Eggs can be consumed in seemingly endless ways, from scrambling them solo to mixing them into baked treats. However, not all eggs are the same: There are farm-fresh and store bought; brown shells and white shells; medium and extra large. Knowing which eggs to use for which purpose can be a bit confusing. Lucky for us, Lisa Steele — fifth generation chicken keeper, blogger, and author of The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook (Buy from Amazon, $14.69) — knows a lot about eggs.
We asked her five egg-cellent questions about everything from common egg myths and correct storage, to how to incorporate them into your holiday dishes. Here’s what she had to say.
What are some popular egg myths that aren’t actually true?
The first myth is that all eggs sold worldwide are sanitized to remove dirt and bacteria from the shell. Here in the US, supermarket eggs must be refrigerated because by law they have to be washed before being placed in cartons and sold. In most other parts of the world, eggs aren’t washed — which retains the natural “bloom” on the shell. The bloom is an invisible coating on the egg that keeps out air and bacteria, keeping the egg fresher and safe to eat longer than eggs that have been washed. If you raise your own chickens or buy your eggs from a neighbor or farmers market, they likely haven’t been washed.
Another myth is that store-bought eggs can hatch into chicks if you don’t eat them fast enough or leave them on the counter. In reality, commercially raised hens aren’t housed with roosters. So, their eggs are not fertilized and will never hatch into baby chicks. If you purchase eggs from a local farm or neighbor who has a rooster, those eggs will look and taste identical to other kinds — aside from a tiny white bullseye on the egg yolk. This is the sign that the egg has been fertilized. [But] even fertilized eggs likely won’t hatch in your kitchen because they need to be kept at temperatures around 100 degrees for several days to begin any development.
Lastly, the biggest myth I run into: You need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs. [Actually, hens will] happily lay an egg almost every day without a rooster around. But again, in order for an egg to hatch into a chick, they need a rooster.
How do farm fresh eggs differ from store-bought eggs?
Appearance-wise, store-bought eggs and farm fresh eggs are going to look the same, although usually supermarkets only carry white and brown eggs. Eggs actually come in all different shades, from tan to dark brown, green, blue, and even pinkish — laid by over 100 different breeds of chickens. The eggshell color is entirely dependent on the breed of hen that laid the eggs. Some small specialty stores might carry green or blue eggs, but it’s rare to find them sold commercially.
But on the egg’s inside, it’s a different story; the egg yolk color is dependent on the hen’s diet. Hens that eat a solely commercial diet will lay eggs with pale yolks, while hens that are allowed to range freely and be out on pasture eating all kinds of grass, weeds, bugs, worms, and seeds will lay eggs with nice bright orange yolks. Foods that contain the pigment xanthophyll (a carotenoid) are what contribute to the color of an egg yolk. Fun fact: A hen will store any pigment not needed for the egg yolks in her legs and feet, turning them a nice bright orange as well. Fresh eggs also have nice thick whites; though egg whites start thinning out as an egg ages, which makes them less ideal for poaching or frying because they’ll spread out all over the pan.
What are your tips for properly storing eggs?
Store-bought eggs have to be refrigerated. Since they’ve been washed and their natural protective coating has been removed, they shouldn’t be left out at room temperature. They should be stored with the pointed end down in the carton, as this keeps the yolk centered in the egg. Also, store them somewhere near the back of the refrigerator so they stay uniformly chilled.
Farm fresh eggs that haven’t been washed don’t need to be refrigerated. They’ll last sitting on the counter for several weeks. But, they’ll last longer if they’re chilled. The rule of thumb is that one day on the counter equals a week in the fridge. So, unless you’ll be using your fresh eggs within a week or two, I’d refrigerate them for longer storage. It’s nice to keep some eggs out on the counter especially if you bake, so you always have room temperature eggs available.
How can you incorporate eggs into a holiday menu?
Eggnog is a holiday favorite that everyone loves. The homemade version, whether you add a dash of holiday spirits or not, is so much tastier than the store-bought kind. I also love making Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake for Thanksgiving and my Cranberry White Chocolate Pound Cake for Christmas. Both dishes use lots of eggs. On the savory side, my Holiday Leftovers Strata is a great way to use up any leftover vegetables, meat, cheeses, and even dinner rolls from a family celebration. All you need to do is whisk some eggs and milk, pour that mixture over the leftovers, bake until golden and bubbly, and you’ve got the perfect brunch or post-holiday breakfast for a crowd.
Final thoughts on the incredible nature of eggs?
Eggs are so versatile and such a good way to add extra protein and nutrition to any meal. I recommend that you think outside of breakfast and incorporate eggs into meals any time of day. Of course, I encourage everyone to raise their own chickens. But, with backyard chickens becoming popular across the country, seeking out a local source for eggs shouldn’t be difficult — no matter where you live. And it’s worth the extra effort. Fresh is best!
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