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EGGS faqs: selection, storage, safety and hard to find cooking methods

We'll talk elsewhere about the nutrition issues relating to eating eggs. If you include them in your menus, there is plenty to know.
Egg sizes and weights
Softboiled eggs
Hardcooked (hardboiled) eggs
Scrambled Eggs that Hold
Chinese tea eggs
Missouri Pickled Eggs
Really Hot and Spicy pickled eggs
Poach and Hold Poached Eggs
Cheesy Baked Egg Casserole
Cup Eggs or Shirred Eggs
OAMC Freezer Spinach Souffle for 3, with variations
Piperade with Eggs
All about microwaving eggs a whole page
Planning breakfast for large groups quantities needed, a whole page


First of all, try to find grade AA eggs for poaching, frying and boiling. They are firmer and look better when cooked whole.

Look for eggs from free-range chickens who receive vegetable-based feeds. Bacterial contamination of eggs begins with infected chickens; quality of the flock matters. 30 years ago, bacterial contamination of flocks was uncommon, and raw eggs were a safe part of many recipes. Now infection is likely, and many people have changed their recipes to include only cooked eggs or processed dried egg whites and yolks.

The new special-feed eggs really do have yolks with less cholesterol and healthier fats. If this important for you, use them. However, if you use the whites only, any clean, safe egg will do.

Egg sizes are:

Egg color is like apple color; no difference in quality, some difference in preference and taste.

Storing eggs

Store eggs carefully to preserve quality and your investment. Cracked eggs are unsafe. Clean, uncracked eggs can be kept for a few days at room temperature. Refrigerate eggs in an air-tight container to prevent dehydration or off-flavor and preserve freshness, and they are safe for 4-6 weeks.

Egg safety

Always remember the 140/2/40 rule for food safety: that's 2 hours between 140 and 40 is the maximum you can hold food safely! After that, bacterial growth begins to skyrocket.

Don't wet or wash eggs unless ready to cook; it washes away a natural antibacterial coating. In one day at room temperature, an egg loses more freshness than during a week under controlled refrigeration.

Don't use cracked shells for eggs cooked in the shell, it is unsafe. Bring eggs to be used or cooked to room temperature (1/2 hour in air, 10 minutes in warm tap water) before starting to cook. This prevents broken shells, makes them easier to peel, they beat better and poach or fry better.

Next, be aware of bacterial contamination. Egg protein firms at around 150-160 degrees, barely simmering, bacteria are not killed below 165 degrees. Keep hands, bowls and utensils clean. Boil and cool water you plan to use to store cooked poached eggs (see below), add ice, and keep it in the container in which it is boiled.

Cooking eggs

Egg size affects cooking time. Use eggs the same size if they will be cooked together. A small egg takes 5 minutes less that an extra large by some methods. Use eggs at least 2 days old to hard-cook. To check freshness just before cooking, place under water. A very fresh egg lies on its side on the bottom of the bowl, a very old egg floats to the surface and should be discarded. Eggs that stand up on the bottom of the bowl hard-cook well and are usually easy to peel.

How to tell a fresh from a hardcooked egg? When the egg hardboils, the insides become solid, can't move. In the raw egg, the yolk, which is heavier than the white, is suspended by those white strings you have seen in raw egg whites. When you stand an egg up and spin it, a hard boiled egg spins, a raw egg responds to the shifting of the moving yolk and drops to the side before it finishes spinning. I haven't had to do this in a while, because if you mark the egg with a penciled "h" or date, it stays marked through the boiling. Very convenient.

Egg Recipes

Scrambled Eggs that hold for a crowd- 10 servings (adapted from "Cook and hold eggs" in "Yes, you may have the recipe" by Maria Baker) If you are going to hold in a crockpot or buffet server, preheat the ceramic in a 200 o oven or fill crock with hot water and set to "Low" for 20 minutes to preheat. Butter before adding the eggs. Or, hold and serve in the electric skillet in which they are prepared at 170 o.

24 eggs
1/3 C butter or mild oil
2 2/3 C milk, buttermilk; or use part yogurt or sour cream, or part ranch dressing
1 tsp salt pepper or other planned seasoning
2 T granulated blending flour ("Wondra")
Heat large electric skillet to 175 degrees, melt butter. Mix the rest of the ingredients, including flour, beat until well-mixed. Pour into skillet and immediately raise heat to 250 degrees. Pull eggs from outside to center until eggs are just firm, but still soft and creamy. Immediately reduce pan temperature to 170 degrees, or transfer to drained, buttered or Pam'd crockpot preheated on low. Keep covered until served, up to 2 hours.

Soft-boiled eggs (portions adapted from "The fabulous egg cookbook" by Jeffrey Feinman) The temperature on large amounts of water and eggs is tricky! If you are going to boil lots of eggs- more than a dozen- often, find and use the egg-boiling timer that is shaped like an egg and changes color as the cooking progresses.

Hard-cooked eggs (originally inspired by "The fabulous egg cookbook" by Jeffrey Feinman)

Older eggs that stand on their ends when placed in a bowl of water are easiest to peel after hard- cooking. If the shell is uncracked, the cooked eggs may be refrigerated covered up to 3 days.

  • Hot water method to hard-cook eggs: Boil enough water to cover eggs by 1/2". Add eggs, turn to a bare simmer, cook 20 minutes. Run under cold water immediately to stop cooking. Eat or refrigerate. Some folks swear that adding a tablespoon of salt to the water makes the eggs easier to peel.
  • Pressure cooker method to hard-cook eggs: Wash eggs in dish detergent to remove natural sealant. Fill pressure cooker with water that will be 1" above the egg level when you put them in. Bring to a boil, add eggs, seal and lock cover. Bring to 15 pounds, immediately remove from heat. Let sit sealed exactly 5 minutes, run under cold water and release pressure, remove eggs and run under cold water till they are cooled off.
  • No-peel (baked) eggs for egg salad: Peeling a lot of hard-cooked eggs for egg salad is unnecessary. You can cook them whole in a double boiler or preheated oven at 325 degrees. Crack whole eggs into a buttered or Pam'd dish, cover tightly. Eggs should be at least 1" deep but no more than 3" deep. Bake at 300 degrees or steam about 40 minutes until firm, cool immediately by placing baking pan in cold water. Chop or grate eggs for your preferred egg salad recipe.
  • You can also simmer left-over whole egg yolks in water until hard-cooked and use them for your garnish or egg salad.

Chinese tea eggs - recipe using hard-cooked eggs.

8 hard cooked eggs
6 C water
3 T black tea or 4 tea bags
2 T star anise or 1 T anise
4 tsp salt
Crack the eggs all over. Place in non-aluminum pan with other ingredients, simmer on low heat 1 1/2 hours. Let cool in liquid (place container in refrigerator, if you will be using eggs later). Serve warm or cold. Often served halved, dome side down, on a bed of hot steamed rice with wedges of lime, lemon and tangerine.

Pickled Eggs- these sit in the refrigerator in the marinade for two days to two weeks to gather flavor. Made with the beet juice, they have a gorgeous red color. To make large quantities, just multiply the marinade for each six eggs.

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup cold water or beet juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 inch piece cinnamon
4 whole cloves
6 hard boiled egg, peeled
Boil 10 minutes and cool the marinade ingredients except the eggs. When chilled, submerge the eggs and chill in refrigerator at least 2 days. Will keep several weeks, covered and submerged.

Really Hot and Spicy Pickled Eggs

2 dozen hard-boiled eggs (peeled)
4 cups Distilled White Vinegar
1/8 cup vegetable oil (olive oil)
1 jar sliced hot jalapenos with juice (15 oz.) OR sport peppers in vinegar
1 medium onion (chopped fine)
3 tablespoons Hot habanero Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Salt
1 tablespoon Crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon Ground ginger
2 tablespoons Crushed garlic

Bring all of the above ingredients (except eggs) to a boil for 10 minutes in a covered pan. Remove from heat and cool.

Place the hard-boiled eggs in a non-aluminum container and pour the mixture over the eggs, making sure they are covered. Allow eggs to marinate in refrigerator for a minimum of 7 days before serving.

Poached eggs (adapted from traditional French methods)

Baked Cheesy Eggs Casseroles & variations (13 x 9 glass pan, about 8 servings), Butter or PAM dish, preheat oven.

12 eggs
2 16 ounce cans cream-style corn
OR 3 1/2 C other vegetable sauce such as Italian vegetable spaghetti sauce,
OR 1/2 pound sauteed mushrooms
OR browned bulk sausage or shredded ham
10 ounce package drained chopped spinach,
OR 1 cup cooked chopped green vegetable
1/2 cup sauteed green or white onion sauteed in olive oil
1/2 C milk, sour cream, cream sauce or undiluted cream soup
3 1/2 C grated cheese (may use low fat)
OPTIONAL, 4 ounce can diced green chilis or pimentos (may substitute chopped olives and omit salt)
1 T Worcestershire or soy sauce OR 2 tsp salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL, 1 cup flavored croutons, rice, shredded frozen hash browns, etc. OPTIONAL, Parmesan for dusting the pan

This can be mixed the night before and refrigerated, then baked in the morning. Bake about 1 hour and 15 minutes from room temperature, 1 hour 25 minutes from refrigerator.
First make your selection at each ingredient choice, I write them down. If using croutons, refrigerate overnight or at least 2 hours after mixing.
The usual way to mix is to stir everything together and pour it into the pan, allowing the eggs to make it a sort of baked frittata. But it's tasty if layered, and would be a whole different dish if part of the eggs were placed whole on top- more saucy, less custardy, but tasty. If I did not mix in all the eggs, I would bake the rest of the casserole for about half the time, then break each egg into a hole made in the sauce with the back of a large spoon, then finish cooking, so as not to overcook the eggs.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter the pan, dust with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Mix your egg dish.
Bake as indicated.
Remove from the oven when still a little soft in the center; eggs continue to cook when removed from oven.

Cup eggs or shirred eggs (baked individually) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put 1/2 tsp. butter or Pam in individual cups, place on cookie sheet. Put cups in the oven till butter melts and cup is preheated. You can also start with a layer of heated rice, potato or vegetable/tomato sauce in the cup.

Oven methodIf the cups are preheated and the oven is preheated to 375 degrees, it takes 5 minutes to bake a plain one egg cup or 10 minutes for a 2 egg cup. It takes 12- 15 minutes if the 1-2 eggs are baked over sauce, tomatoes, rice, etc. A two egg cup bakes in 20-22 minutes at 375 o if cups are not preheated. If cooked at 325 degrees in an unpreheated cup, a single egg takes about 12 minutes. If you want to put a little grated cheese on the cups, put it on 3 minutes before cooking is done.

Stovetop method: My grandmother used to butter the cup and curl a piece of cooked bacon around the inside, add the eggs and then steam the egg-filled cup in a covered frying pan with an inch of water. It took about 5 minutes. Sometimes she would gently stir a half tablespoon of cream or milk into the white before steaming, leaving the yolk whole.

OAMC Frozen souffle for 3

Prepared when you have time, baked when you need it; watch out Stouffers! You can make 3, freeze two and bake one immediately: 60-75 minutes baking time if frozen, 40 minutes baking time if unfrozen.

For each 3 servings, prepare a white sauce base using:
3 T butter
1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C cream or evaporated milk
Stir in:
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 C dry vermouth, sherry, or white grape juice
1 1/2 C coarsely grated natural cheese
1/2 cup cooked, drained spinach (drain very dry)
Remove from heat. Beat until thick, then beat into the cream mix:
4 egg yolks
Wash the beater thoroughly or use a clean whisk and beat until stiff:
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Gently fold together the cream sauce and egg whites. Pour into 1 1/2 quart ungreased freezer to oven casserole, cover tightly, freeze. The food should be only about 1" thick. Uncover, bake frozen in a preheated 300 degrees oven 60-75 minutes. Corn variation: omit nutmeg, add 1 tablespoon sugar and substitute cooked or canned shoepeg corn for the spinach.
Piperade with baked eggs
Carelessly prepared, piperade dishes tends to become "a soup". The vegetables used (tomatoes, peppers and onions) are full of juices. To avoid soupiness, drain them over a pan after cooking them and recover the juice. Then reduce the juice in the pan over a brisk heat before mixing it back into the piperade. It will heighten the flavor.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium red or yellow pepper, sliced
1 medium green pepper, sliced
450g / 1lb tomatoes, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
5ml/1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley or basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 3 teaspoons mixed hot paprika, salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 ounce feta, Machego, or other sheep's milk cheese (optional)
2 to 3 thin slices (1-2 ounces) prosciutto, Black Forest ham, or Canadian bacon, cut into thin slivers, Optional

Make the vegetable sauce. Start with the onions and garlic, when wilted, add peppers, then tomatoes, parsley and seasonings. Recover and reduce the juice as described above. You can refrigerate the sauce here. When ready to bake, reheat the sauce, stir in the cheese and slivered ham, place in a greased casserole. With the back of a spoon, make 6 nests in the sauce, break one egg into each, bake as described in baked eggs above; about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
You can also serve this over 4-6 servings hot pasta.