Archive for Wednesday, March 26, 1997


March 26, 1997


Is it safe to eat hard-cooked eggs that have been used for an Easter egg hunt?

Follow the "two-hour rule" when deciding whether you should eat hard-cooked eggs that have been through "the hunt." Eggs should not be kept out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, including time for preparing and serving (but not cooking). Therefore, either follow the two-hour rule or do not eat the eggs. The found eggs must then be refrigerated and eaten within a week after cooking.

When decorating and hiding hard-cooked eggs, the shells are often cracked after my children gather them. Are the eggs still safe to eat?

It's best to consider these as part of the holiday festivities and discard them after Easter. When you cook eggs in their shells, you remove the protective coating that helps preserve eggs. Even the slightest crack allows bacteria that cause food-borne illness to enter.

I have been told that I should not wash fresh eggs before storing them and that I should not store them on the door of the refrigerator. Are these statements true?

Yes. Most eggs sold commercially have been washed, sanitized and sprayed with a protective oil coating to help preserve their quality and wholesomeness. Washing eggs removes the coating and can allow any bacteria that may be present to be drawn into the eggs through the pores in the shells. The extra handling can also increase the chances of accidentally cracking the shells.

Also, it is best to store eggs in their original cartons and under or below, food safety specialists recommend that eggs be stored in the main refrigeration compartment -- not exposed in egg displays on the refrigerator door.

Moving eggs from their carton to a refrigerator storage compartment increases the chances of cracking the shells and transferring bacteria between your hands and the shells.

Strong odors can penetrate eggshells and may give the eggs an unpleasant smell or taste, so keep them away from foods with strong odors, such as onions or fish.

How long can I store fresh eggs in the refrigerator?

Use raw eggs within five weeks after bringing them home. Use leftover yolks and whites within four days after removing them from the shell.

Why are the shells of some hard-cooked eggs so hard to peel while others seem to peel so easily?

According to the American Egg Board, when the eggs are fresh, they are difficult to peel. The difficulty in peeling the shell has been attributed to the lower pH in the albumen of fresh eggs. As eggs age, the pH rises and makes them easier to peel.

Research has shown that eggs that are oiled immediately after laying and stored at low temperatures, maintaining a relatively low pH and high-candled quality, tend to peel with difficulty when hard-cooked.

I've heard that putting holes in eggs before hard-cooking will prevent them from cracking. Is that true?

It is not recommended to put pinholes in eggs to prevent them from cracking. Bacteria is more likely to enter the hole, causing food-borne illness.

Why is there sometimes a greenish-gray color surrounding the yolks when I boil eggs?

The greenish-gray color is the result of ferrous sulfide, a harmless iron compound that forms when eggs are overcooked. During cooking, sulfur is released and joins with hydrogen molecules to form a gas. This gas gives cooked eggs a characteristic odor.

As the gas forms, it combines with iron on the surface of the yolk, resulting in a greenish-gray color. It's a normal chemical reaction that affects appearance, not quality or safety. The reaction is particularly common in eggs that are not as fresh.

To avoid the green color, do not overcook eggs. Also, immediately plunge them into cold water after cooking to pull the gas away from the yolk.

Follow these directions for successful hard-cooked eggs: Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan. Add enough tap water to cover the eggs by at least one inch. Cover and quickly bring just to boiling. Turn off heat. If necessary, remove pan from burner to prevent further boiling.

Let eggs stand, covered, in the hot water about 15 minutes for large eggs. (Adjust time up or down by about three minutes for each size larger or smaller.) Immediately run cold water over eggs or place them in ice water until completely cooled.

To remove shells, tap gently around the egg to crack the entire shell. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell, then peel, starting at large end. Hold the egg under running cold water or dip in bowl of water to help ease off the shell.

What is a "blown-out" eggshell?

The ``Eggcyclopedia,'' published by the American Egg Board, provides the best description of a "blown-out" eggshell: a shell from which the edible part of the egg has been emptied. With nothing inside to spoil, empty eggshells can be decorated to keep indefinitely. The contents can be used in any thoroughly cooked recipe which calls for mixed yolks and whites.

It's easy to empty an eggshell. First, wash and dry the egg. Prick with a long needle to make a small hole in the small end of the egg and a large hole in the large end of the egg. Stick the needle into the yolk to break it.

Then, either shake the egg, large end down, over a cup or bowl until the contents come out, or use a baster to pull out the contents. Press the bulb of the baster to expel the air it contains, then insert the tip into the egg. Release the bulb to pull out the contents. If the contents do not come out easily, insert the needle again and move it around to be sure both the shell membranes and yolk are broken.

Rinse the shell under cool running water and let it dry. Be careful when decorating empty shells -- they're quite fragile.

Label containers in which you store the insides of these eggshells with the number of eggs they contain. Use them immediately in a fully cooked dish or freeze them for later use. Most baked dishes -- such as casseroles, custards, quiches, cakes or breads -- are good uses for eggs emptied from their shells.

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