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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

All About Eggs - Fried, Scrambled, Boiled?

by Mary Santini

We use eggs all the time but have you ever wondered how long you can safely store them? How can you tell if they are fresh? What do the different sizes mean in relation to your recipe? How do you make the perfect hard boiled egg, fried egg or scrambled egg?

Did you know that the bigger and older the chicken the bigger the egg? Eggs come in six sizes but only the largest four are sold in grocery stores: jumbo, extra-large, large, medium. Most recipes call for large eggs but what if you typically buy one of the other sizes—how does that effect your recipe? When your recipe calls for large quantities of eggs you can substitute a different size by taking into account the weight:

Egg Size / Weight: Medium / 1.75 ounces; Large / 2.00 ounces; Extra-Large / 2.25 ounces; Jumbo / 2.50 ounces.

So what does this mean? Well, 4 jumbo eggs (2.5 oz each) is equivalent to 5 large eggs (2 oz each).

Storage:
Eggs degrade faster from improper storage than from age. Don’t use the egg tray on the inside of the refrigerator door. The temperature does not keep a constant 40°F as recommended by the American Egg Board. Instead keep them in the carton on the top shelf inside the ‘fridge. They will stay the proper temperature and are less likely to absorb flavors from other foods. The egg shells are coated with a thin waxy substance. This is done to prevent moisture from getting out and other flavors from getting in. Never wash eggs before storing as this will remove the protective layer causing your eggs to lose freshness sooner.

Freshness:
What does the sell-by date mean? Legally it is the last date a carton of eggs may be sold and is no more than 30 days past the carton’s pack date which, in turn, is within one week of being laid by the chicken. However, eggs are still considered fit for consumption for 3-5 weeks after the sell-by date. Another way to tell is by observation. In older eggs, the white and yolk become looser or runnier. You may have noticed that the whites are divided into thick & thin layers. The bigger the thick layer, which is right next to the yolk, the fresher the egg. A slight cloudiness in the white indicates that it is a very fresh egg.

Fool–proof Hard Cooked Eggs: Place 4 large eggs in a medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water & bring to a boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a bowl with ice water. Transfer the eggs to the ice water with a slotted spoon, let stand 5 minutes.

Peeling Hard Cooked Eggs: Before boiling the eggs prick a tiny air hole in the large end of the egg with a pin. Boil & chill as instructed above. Once they have chilled thoroughly the shells should peel off clean as a whistle!

Try this for Perfectly Fried Eggs: Heat a 10 inch heavy bottomed nonstick skillet over lowest heat for 5 minutes. Crack 4 large eggs into 2 small bowls (2 per bowl). Add 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet; when foaming subsides, swirl to coat pan (if butter browns in 1 minute, the pan is too hot). Simultaneously, pour 2 eggs on one side of pan and remaining eggs on other side. Season eggs with salt and pepper; cover and cook about 2-1/2 minutes for runny yolks, 3 minutes for soft but set yolks, and 3-1/2 minutes for firmly set yolks.

Scrambling Eggs: Using a wooden spoon or spatula, push the eggs from one side of the pan to the other. As they form curds, lift and fold the eggs until they are clumped in a single mound. Tender scrambled eggs demand high heat and a “folding” action rather than stirring.

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