really picky and want to know how fresh your egg is, use this test. Put the egg in a bowl that is deeper than the egg. Add water to more than cover the egg. If the egg stays flat on the bottom of the bowl, it is fresh; if it stays close the bottom but the blunt end points up toward the surface of the water, then it is older; and if it floats it is fairly old, but still may be fine to use or eat.
Using eggs – For baking, it is a good idea to bring eggs up to room temperature before adding them to the recipe. At room temperature, they mix into batter more easily and help the batter to rise properly. You can bring refrigerated eggs to room temperature quickly by putting them in a bowl of warm water for about 5-10 minutes. You do not need to bring eggs to room temperature for most cooking (as opposed to baking) recipes.
Food safety tips – If you heard about the huge recalls of eggs this past summer, then you know that eggs can be a source of salmonella, a potentially life-threatening food-borne illness. I don’t mean to scare you: the risk is small if eggs are stored and cooked properly.
Even though some of these eggs have shells with visible imperfections, they are OK.
- Do not use an egg that has a cracked shell, even if the contents of the egg have not spilled out. (Visual imperfections in the shell are OK, as long as the shell is intact.)
- Serve egg-based dishes such as scrambled eggs, omelets, quiches, egg salad and similar foods promptly or store them in the refrigerator if they will be served later. Do not leave them out on the counter or table for long periods at room temperature.
- If your recipe calls for eggs (or just the egg whites) to be used raw, consider using pasteurized eggs, which are heated before sale to a temperature that eliminates the risk of salmonella. Also, don’t serve raw or undercooked eggs to particularly vulnerable people – children, pregnant women, the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems.
The risk of salmonella does not scare away everyone from making recipes with raw eggs or undercooked eggs, or licking a spoon dripping with delicious raw cookie or cake batter. I still make desserts with uncooked egg whites and have been known to lick a particularly luscious batter off the spoon. So I’m not saying don’t do it. But if you do it, like much else in life, at least be aware of the risk.
Next up – Cooking eggs every which way.