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Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Regardless of which came first, we've got the 411 on chicken eggs (and beyond).
It's no secret that we love eggs. We poach them, scramble them, fry them, hard boil them, peel them, bake them, use their yolks, their whites, their shells. We enlist egg experts for tips, and we eat eggs for dinner.
So it only makes sense that we dissect them -- not just the chicken egg itself, but every egg that passes through your grocery store: white, brown, cage-free, organic, pasture-raised, even quail and duck eggs. All the terminology can get confusing, but just keep these key things in mind:
First up: white versus brown eggs. There is no complicated answer behind this one: White eggs simply come from white-feathered chickens, and brown eggs come from red- and brown-feathered chickens. Taste and nutrition doesn't differ between the two, but brown eggs tend to be a bit pricier due to their slightly larger size.
Cage-free eggs come from chickens that have been granted some roaming time -- exactly how much space and time outside of their cages can vary from farm to farm.
Certified Organic eggs refers to the feed given to the hens, guaranteed to be free of antibiotics and animal byproducts. This is important, but unfortunately does not have much to do with the treatment or roaming access of the chickens.
When shopping for eggs, look for key terms like cage-free or free-range, organic or antibiotic-free, and pasture-raised, which means the chickens were raised predominantly outdoors, with large areas to graze and roam.
Jumbo, extra large, large, medium, small, and pee-wee eggs generally have about a quarter of an ounce difference between them. When baking, large is your best bet if recipe instructions don't specify size.
Eggs that come straight from the chicken and have not been washed or cleaned can be kept at room temperature because of a protective film that develops around the egg, keeping away salmonella and other diseases. Most grocery store eggs, however, are washed and often bleached, and therefore are recommended to be kept in the refrigerator, where they stay fresh and cool.
Eggs are graded based on the appearance of the shell and quality of the yolk and whites inside: Grade AA eggs have clean, uniform-colored shells and strong whites. Grade A eggs, the most common kind sold in stores, have whites that are a little runnier, and Grade B eggs may have some discoloration in their shells.
Pheasant, duck, turkey, and goose eggs
Pheasant eggs, which are known for their beautiful pastel blue interior, have a large, bright yolk and are about same size as a small chicken egg. Duck eggs, which are the closest in size and flavor to chicken eggs, have slightly harder shells and richer yolks. Because they're a bit sturdier, they tend to keep longer than chicken eggs. Turkey eggs, which usually have a speckled shell, have large yolks and plenty of thick whites. Tastewise, they are also considered to be very similar to that of the chicken egg. Goose eggs, which clock in at the largest, generally contain a larger yolk in proportion to other eggs, and can be subsituted for 2 large chicken eggs.
Tell us in the comments: what kind of eggs do you buy?