Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 1999

SUSAN KRUMM COLUMN

March 31, 1999

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

Follow the "two-hour rule" when trying to decide 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 be re-refrigerated and eaten within one 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?

The answer is "yes" to both statements. Most eggs sold commercially have been washed, sanitized and sprayed with a protective oil coating to help preserve the 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 chance of accidentally cracking the shells.

Also, it is best to store eggs in their original cartons and under refrigeration at a food temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Because the door of the refrigerator is not consistently at a temperature that will hold eggs at 40 degrees or below, food safety specialists recommend that eggs be stored in the main refrigeration compartment -- not exposed in egg displays on the refrigerator door. In addition, moving eggs from their carton to a refrigerator storage compartment increases the chance of cracking the shells and transferring bacteria between your hands and the shells.

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

How long can I store fresh eggs in the refrigerator?

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

Is it true that the egg is spoiled if it floats during hard-cooking?

Floating of eggs when hard-cooking is not a sign of spoilage, but instead is an indicator of freshness. The older the egg, the larger the air sack, causing the egg to float.

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 too 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 which makes them easier to peel.

Some research has also 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 right?

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 gas. It is this gas that 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 is a normal chemical reaction that affects only the appearance -- not the quality or the 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 come at least 1 inch above the eggs. 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 shell, crack it by gently tapping all over. 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 shell.

I want to use real eggs in place of Egg Beaters in a recipe. How do I substitute?

Use one whole egg, or two egg whites, to replace 1/4 cup of Egg Beaters or other egg substitute in recipes.

Is there a way to make a homemade egg substitute?

Yes there is. Similar to commercial egg substitutes, you can store the following homemade egg substitute in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze it in 1/4 cup portions and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. The recipe below eliminates a lot of the cholesterol associated with eggs. Where a large egg would have 75 calories, 4.5 grams of fat and 213 mg of cholesterol, an equivalent of egg substitute contains 70 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and less than 1 mg of cholesterol.

Homemade Egg Substitute

¤ cup nonfat dry milk powder

6 egg whites

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Using a blender or electric mixer, combine all ingredients until mixture is smooth. Because this recipe contains raw eggs, do not use it in uncooked products such as ice cream or eggnog. Yield: 1 cup; ¤ cup is equivalent to 1 egg.

-- Susan Krumm is an extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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