In the world of food and cooking, eggs belong to a category of their own. Eggs have a thousand uses in the professional kitchen. That’s why we have given this magical ingredient an academy of its own.
No one wants old eggs, but there are occasions in the kitchen when eggs that have aged at least a week can have better properties and be a better choice than fresher alternatives.
The age of eggs
Systems vary from one country to another, but eggs produced on a large scale are always marked with a date in one way or another. The pack date placed on the egg carton by the manufacturer specifies the numerical day of the year (“julian date”) when the eggs were packaged.
Either you crack the local code on the carton, or you look at the expiration date and count backwards (within the EU, for example, the maximum shelf life of eggs is 28 days). But the freshest eggs are not necessarily the ones you want.
The right eggs for the right job
- Very fresh eggs have tougher membranes and are more difficult to peel when boiled.
- When boiling them, choosing eggs that are at least one week old is not a bad idea.
- Very fresh eggs have a tougher texture and are therefore better for poaching.
Trick to tell the age of eggs
There is a way to figure out the age of eggs in the fridge: Put the egg in water. If it lies on its side it is fresh. If it stands up it is at least a week old. If it floats you probably shouldn’t eat it…
Different size eggs
Eggs come in different sizes and this depends – not surprisingly – on the hens that lay them. Young hens lay smaller eggs than older hens. The reason why bigger eggs have thinner and weaker shells is because the amount of calcium in the shell is the same.
Different color eggs
Brown eggs usually come from brown hens, and white eggs from white hens. But no matter what color the shell, the contents are the same.
Eggs are sustainable
Environmentally speaking, local and preferably organic eggs are a great source of tasty food, healthy protein and other nutrients.
Eggs are both food and packaging in one. They will last a lot longer if stored in the fridge. One day in room temperature corresponds to about four days in the fridge.
Avoid strong aromas and flavors
The shell is porous and eggs can absorb flavors from many types of food in the fridge. Make sure to store fish, spicy sausages, and cured cheeses in closed containers.
Keep the egg carton I
The same goes for eggs as for other kinds of fresh produce: The packaging (meaning the carton, not the shell) has been optimized to make the eggs keep as well as possible during transport and storage. Let the eggs stay in the airy, protective carton.
Keep the egg carton II
On the egg carton is where you will find the expiration date and/or detailed information regarding the eggs inside. Don’t throw it away.
The rounded side up
For maximum longevity the eggs should be stored with the wide, rounded side up. The egg’s pocket of air is situated in this end and will stop the yolk from – over time – floating up and sticking to the shell.
2 months (!) in the fridge
Ordinary eggs from a large scale producer will keep for at least two months (66 days…) if you store them in their carton in a fridge and with the rounded side up. This can be several weeks longer than the expiration date on the carton.
Keep boiled eggs in fridge
Whole, boiled eggs stored in the fridge will keep for up to a week.
Deep freeze eggs
Eggs can’t be frozen whole because the liquid contents will expand when the temperature drops and burst the shell from the inside. But storing eggs in the freezer is no problem if you crack them first and whip the white and yolk together and freeze them in a closed container. Or you can separate whites and yolks and freeze them separately.
It is unusual for mold to grow on eggs. If it does so it is probably because the eggs have been stored in the wrong way in an airtight container.
Eggs come pre-packaged and ready to use and require a minimum of preparations. But if making a mousse or an emulsion (sauce), it is important that the eggs have the correct temperature when you start out. Take them out of the fridge in good time.
Test the freshness of eggs
In times past, when the quality could not be taken for granted, eggs were always cracked into a small bowl before being added to other ingredients. This old trick can still be used if you are uncertain about the eggs you are using. If the contents from the cracked egg looks normal and smells normal (you will most certainly notice if it doesn’t) then carry on and use it.
If boiling eggs, boil some more while you're at it. A quick snack, a more fulfillin breakfast, hungry children, and proteins after a workout are only a few of many good reasons to always have boiled eggs in the fridge.
How to pickle eggs
One way of preparing, flavoring, and also increasing the shelf life of eggs is to pickle them. Pickled eggs develop exciting flavors – depending on your spices – and can keep for up to 10 months.
Just about any pickle formula, salty or seet, will work. However, remember that eggs, unlike cucumbers and other pickling vegetables, are not going to release much water that dilutes the acidity. Don’t overdo it with the vinegar.
Use hard-boiled eggs and pickle them in a large, decorative glass jar and add your spices of choice to the brew. The eggs are ready after a day or two and can be served with just about everything.
Eggs have cooking qualities that make them extremely versatile. Some tips regarding the most common techniques:
The art of boiling eggs
You need an egg, cold water from the tap, a pot and a source of heat. Keep in mind:
- Larger eggs need more time to cook than smaller eggs
- Cold eggs from the fridge require more time than eggs at room temperature.
- Very fresh eggs can be hard to peel after boiling.
- The term is “boiled egg”, but eggs should only simmer. If the temperature of the water is over boiling point the egg white will develop a rubbery texture.
Boiling times eggs:
- Soft-boiled egg with runny yolk, 3 minutes.
- Medium-boiled egg with creamy yolk, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Hard-boiled egg with firm yolk, 6 to 7 minutes.
Common mistakes when boiling eggs
It is supposed to be the simplest form of cooking imaginable, but things can go wrong and they have an explanation:
The egg bursts
The temperature has risen too fast, probably because the egg went straight from the fridge (5°C/41°F) to boiling water (100°C/212°F). Take the egg out of the fridge with time to spare, or rinse it with hot – but not boiling – water. And don’t drop eggs into water that is already boiling.
The yolk has a green coating
The egg has boiled for too long or too hard. The coagulation of the yolk has gone too far.
The egg white is rubbery
This probably has to do with the temperature being too high. Eggs should simmer, not boil.
Rinse the egg cold
After boiling, rinse the egg in cold water for a minute or two. This will (1) put an immediate end to the cooking process and (2) the “shock” from the cold water will make the membrane on the inside of the egg easier to peel away.
Against burst eggs
One trick that stops eggs from busting while boiling is to make a small puncture in the shell, for example with an ordinary needle. Make the puncture in the rounded end of the egg so that air seeps out – instead of bursting the shell.
Eggs sous vide
The sous vide technique allows you to cook eggs to exactly – that is exactly – the degree you want. Instructions, temperatures and cooking times are included when you buy the gear.
The art of frying eggs
If a boiled egg always is what it is (sort of), then a fried egg is the opposite. The result depends on the pan used, the fat used, the temperature, the technique, and the flavoring used. Keep in mind:
- The pan should be hot, and then the fat needs to get hot, and not until then do you add the egg.
- Cracking the egg (repeated times around the equator if you wish) will result in a cleaner crack with less broken shell, than if you crack the egg against a sharp edge.
- Leave the egg to fry in peace for a while before you start fidgeting with the spatula (take a peek in a pro kitchen some time and see how they do it). Just raise or lower the heat if needed.
- Use a suitable spatula to scoop up and serve the eggs.
How to poach eggs
The name comes from the French word for pocket, “poche” (not from unauthorized hunting…). The point is to pour the entire egg out of its shell and into simmering water so that the egg white forms a “pocket” around itself and the egg yolk. After simmering the white should hold together around the still runny yolk.
Poaching eggs is a technique that requires some training and where absolutely everything can go wrong. But when carried out correctly it is a sensational way of serving an egg.
Tips when poaching eggs:
- Use fresh eggs for a more manageable egg white.
- Crack the egg in a small bowl first, making it easier to gently ease it into the simmering water, forming a ”ball” around itself.
- Use a skimmer to retrieve the egg.
- To remove excess water, place the poached egg on kitchen paper or a clean side towel before plating.
Poach eggs like a pro:
You need 1 egg, water, salt, vinegar.
Heat a generous amount of water in a cooking pot (you need some space when doing the poaching). Add a pinch of salt and a dash of vinegar (which helps the egg white perform the way you want it to). Bring to a simmer. Carack the egg into a bowl and tip it gently into the water.
To swirl or not to swirl
Some chefs make a big issue – and some don't – of stirring the simmering water with a big spoon so that it swirls around a vortex in the center of the pot. When the egg is placed exactly in the middle of the swirl, this helps the egg white wrap around itself.
Make this your technique if you wish. The water swirl should be only a gentle movement, or it will tear your egg apart.
- 3 minutes for a runny egg yolk
- 4 minuter for a creamy egg yolk
- 5 minuter for a solid egg yolk
Gently lift the poached egg out of the water using a skimmer. Place on kitchen paper or a side towel to remove excess water, then serve immediately.
How to make scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs is a humble everyday dish, but it takes a chef to make it deliciously creamy and perfect. The basics (and then you can add spices to taste):
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp heavy cream
- Crack the eggs into a bowl. Add cream, salt, and pepper.
- Melt a generous amount of butter in a pan/saucier over medium heat. Add the eggs.
- Actively stir the eggs the whole time. Remove them from the heat at intervals so as to slow down the cooking process.
- Continue until you have a creamy, even result (not the lumpy, dried out variety you get in hotel breakfast buffets).
- Be aware that the cooking and solidifying process will continue even after you have removed the pan from the heat.
- Serve inmediately.
Eggs make it easy to pimp almost any dish, making it more satisfying, filling, and nutritious without piling up the calories. Some examples:
- Sliced boiled egg in almost any salad…
- … or in just about any sandwich.
- Eggs with fat fish and fish roe.
- Some egg yolks in a creamy sauce.
- Some egg yolks in the potato puré.
- Stir a whole egg into the soup/broth.
- Crack an egg over the fried noodles/rice.
Egg in desserts
Eggs are essential in baking and in many desserts. Read more here.
The risk of raw eggs
Raw eggs – not least egg yolks – occur in or with many dishes. If this is the case, you need to know a thing or to about local standards:
- Raw eggs can be a source of campylobacter and salmonella bacteria – but this varies from one region to another. In some countries the risk is considerable.
- Make sure to check local recommendations before eating raw eggs.
- Both the inside and the outside of the egg can be contaminated.
- The symptoms are stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.
- Campylobacter and salmonella bacteria die when at 70°C/158°F. This unfortunately means the egg is hardboiled…
Eggs can be both the simplest and the most elegant food. A hardboiled egg is basic nourishment, but the runny yolk of a poached egg is culinary magic. Keep in mind when serving eggs:
Yellow is beautiful
The yellow yolk adds a splash of rich color to almost any dish. Raw or cooked, and with or without the company of the egg white.
Yellow is yummy
The plump, silky yolk is also packed with umami. All in all, a combination of flavor and texture that is hard to beat.
Few ingredients are as versatile as eggs. This makes it possible to present old dishes and combinations in new and creative ways: The egg component can be boiled, fried, poached, deep fried, and more. The chef’s imagination is the only limit.
About laying hens
Egg is an amazing ingredient. It comes from hens and they deserve to be treated with more respect than what is, unfortunately, the case. Spending a bit more on your eggs will not only get you a better product, you will also be encouraging better treatment of these animals.
How often does a hen lay eggs?
A modern day hen can lay more than 100 eggs in a year, and this they can do for six to seven years. The eggs in the shop are not fertilized so no rooster is needed in the process.
Where do laying hens come from?
It all started with Asian junglefowl that were captured and tamed. Thousands of years of breeding have resulted in modern day hens that can lay eggs at a rate that has little to do with actual reproduction.