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Archive for Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Advice on cooking, storing eggs

May 5, 2004

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With eggs, is salmonella still a concern?

Salmonella is on the decline. Random samples of meat and poultry products that tested positive by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for salmonella have declined from 10.65 percent in 1998 to 3.65 percent in 2003.

While researchers believe that salmonella may be present in one in 20,000 raw or undercooked eggs, it's still important to cook and store eggs properly.

Salmonella isn't inside the egg, is it?

The inside of an egg was once considered almost sterile. But, during recent years, the bacterium salmonella enteritidis have been found in fresh, unbroken eggs.

Other types of microorganisms could be deposited along with dirt on the outside of an egg. So, in the United States, eggshells are washed and sanitized to remove possible hazards. You can further protect yourself and your family by discarding eggs that are unclean, cracked, broken or leaking and making sure you and your family members use good hygiene practices.

Are salmonella bacterium most likely to be found in the egg's white or yolk?

Bacteria, if they are present at all, are most likely to be in the white and will be unable to grow, mostly due to lack of nutrients. As the egg ages, however, the white thins and the yolk membrane weakens. This makes it possible for bacteria to reach the nutrient-dense yolk where they can grow over time if the egg is kept at warm temperatures.

What can you do to avoid illness from salmonella enteritidis?

There are several ways to avoid the risk:

  • Avoid eating raw eggs or foods that contain them. This includes "health-food" milkshakes with raw eggs, traditional Caesar salad dressing, hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, and homemade ice cream or eggnog made from recipes in which the raw egg ingredients are not cooked.
  • Cook eggs well. Here's how certain methods should be cooked:

Fried eggs -- To cook both sides and increase the temperature the eggs reach, cook slowly and either baste the eggs, cover the pan with a lid or turn the eggs. Cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard.

Scrambled eggs, omelets and frittatas -- Cook until the eggs are thickened and no visible liquid egg remains.

Poached eggs -- Cook in gently simmering water until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, from 3 to 5 minutes. Avoid precooking and reheating poached eggs.

Soft-cooked eggs -- Bring eggs and water to a full boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let the eggs sit in the hot water from 4 to 5 minutes. Avoid those three-minute eggs completely.

  • Use updated recipes and preparation methods. If you are making eggnog, ice cream, or other egg recipes, use commercial pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes in your recipes. Egg mixtures are safe if they reach 145 degrees if eaten immediately or 160 degrees if used in other egg dishes.

Can I use recipes that call for eggs at room temperature?

Yes. Some cake recipes call for eggs to be at room temperature before they are combined with creamed fat and sugar. Cold eggs could harden the fat and curdle the batter which might affect the finished cake's texture.

For these recipes, remove eggs from the refrigerator from 20 to 30 minutes before you use them or put them in a bowl of warm water while you assemble other ingredients.

And, although eggs are easiest to separate when cold, whites reach their fullest volume if allowed to stand at room temperature from 20 to 30 minutes before beating. For both creamed cakes and separately beaten whites, it's only necessary to take the chill off the eggs. They don't actually have to reach room temperature. For all other recipes, use eggs straight from the refrigerator.

How long will eggs keep?

Fresh shell eggs can be kept refrigerated in their carton for at least 4-5 weeks beyond the pack date. Quality losses should be insignificant if the eggs are refrigerated as soon as possible after purchase from a refrigerated case. Hard cooked eggs should be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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