Important Food Safety Information
The American Egg Board (AEB) hopes you enjoy the inspired and fun recipes featured on our website, www.incredibleegg.org.
To ensure food safety, eggs should be cooked until both the yolk and the white are firm. Consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially for those with certain medical conditions. Over-easy, poached, sunny-side-up or soft-boiled eggs may not reach sufficient temperature to be considered food safe. Scrambled eggs should be cooked until firm and not be runny. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160°F. Use a food thermometer to be sure internal temperature is reached. For recipes calling for eggs that are raw or undercooked when the dish is served, such as caesar salad dressing, mayonnaise and homemade ice cream – use either pasteurized shell eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella, or use pasteurized egg products, or follow AEB’s recommended method to cook eggs when preparing these types of recipes. https://www.incredibleegg.org/recipes/egg-tips-tricks
Before beginning a recipe, it is recommended to do the necessary research and make appropriate food handling and cooking doneness decisions, and seek expert advice from www.FoodSafety.gov and www.EggSafety.org if you’re unsure. Visitors to www.incredibleegg.org assume full responsibility for any food handling and cooking doneness decisions made regarding their own health and safety, and the health and safety of those consuming the recipes.
Please review all ingredients prior to trying a recipe to be fully aware of the presence of ingredients which may cause a potential adverse allergic reaction in some consumers.
Recipes available on the www.incredibleegg.org may not have been formally tested by us or for us and we do not provide any assurances nor accept any responsibility or liability with regard to their originality, quality, nutritional value, or safety.
Egg Handling and Care Tips
Salmonella bacteria are widely found in nature and can easily spread. The bacteria can be found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and people. While the egg itself may not be contaminated when you buy it, it can become contaminated from improper handling such as through contact with unclean hands, pets, other foods and kitchen equipment, too. By following the recommendations to clean, separate, cook and chill, you can help protect yourself and your family from food borne illness.
Cleanliness throughout the kitchen and in every step of food preparation is important for food safety. Wash hands, utensils, equipment and work surfaces thoroughly in hot soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after you handle high-protein foods, such as eggs, as well as produce and other raw foods.
- To wash hands properly, wet your hands with running water and lather them with soap for a full 20 seconds. Then rinse and dry with a clean towel or paper towel.
- To clean and sanitize your surfaces, you’ll want to start with warm, soapy water and a clean paper towel or dish rag to wash the surfaces.
- Next, you’ll need to sanitize the surfaces to kill any remaining bacteria. Many different sanitizers can be used: an easy homemade version is to make a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water, or you can use a commercial sanitizer or sanitizing wipe. Follow the label instructions on commercial sanitizers to determine whether you need to rinse food preparation areas after use. Washed surfaces should be dry before sanitizing.
- Since retail eggs are washed and sanitized under prescribed conditions before packing and incorrect home procedures might infect the contents, avoid washing eggshells at home.
Separate raw meat, fish, seafood, poultry and eggs from other foods, especially foods that are ready-to-eat. Refrigerate raw shell eggs in their cartons in the main compartment of the refrigerator and not on the door where the temperature can fluctuate. Keep eggs away from any meats that might drip juices or any produce that might come into contact with eggshells. Cover or wrap well any egg mixtures or leftover cooked eggs dishes before refrigerating.
Wash thoroughly with hot soapy water any bowls, pans, blenders, mixers, or other container which has held a raw egg mixture before you use it again for more eggs or another food. Do the same with any container that has held raw meat, fish, seafood or poultry. Also use separate cutting boards for raw meat, fish seafood, poultry and other foods, particularly cooked and ready-to-eat foods. Thoroughly wash and sanitize work surfaces, cutting boards and utensils, such as knives and beaters, after each use.
When you break or separate eggs, it’s best to avoid mixing the yolks and whites with the shells. Rather than broken shell halves or your hands, use an inexpensive egg separator or a funnel when you separate eggs to help prevent the introduction of bacteria. Also use a clean utensil to remove any bits of eggshell that accidentally fall into an egg mixture and do not use empty eggshells to measure other foods.
Cooking to proper temperatures brings eggs and other foods to a temperature high enough to destroy bacteria that causes food borne illness.
For food safety, instant thermal kill of Salmonella occurs when the egg reaches a temperature of 165°F. Thermal kill of Salmonella occurs when at temperature of 160°F is maintained for 2 minutes. All leftover foods must be reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Test with an instant read thermometer. Toss any egg-containing leftover after 3 days
Refrigerate is the last food safety tip. Rapid growth of bacteria can occur between 40 and 140°F. Cold temperatures keeps bacteria from growing to large enough numbers to cause illness. Keep shell eggs, egg mixtures and egg-containing leftovers refrigerated at 40°F or below when not being cooked or eaten. Broken out eggs and pooled eggs should be used quickly and not stored for long periods in the refrigerator. For all perishable foods, including eggs and egg-containing dishes, allow no more than 2 hours at room temperature for preparation and serving, 30 minutes to 1 hour when its 85°F or hotter.
Promptly after serving, refrigerate any leftovers containing eggs and consume within 2 to 3 days. Thoroughly reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165°F. Without tasting them, discard any egg-containing leftovers that have been refrigerated more than three days.
Egg Cooking Doneness Guidelines
Adequate cooking brings eggs to a temperature high enough to prevent food borne illness.
To ensure food safety, experts recommend cooking eggs to a minimum temperature of 160°F maintained for 2 minutes or an end temperature of 165°F. For example, a fried or poached egg cooked to these guidelines will result in a solid/firm yolk.
Scrambled eggs, omelets and frittatas
Cook until the eggs are thickened and no visible liquid egg remains.
Most will easily reach internal temperature of more than 160°F maintained for 2 minutes when they are done.
For classic poached eggs cooked gently in simmering water, cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, about 5 minutes. For steamed eggs cooked in poaching inserts set above simmering water, cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, about 6 to 9 minutes. However, this preparation method may not be suitable for high-risk populations.
- Avoid precooking and reheating poached eggs. For food safety, reheated foods must be heated to an internal temperature of 165°F, at which point the egg yolk would be completely coagulated and firm.
To cook both sides and increase the temperature the eggs reach, cook slowly and either baste the eggs, cover the pan with a lid or turn the eggs. Cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard. However, this preparation method may not be suitable for high-risk populations.
Salmonella are destroyed when hard-boiled eggs are fully coagulated and thoroughly cooked, however, hard-boiled eggs can spoil more quickly than raw eggs. After cooking, cool hard-boiled eggs quickly under running cold water or in ice water. Avoid allowing eggs to stand in stagnant water. Refrigerate hard-boiled eggs in their shells promptly after cooling and use them within 1 week.
Hard-boiled eggs with soft yolks / jam-style yolks and soft-boiled eggs
There is a risk of food borne illness as this style of egg preparation doesn’t reach thermal kill temperature of at least 160°F maintained for 2 minutes, or an end temperature of 165°F. However, this preparation method may not be suitable for high-risk populations
French toast, Monte Cristo sandwiches, crab or other fish cakes, quiches, stratas, baked custards and most casseroles
Cook or bake until a thermometer inserted at the center shows at least 160°F maintained for 2 minutes, or an end temperature of 165°F. Test temperature in multiple places to guard against uneven cooking due to hot spots and varying oven temperatures.
Soft (stirred) custards, including cream pie, eggnog and ice cream bases
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until a temperature of at least 160°F is reached and is thick enough to coat a metal spoon with a thin film. After cooking, cool quickly by setting the pan in ice or cold water and stirring for a few minutes. Cover and refrigerate to chill thoroughly, at least 1 hour.
Soft pie meringue
Bake a 3-egg-white meringue spread on a hot and fully cooked pie filling in a preheated 350°F oven until the meringue reaches 160°F, about 15 to 20 minutes. For meringues using more whites, bake in preheated 325°F oven (or lower temperature) until a thermometer registers 160°F, about 25 to 30 minutes or more. The more egg whites, the lower the oven temperature and longer the time you need to cook the meringue through without excessive browning. Refrigerate meringue-topped pies until serving. Promptly return leftovers to the refrigerator. Meringue powder, made from dried egg whites and a whipping agent is available in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. This product can be successfully whipped and used to make soft pie meringue, hard meringue and royal icing.
How to microwave eggs
All models of microwave ovens tend to cook foods unevenly, leaving cold spots. To encourage more even cooking, cover the dish, and stir the ingredients once or twice during cooking.
Another safety factor to keep in mind is that you must break the egg out of their shell prior to microwaving. If you put an egg with an intact shell in the microwave, it’s likely to explode. Microwaves heat so quickly that steam builds up inside the egg faster than an egg can ‘exhale’ through its pores, and the steam bursts through the shell. For the same reason, when microwaving an unbeaten egg always poke the yolk with a knife to allow steam to escape safely.
How to make cured yolks
Completely cover raw yolks in salt/sugar mixture. Tightly wrap dish with plastic wrap. Chill for 4 days. Preheat oven to 150°F. Brush salt/sugar mixture off from each yolk. Carefully rinse under cold water to remove any remaining salt/sugar adhering to yolks. (Yolks will be semi-firm, bright and translucent). Gently pat yolks dry with paper towels. Place yolks on lightly greased wire rack, and bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Cool completely, place in airtight container and refrigerate. Use within 1 month. If moisture accumulates inside the container, toss yolks away.
How to ‘fix’ favorite egg recipes that call for raw or lightly cooked eggs to make them food safe.
To eliminate risk and ensure food safety, replace all your recipes calling for raw or lightly cooked eggs with cooked eggs recipes or use pasteurized shell eggs or egg products when you prepare them. Note that the egg white from pasteurized shell eggs and liquid egg white products available at retail will not whip properly in foaming applications. If these types of eggs are not available in your supermarket, use the following methods to adapt your recipes:
Cooking whole eggs
Cooking Whole Eggs for use in recipes. This method can be used on any number of eggs and works for a variety of recipes. In heavy saucepan, stir together eggs and either sugar, water or other liquid from the recipes (at least ¼ cup sugar, liquid or combination per egg). Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the egg mixture coats a metal spoon with a thin film and reaches 160°F. Immediately place the saucepan in ice water and stir until the egg mixture is cool. Proceed with the recipe.
Cooking egg yolks
Cooking Egg Yolks for use in recipes such as in mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, caesar salad dressing, chilled soufflés, chiffons, mousses and similar foods. In heavy saucepan, stir together the egg yolks and liquid from the recipe – such as vinegar, lemon juice, cream– but do not use oil (at least 2 tablespoons liquid per yolk). Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the yolk mixture coats a metal spoon with a thin film, bubbles at the edges or reaches 160°F. Immediately place the saucepan in ice water and stir until the yolk mixture is cool. Proceed with the recipe.
Cooking egg whites
Cooking Egg Whites for use in recipes such as chilled desserts, Seven-Minute Frosting, Royal Icing and other frostings recipes calling for raw egg whites. This method can be used with any number of egg whites. In heavy saucepan, the top of a double boiler or a metal bowl placed over water in a saucepan, stir together the egg whites and sugar form the recipe (at least 2 tablespoons sugar per white), water (1 teaspoon per white) and cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon per each 2 whites). Cook over low heat or simmering water, beating constantly with a portable mixer on low speed until the whites reach 160°F. Do not foam the egg whites in the pan. Pour into large bowl. Beat on high speed until the whites stand in soft peaks, proceed with the recipe. Sugar is necessary to keep the whites from coagulating too rapidly. Test with a thermometer as there is no visual clue to doneness. If you use an unlined aluminum saucepan, eliminate the cream of tartar otherwise the two will react and create an unattractive grey-colored meringue. The egg whites in an Italian meringue (made by adding hot sugar syrup to egg whites while beating them) do not reach much above 125°F so this method is not recommended except for dishes that are further cooked. If, however, you bring the sugar syrup all the way to hardball stage (250°F to 266°F) the whites will reach a high enough temperature. You can use a sugar syrup at hardball stage for Divinity and similar recipes.
Other alternatives for raw egg whites
Other alternatives for raw egg whites include pasteurized shell eggs, pasteurized dried or pasteurized refrigerated liquid egg whites. Note that these types of egg whites will not form a proper foam for angel food cake and meringue recipes. Read the label carefully on any refrigerated liquid egg whites as some contain gums and/or added salt which can hamper foaming. Pasteurized dried and pasteurized refrigerated liquid egg whites either contain no other ingredients – for recipes where little foaming is required – or meringue powder which is dried egg whites with a whipping agent – for recipes that require a stable egg white foam. Follow package directions to substitute these products for raw egg whites, or use about 2 tablespoons water and 2 teaspoons dried egg white or 2 to 3 tablespoons liquid egg white for each large egg white.
Is it true that acid can kill bacteria?
Yes, but counting on acid for total kill of all bacteria is a risky proposition. Salmonella will not grow in a recipe that has a pH (acid level) of 4.0 or lower. Some pickled egg recipes may reach this level of acidity, but few other recipes do. It’s also difficult to reach and maintain a specific pH because many acidic ingredients don’t have a constant pH. Eggs themselves increase in pH as they age. Some recipes may test sufficiently acidic one day and not the next. And, without a pH meter, it’s hard to accurately measure the pH of a finished dish. For these reasons, it’s best not to rely on acid ingredients to destroy bacteria.
Continually keep raw shell eggs, broken-out eggs, egg mixtures, prepared egg dishes and other perishable foods refrigerated at 40°F or below when you’re not cooking or eating them.
What is the best way to store refrigerated eggs?
The moment an egg is laid, physical and chemical changes begin to conspire against freshness and food safety. Warm temperatures encourage those changes, so newly laid eggs must be gathered frequently and refrigerated quickly.
Refrigerate raw shell eggs in their cartons in the main compartment of the refrigerator and not on the door where the temperature can fluctuate. Keep eggs away from any meats that might drip juices or any produce that might come into contact with eggshells. Refrigerated raw shell eggs will keep without significant quality loss for about 4 to 5 weeks beyond the pack date (the date the egg was placed in the carton, expressed as a Julian date) or about 3 weeks after you bring them home.
What difference does time make? As eggs age, the whites thin and the yolks flatten. This means that the eggs will spread more in a pan if you fry them and there will be more “angel wings” of egg white in the water if you poach them. Because the yolk membrane also weakens with age, the yolks may break whether you want them to or not – making it difficult to cleanly separate egg yolk from egg white. The egg white of older eggs will not form as stable a foam for recipes such as angel food cake and meringue cookies.
For recipes calling for whole eggs, you can still use the eggs. The weakening of the yolk membrane, however, makes it easier for bacteria – if they’re present – to reach the nutritious yolk. So, to prevent the possibility of foodborne illness, it’s best to use older eggs in fully cooked items, such as quiches, stratas and baked goods.
How to store leftover egg whites and egg yolks.
Refrigerate the leftover egg whites in a covered container up to 4 days. Store yolks in a covered container in the refrigerator and use within a day or 2. If you can’t use the leftover egg yolks quickly enough, hard-boil them. Carefully place them in a single layer in saucepan and add enough water to come at least 1 inch above the yolks. Remove from heat and let stand, covered in the hot water for about 12 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator and use within 4 or 5 days. If you find yourself with more eggs than you can use, freeze them.
What about eggs accidentally left out of the refrigerator?
Raw shell eggs, broken-out eggs, egg mixtures, prepared egg dishes and other perishable foods should be refrigerated at 40°F or below when you’re not cooking or eating them. These foods should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, including the time you use to prepare and serve them. Allow no more than 30 minutes to 1 hour when it’s 85°F or hotter. Discard any egg and egg containing dish that has exceeded these guidelines.
What about room temperature eggs for baking?
In some recipes with creamed sugar and fat, adding cold eggs could harden the fat and curdle the batter, affecting the finished product’s texture. For such recipes, remove the eggs from the refrigerator about 20 to 30 minutes before using them while assembling other ingredients. If you’re in a hurry, place eggs in a sealed plastic bag with the air removed and floated in the bowl of warm water to warm the egg contents, or crack the eggs into a clean container, cover with plastic wrap, then set the bowl in a larger bowl that contains the warm water to warm the eggs.
For all other recipes, use eggs straight from the refrigerator.
Hard boiled egg preparations and handling
Hard-boiled eggs with intact shells can be refrigerated safety up to one week. Refrigerate in a loosely covered container (do not tightly seal as this can promote yeast growth). Do not reuse the original carton to store hard-boiled eggs. Once the shell is removed, eggs should be eaten that day.
Food safety precaution: Piercing shells before cooking is not recommended. If not sterile, the piercer or needle can introduce bacteria into the egg. Also, piercing creates hairline cracks in the shell, through which bacteria can enter after cooking.
When making pickled eggs, use sterilized quart-sized or smaller containers. Refrigerate pickled egg containers and, to avoid introducing bacteria, use a clean utensil to remove the eggs from the pickling solution. Do not drain off pickling solution to retrieve eggs. Unopened jars of pickled eggs have a 2-week refrigerated shelf life, and once the jar is opened consume the eggs within one week.
Deviled eggs can be a portable appetizer with a little pre-planning. Pack the prepared filling in a food storage bag, and the empty egg white halves in a separate sealed container. Transport both the yolk filling and egg whites with ice or frozen coolant packs in an insulated cooler. Assemble by snipping off a corner of the filling bag and squeezing to refill the whites – just like using a pastry bag. Prepare and consume within 24 hours. Discard leftovers. Hard-boiled eggs should not be peeled, sliced and stored in refrigerator for no more than 24 hours before consumption.
Power outages and egg safety
As noted in the USDA Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency, your refrigerator will keep food safe for up to 4 hours during a power outage. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard refrigerated perishable food such as eggs, meat, poultry, fish and leftovers after 4 hours without power.
After a power outage never taste food to determine its safety. You will have to evaluate each item separately – use this chart as a guide
Is it necessary to refrigerate eggs you bought from a neighbor who only has a few hens?
Eggs are a raw agricultural commodity and as such, refrigeration is paramount during storage. Research has shown that egg temperature has a dramatic impact on both food safety and product quality. Prompt refrigeration of eggs reduces the likelihood of microbial growth and aids in maintaining egg quality.
How to Freeze Eggs
Egg can be frozen, however, not in the shell. Freeze only clean, fresh eggs.
Break and separate eggs, one at a time, making sure that no yolk gets into the whites. Pour them into freezer containers, seal tightly, label with the number of egg whites and date, then freeze. For faster thawing and easier measuring, first freeze each egg white in an ice cube tray and then transfer to freezer container.
Egg yolks require special treatment. The gelation property of yolk causes it to thicken or gel when frozen. If frozen as is, egg yolk will eventually become so gelatinous it will be almost impossible to use in a recipe. To help prevent gelation, beat in either 1/8 teaspoon salt OR 1 ½ teaspoons sugar per ¼ cup egg yolks (4 yolks). Label the container with number of yolks, date and whether you’ve added salt (for main dishes) or sugar for desserts.
Beat just until blended, pour into freezer containers, seal tightly, label with the number of eggs and the date, and freeze.
How to use frozen eggs
Thaw frozen eggs overnight in the refrigerator or under running cold water. Use as soon as they’re thawed. Once thawed, egg whites will beat to better volume if allowed to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Use thawed frozen eggs only in recipes that are thoroughly cooked or baked.
- Use 2 tablespoons thawed egg white for 1 Large fresh egg white
- Use 1 tablespoon thawed egg yolk for 1 Large fresh egg yolk
- Use 3 tablespoons thawed whole egg for 1 Large fresh egg
Freezing hard boiled eggs
Hard-boiled egg yolks can be frozen to use later for toppings or garnishes. Carefully place the yolks in a single layer in a saucepan and add enough water to come at least 1 inch above the yolks. Cover and quickly bring just to boiling. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, in the hot water for 15 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon, drain well and package for freezing.
Hard boiled whole eggs and whites become tough and water when frozen, so don’t freeze them.
Can quiches, stratas, French toast and egg containing casseroles be frozen?
These items can be fully baked, cooled, wrapped for freezer storage and later reheating and can go from the freezer to oven, or can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator for faster reheat. Place baking dish on a baking sheet, loosely cover with foil (to prevent overbrowning). If baking a dish from the freezer – place in a cold oven, set the oven temperature to 325°F and bake until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. If baking a dish that has thawed overnight in the refrigerator – reheat in a preheated 325°F oven until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
If shell eggs freeze accidentally, are they safe?
If an egg accidentally freezes and the shell cracked during freezing, discard the egg. However, if the egg did not crack, keep it frozen until needed; then thaw it in the refrigerator. It can be hard-boiled successfully but other uses may be limited because freezing causes the yolk to become gel-like, thick and syrupy so it will not flow like an unfrozen yolk or blend very well with the egg white or other ingredients. If the egg yolk becomes gel-like, you can discard the yolk and use the egg white in fully cooked egg dishes and baked goods.
Arts & Crafts with Eggs
Easter egg tips
Eggs are frequently handled at Easter time, and each handling occasion is one more change that the eggs might come into contact with bacteria. To avoid bacterial contamination, wash your hands thoroughly before you handle eggs at every step, including cooking, cooling and dying. Refrigerate hard-cooked eggs in a bowl, not the egg carton, if you won’t be decorating right after cooking and cooling. Refrigerate them again after you display them.
Decorate only uncracked eggs. If you want to eat your decorated eggs later, use food coloring or specially made food-grade dyes dissolved in water that is warmer than the eggs, and be sure any adhesives and embellishments are suitable to come into direct contact with food, and are food safe. If any eggs crack decorating or while on display, discard them along with any eggs that have been out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours. If you keep hard-boiled eggs out of refrigeration for many hours or several days for a decoration or for hiding, cook extra eggs for eating. Either discard the eggs that have been left out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours, or continue enjoying them only for display. Hard-boiled eggs should be refrigerated promptly after cooling and consumed within one week.
If you hide eggs, consider hiding placing carefully. Avoid areas where the eggs might come into contact with dirt, pets, wild animals, birds, reptiles, insects or lawn chemicals. Refrigerate the hidden eggs again after they have been found.
How to empty an egg shell
To safety empty an eggshell, first wash the egg using water warmer than the egg, then dry it. With a sterilized long needle or small, sharp skewer, poke a small hole in the small end of the egg and a larger hole in the large end. Carefully chip away bits of shell around the large hole until it’s big enough to fir the tip of a turkey baster. Stick the needle or skewer into the yolk to break it.
Either shake the large-end down over a cup or bowl until the contents come out or use a baster to push out the contents. Press the bulb of the baster to push air into the egg and let the contents fall into the cup. If the contents don’t come out easily, insert the needle again and move it around to be sure both the shell membranes and yolk are broken. Rise the empty shell under cool running water. Stand it on end to drain and dry.
How to use the contents of eggshells that have been emptied for decorating
Use the contents of emptied egg shells in a recipe which includes beaten yolks and whites and calls for through cooking or baking. Use the contents immediately or freeze them, labeling the storage container with the date and number of eggs it contains. Keep frozen for a year at 0F or lower. Most baked dishes, such as casseroles, custards, quiches, frittatas and baked items are good uses for eggs emptied from their shells.
Reusing egg cartons for crafts and activities
While it sounds ideal to repurpose egg cartons, food safety experts offer caution. Commercial egg farmers follow the FDA’s Egg Safety Rule, so they wash and sanitize eggs before packing them in clean, new cartons, eliminating bacteria that may have been present on the shell. But bacteria could creep back into the picture as eggs are handled at stores and in homes.
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is clear on the subject, saying items such as foam meat trays, convenience food dishes and egg cartons should be considered one-time-use packaging. “Bacteria from foods that these packages once contained may remain on the packaging and thus be able to contaminate foods or even hands if reused,” says FSIS on its web site.
How can egg packaging be handled responsibly? Cardboard cartons may be recycled along with other paper products, torn into pieces and composted. It is not recommended to use cartons to start seedlings in the early spring before transferring plants to the garden as any organisms present in the cartons could be absorbed by the growing seedling.
Frequently Asked Questions About Eggs
- What does it mean when an egg floats in water?
Every egg has an air cell. It is just under the shell, typically on the large end of the egg, formed by the inner and outer membranes. When a warm freshly-laid egg begins to cool, the egg contents contract and the two shell membranes separate to form a pocket of air, the air cell at the egg’s large end. As the egg ages, moisture and carbon dioxide pass through the shell pores and air enters, increasing the size of the air cell in the space between the two membranes. The air cell is visible in the flattened end of a peeled, hard-boiled egg.
It is not true that freshness can be judged by placing an egg in salt water. Depending on the amount of salt added to the water, the density of water will increase to an amount greater than the density of an egg, allowing the egg to float regardless of air cell size. A very fresh egg can have a large air cell that will allow it to float. Air cell size is one of many criteria used to determine egg grade.
- Does the eggshell protect an egg from bacteria?
Yes and no. The egg has many natural built-in barriers to help prevent bacteria from entering and growing. These protect the egg on its way from the hen to home. But, although it does help, the porous shell itself is not a foolproof bacterial barrier. For additional safety, USDA requires that eggs be carefully washed with approved detergents and sanitized. The eggshell is designed to allow a growing embryo to receive and expel necessary gases, not to maximize food safety.
Other protective barriers include the shell and yolk membranes and layers of the egg white (albumen) which fight bacteria in several ways. The structure of the shell membranes helps prevent the passage of bacteria. The shell membranes and albumen also contain lysozyme, a substance that helps prevent bacterial growth. The yolk membrane separates the nutrient-rich yolk from the white.
In addition to containing antibacterial compounds such as lysozyme, layers of the egg white discourage bacterial growth because they are alkaline, bind nutrients bacteria need, and/or don’t provide nutrients in a form that bacteria can use. The thick white discourages the movement of bacterial.
- Are Salmonella bacteria most likely to be found in the egg’s white or yolk?
Bacteria, if they are present at all, can be located in either the egg white or yolk. Bacteria found in the yolk are generally deposited during yolk formation. One of the aims of the FDA Egg Rule is to reduce the likelihood of hens laying Salmonella in the egg (vertical transmission). As the egg ages, however, the egg white thins and the yolk membrane weakens. This makes it possible for bacteria to reach the nutrient-dense yolk where they can grow over time if the egg is kept at warm temperatures. But, in a clean, uncracked, fresh shell egg maintained in refrigeration, internal contamination occurs only rarely.
- Does a blood spot mean an egg is contaminated?
No. You can’t see bacteria with the naked eye. Blood or meat spots are occasionally found on an egg yolk or in the albumen and are merely an error on the part of the hen. They’re caused by the rupture of a blood vessel on the yolk surface when it’s being formed or by a similar accident in the wall of the oviduct. Most eggs with blood spots are detected by electronic sensors during washing and packaging and never reach the market. However, even with mass scanners, it’s impossible to catch them all. Both chemically and nutritionally, eggs with blood spots are fit to eat. You can remove the spot with the tip of a knife, if you wish.
- Are the twisted, ropey strands of egg white safe?
Yes. These strands are the chalazae which anchor the yolk in the center of the thick white. They’re composed of nutritious egg albumen and do not indicate contamination. In fact, the more prominent the chalazae, the fresher the eggs. These natural parts of the egg don’t interfere with cooking or beating of the egg white and you don’t need to remove them, although some cooks like to strain them from stirred custard.
- The egg white in my egg is cloudy, why is that?
The egg white, or sometimes called albumen, is more opalescent than truly white when in the raw state. The cloudy appearance comes from carbon dioxide. As the egg ages, carbon dioxide escapes, so the egg white of older eggs is more transparent than that of fresher eggs. The albumen of in-shell pasteurized eggs will also appear cloudy due to some albumen proteins denaturing, or unfolding, during the pasteurization process.
- What do egg carton dates mean?
An “expiration” or “sell by” date on some egg cartons helps to ensure that the eggs are fresh by informing the grocery store not to sell the eggs after the marked date. An expiration date on the carton is not required but, if one is used, it can be no more than 30 days after the eggs were packed. Since the packer or retailer may choose a date under 30 days, your retailer can give you more complete information about how many days a “sell by” or “expiration date” allows after packing.
Some cartons show a Julian date on the short side of the carton. The Julian date is the day the eggs were packed – starting with 001 as Jan 1 and ending with 365 for December 31. For example, eggs packed on June 15 will be marked 166. Some other egg packers print an open “use by” date – July 15, for example – right on the eggshell itself. If properly refrigerated, shell eggs will keep with insignificant quality loss for at least 4 to 5 weeks after the Julian or pack date. If there is no Julian or pack date, using your eggs within 3 weeks of purchase will allow for the possibility that your eggs may have been temporarily warehoused by the retailer before you bought them.
What difference does time make? As eggs age, the whites thin and the yolks flatten. This means that the eggs will spread more in a pan if you fry them and there will be more “angel wings” of white in the water if you poach them. Because the yolk membranes also weaken with age, the yolks may break whether you want them to or not.
For recipes where shape isn’t important, particularly when whites and yolks are beaten together, you can still use the eggs. The weakening of the yolk membrane, however, makes it easier for bacteria – if they’re present – to reach the nutritious yolk. So, to prevent the possibility of foodborne illness, it’s best to use older eggs in fully cooked items, such as quiches, stratas and baked goods.
- What are pasteurized eggs and what is the process of pasteurization?
Pasteurized eggs are eggs with intact shells that have been immersed in a patented-process series of temperature-controlled water baths to bring the eggs up to pasteurization temperature for a prescribed amount of time, and then cooled to refrigeration temperatures. These eggs will be in a carton that’s clearly marked as pasteurized eggs and will be sold at a premium price. The heating process for pasteurized shell eggs will result in egg whites that appear cloudy, and will not form proper foams for meringues and angel food recipes due to some denaturation of albumen proteins.
Also available at retail are liquid whole eggs, liquid egg whites (both found in the refrigerated case near shell eggs) and dried egg whites (sometimes called meringue powder – often found in the baking aisle). All of these products begin as intact shell eggs, mechanically broken and removed from their shell, pasteurized for safety and available in convenient pourable cartons (liquid eggs) or containers (dried eggs). In accordance to U.S. federal laws, all eggs sold without their shell must be pasteurized (heat treated) for food safety. There are specific times and temperatures for the pasteurization of whole egg (yolk + white), egg yolks and egg whites. All liquid egg products are continuously monitored for the pathogen Salmonella, and tens of thousands of Salmonella tests are run annually by the egg products industry, and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service which regulates egg products. Only Salmonella-negative products can be sold.
Not all liquid egg whites will form a stable egg white foam. Read the label carefully on any refrigerated liquid egg whites. Some methods of pasteurization will impact foaming capacity. Additionally, some contains gums and/or added salt which can hamper foaming. Liquid egg whites that contain no other ingredients are suitable for recipes where little foaming is required. Liquid egg whites formulated with a whipping agent are suitable for recipes that require a stable egg white foam such as meringue cookies and pie toppings.
In-shell pasteurized eggs, liquid eggs and dried eggs can be consumed without further heating or cooking, however, safe food handling practices still need to be followed.
Food safety handling practices are the same for shell eggs and liquid egg products. These include:
Store shell eggs and liquid egg products in the refrigerator when you’re not cooking or eating them, preferably in the main compartment of the refrigerator in their original container or carton – not on the door where temperature can fluctuate. Dried egg products need to be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool location. All liquid eggs and dried eggs should be used well within expiration dates on the packaging.
- Do not allow shell eggs, liquid egg products and prepared egg recipes to remain at room temperature for more than 2 hours, 1 hour or less if it’s 85°F or hotter.
- Wash hands frequently during food preparation and prevent cross-contamination of raw and cooked ingredients and foods.
- Cook scrambled eggs until firm throughout and no visible liquid egg remains.
- Promptly serve egg containing dishes.
- Refrigerate egg containing leftovers promptly and consume within 3 to 5 days.
- Reheat egg containing leftovers to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
Pasteurized shell eggs, liquid egg products and dried egg products are suitable for high-risk populations such as pregnant women, immune compromised and elderly; and are a safe to use in egg recipes that are not fully cooked.
- Are most store-bought eggs pasteurized? Do they have to be refrigerated?
A very small portion of the shell eggs at retail are pasteurized. Pasteurized shell eggs are eggs that have been immersed in a patented-process series of temperature-controlled water baths to bring the eggs up to pasteurization temperature for a prescribed amount of time, and then cooled to refrigeration temperatures. These eggs will be in a carton that’s cleared marked as pasteurized eggs and will be sold at a premium price. Regardless if the shell eggs are pasteurized or not, continually keep raw shell eggs, broken-out eggs, egg mixtures, prepared egg dishes, cooked hard-boiled eggs, and other perishable foods at 40F or below when you’re not cooking or eating them. These foods should not remain at room temperature for more than 2 hours, including the time to prepare and serve them. Allow no more than 30 minutes to 1 hour when the environment is 85°F or warmer.
- What is the processing for an unpasteurized egg?
After the hens lay eggs in special nests or directly onto sloping floors, the eggs roll onto automated conveyor belts or chutes that transport the eggs to machines at the same facility where they are washed, candled, graded, sized and packaged. Sometimes eggs are transported under refrigeration to a separate egg processing facility for washing, candling, grading and packaging. In both scenarios, these processes are conducted in a controlled manner to ensure food safety and product quality for shell eggs sold at grocery stores and shell eggs featured on restaurant menus.
- What are the traceback mechanisms in place for egg safety?
For egg cartons featuring the USDA egg grade shield, there will be a ‘P’ number stamped on the carton, near the Julian Date, identifying the facility that packaged the eggs.
For those eggs that are not graded by USDA inspection, the carton must have the name and place of business where the eggs were packaged, or distributor information as this information is required by Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The place of business, or distributor, will be able to trace the source of their eggs in the event of a food safety situation.
For additional information on eggs and food safety, visit the Egg Safety Center at www.EggSafety.org, contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 888-674-6854 or visit the Food Safety Inspection Service website at www.fsis.usda.gov
- How to separate egg yolks and egg whites?
Eggs are easiest to separate when cold. Use an inexpensive egg separator or funnel to separate egg yolks and egg whites. Place the egg separator or funnel into a drinking glass or small bowl. Break the egg into the center of the separator or funnel. The egg white will pass through and drop in the bowl, while the yolk will remain in the egg separator or funnel. It is not food safe to pass egg yolk between shell halves (as it allows for the internal egg contents to come into contact with the exterior shell), nor to break eggs into the hand and allow egg white to pass through fingers.
- If the egg shell isn’t completely broken (e.g. the membrane underneath is intact) is it still safe to use?
Always discard broken and leaking eggs. Cracked eggs (but not leaking contents), if chosen to be consumed, should be thoroughly cooked to a temperature of at least 165°F.
- Storing and reheating leftovers
Refrigerate any leftovers containing eggs and consume within 2 to 3 days. Thoroughly reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165°F. Without tasting them, discard any egg-containing leftovers that have been refrigerated more than three days.
- What about the safety of home-made egg noodles/pasta?
There are several food safety risks involved when making home-made noodles and pasta. First, homemade noodle and pasta recipes call for the finished product to dry at room temperature, often for several hours or overnight, and secondly, the design of many pasta machines makes it impossible to conduct a thorough cleaning and washing with hot soapy water.
To minimize food safety risk, prepare small batches of noodles/pasta. Cook noodles/pasta immediately, or dust well with flour so the strands will not stick together, and loosely fold them to form small nests. Let dry for about 30 minutes, then wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks. When cooking home-made noodles, carefully lower noodles into boiling water and cook until tender. Cooking time will vary based on whether they’re freshly prepared, or stored in refrigerator/freezer and the thickness of the noodle/pasta. There is no need to thaw frozen noodles before cooking. Depending on the quantity of frozen noodles added to the boiling water, an additional 1-2 minutes of cooking time should be sufficient.
- How can you tell if an egg has gone bad? Do eggs go bad often?
The faster you use your eggs, the less time any potential bacteria will have to multiply. However, when properly handled and stored in refrigeration, eggs rarely spoil. Instead, as an egg ages, the white becomes thinner, the yolk becomes flatter and the yolk membrane weakens. Although these changes may affect appearance, they don’t indicate spoilage and don’t have any great effect on the nutritional quality of the egg or its functions in recipes.
Like all natural organic matter, eggs can eventually spoil through the action of spoilage organisms. Although they’re unpleasant, spoilage organisms generally don’t cause foodborne illness.
Although bacteria are generally recognized as the cause of spoilage, mold grown can occur under very humid storage conditions or if eggs are washed incorrectly. Discard any eggs that don’t look or feel clean, have an unusual odor or color to the egg contents, or have evident growth of mold. A slimy feel can indicate bacterial growth and, regardless of color, powdery spots that come off on your hand may indicate mold.
- What about cookies and breads that have an intact shell eggs braided within the dough?
Incorporating intact shell eggs (either raw or hard-boiled) into cookie and bread doughs prior to baking does pose a food safety risk if the finished baked good is allowed to remain at room temperature for more than 2 hours after cooling. Once cooled, continually keep these baked goods refrigerated when you’re not eating them, and discard after 3 days.