Home USA News The truth about egg cartons and other egg secrets

The truth about egg cartons and other egg secrets


You can’t tell how old an egg is just by looking at it. So when you buy eggs at the store, how can you tell which cartons have the freshest eggs?

You look at the cardboard.

A three-digit number from 001 to 365 — or 366 in a leap year — is printed on the side of the cardboard boxes. As you have cleverly guessed, the number corresponds to the number of days that have passed since the beginning of the year. So the box with the number 054 on the side was packed on February 23rd.

These facts and more come from Lisa Steele’s new cookbook dedicated entirely to eggs, The Fresh Eggs Daily. Steele raises chickens in her backyard, so she knows a lot about eggs, which she happily shares at the beginning of her cookbook.

You know that part of a cookbook that no one ever reads? Sometimes it’s worth reading. Steele’s introductory section contains interesting information such as:

  • Chickens are omnivorous; they will eat anything. They eat not only plants, but also bugs, worms, lizards and even frogs. If the package of eggs says “Vegetarian-fed”, it definitely means that the chickens were raised indoors. Otherwise, they would eat beetles, worms, lizards and frogs.
  • Likewise, the phrases “hormone-free” and “antibiotic-free” on cardboard boxes are useless terms. In the United States, it is illegal to give laying hens hormones, and very few commercial farms use antibiotics.
  • If the package says “cage free,” it may mean that the chickens are kept in a large facility with their beaks filed down to prevent them from pecking at each other. Even “free range” can mean they are kept in a large shed with the door open to the outside, which some of the chickens may never use.
  • You can freeze eggs, but not in the shell (the liquid inside will increase, the shell will crack). To freeze, beat the eggs until well blended, then pour into ice cube trays coated with nonstick spray (silicone trays are best). Store frozen egg cubes in a freezer bag for up to six months. Thaw overnight before use.
  • Chilled eggs are enough for three to four months. If stored without refrigeration, they will be good for two weeks or more. (The book doesn’t say this, but don’t leave eggs out for more than an hour if they’ve ever been refrigerated; bacteria can enter the porous shell as it goes from cold to warm.)
  • Most supermarket eggs are white because they are laid by Leghorn hens that lay white eggs. Leghorns are preferred by commercial farmers because they can produce eggs with less feed than many other breeds.
  • Chicken eggs can be white, blue, green or rosy, and there is absolutely no difference in their nutritional value or taste.
  • Eggs are stored pointy end down because it is harder for bacteria to penetrate the slightly alkaline white to the more vulnerable yolk. It also centers the yolk, making hard-boiled or deviled eggs more beautiful.
  • Although eggs are graded by size, they are sold by weight. One dozen large eggs weigh 24 ounces. The eggs inside the carton can be of different sizes, provided they are of such weight.
  • Cold eggs are easier to separate than room temperature eggs. So, separate the eggs just out of the fridge. But then let the egg whites sit for 30 minutes before whipping them because:
  • Egg whites at room temperature beat better than cold ones. With cream, by the way, everything is the opposite – chilled cream whips faster.
  • Anything more than the tiniest drop of fat — including the yolk — will keep the egg whites from whipping into a stiff, airy texture. Before whipping the egg whites, make sure there are no yolks (or very, very little) and that the bowl and beater or beater are completely clean.
  • To bring chilled eggs to room temperature, leave them on the counter for 30 minutes or cover them with warm water for 10 minutes. (I managed to use warm water for five minutes.)
  • If you like your scrambled eggs to be soft and dry, add salt before cooking. If you want them firm and moist, salt them after cooking.

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