Recent USDA studies give eggs a better nutritional profile than a decade ago. With about 70 calories, a large egg contains 187 mg of cholesterol, about 14 percent lower than previously measured. Eggs are rich in vitamin D (41 IU per egg) and protein (6 grams). Eggs also contain choline, which has been linked with preserving memory, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which may protect against vision loss.
Look for unbroken, uncracked shells and uniform shape. Check the date on the carton. If harvesting your own eggs, they should be cleaned before storage. But don't put them in cold water to soak. When submerged, the eggshell can actually draw bacteria inside the egg. Preferably, “dry clean” the egg by gently rubbing off any dirt or bird droppings with sandpaper, loofah or an abrasive sponge. Sanitize the cleaning tool after use. If dried egg is stuck on the outside of the shell, clean it off under running tap water. Do not let fresh uncooked eggs stand in water.
Eggs should be refrigerated between 35 and 45 degrees F. Do not freeze. Chilled eggs keep a long time. If the shell is unbroken and the egg has been properly handled, it will keep for four weeks with refrigeration. Eggs will stay fresher protected within their carton instead of stored open in the refrigerator in a rack or bowl. The carton also keeps eggs from absorbing flavors from other foods stored in the refrigerator (such as onions). Hard-boiled eggs will keep one week, refrigerated in their shells.
Food poisoning is a real concern when handling eggs, which are subject to bacterial contamination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 10,000 eggs may contain salmonella. (Other estimates decrease that risk to 1 in 30,000.) That danger is why food safety experts recommend always cooking eggs before consumption.
Pasteurized eggs or egg products are treated to kill bacteria, so they can be used in dishes that are uncooked or only lightly cooked.
Here are other egg safety recommendations from the American Egg Board:
• Wash hands with soap and warm water before handling eggs.
• Avoid pooling and combining eggs from different dozens.
• Use clean and sanitized utensils and equipment.
• Keep eggs chilled and take out eggs from the refrigerator only for immediate use.
• Never stack egg flats near a grill or stove.
• Never leave egg dishes at room temperature more than one hour (including preparation and service time).
Eggs can be boiled, baked, fried, poached, scrambled and used as an ingredient in a huge variety of other foods. Never microwave an egg in its shell; it may explode.
According to the American Egg Board, eggs should be cooked until the whites are “set” (completely coagulated and firm) and the yolks begin to thicken (no longer runny, but not hard). Scrambled eggs and omelets should be cooked until firm throughout with no visible liquid egg remaining. For egg-containing dishes (such as sauces and casseroles), cook until an internal temperature of 160 degrees F or above has been reached.
When using fresh eggs in any dish, break the egg into a small bowl, then transfer it to the mixing bowl or pan. By breaking it into a small bowl, it's easier to retrieve any broken shell. If the egg smells bad, discard it.
Perfect hard-boiled eggs
Older eggs are easier to peel than very fresh eggs when hard boiled. According to experts, eggs that are 7 to 10 days old are ideal. Place eggs in a saucepan large enough to hold them in single layer. Add cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. On high heat, heat water and eggs just to boiling. Remove pan from burner. Cover the pan. Let eggs stand in hot water about 12 minutes for large eggs (9 minutes for medium eggs; 15 minutes for extra large). Drain immediately and serve eggs warm. Or, cool eggs completely under cold running water or in bowl of ice water and refrigerate until ready to use or eat. To peel, gently tap cooled egg on countertop until shell is finely crackled all over. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell. Start peeling at the large end, holding egg under cold running water to help ease the shell off.
As they age, eggs develop air pockets as air seeps inside the porous shells. That means an old egg will float in fresh unsalted water. To test an egg for freshness, fill a cup with fresh water. With a spoon, lower the egg into the water. If it sinks to the bottom and stays there, it's fresh. If it sits at an angle, it's still fresh. If it stands on the pointed end, it's safe to eat but not quite as fresh; use it for baking or hard boiled. If the egg totally floats, it should be discarded.
Shell as tool
Retrieve errant egg shell fragments with another piece of shell instead of your finger or a utensil. Use a half shell or other large piece to scoop out the broken bit, which is attracted to the shell and its albumen.