Egg

When It Comes to Eggs, Size Matters

March 14, 2018

As a card-carrying member of Sam’s Club and Costco, my mom always taught me to take advantage of the economy of scale. So, I’d buy the 24-pack of toilet paper, industrial-sized snack mix, and gallons of milk. But recently, I realized my allegiance to jumbo eggs (more egg for a few extra pennies!) might be the reason my cookies weren’t coming out of the oven exactly as I’d imagined.

Turns out that when it comes to cooking and baking with eggs, bigger isn’t always better. Read on to learn which is the right size for you.


The Sizes

In the U.S., you’ll likely run into one of six sizes of chicken eggs:

  • Peewee: weighs about 1.25 ounces
  • Small: weighs about 1.50 ounces
  • Medium: weighs about 1.75 ounces
  • Large: weighs about 2 ounces
  • Extra Large: weighs about 2.25 ounces
  • Jumbo: weighs about 2.50 ounces

Chickens lay different-sized eggs for a variety of reasons, like breed, diet, or light exposure, but the primary factor is age. By the time they’re 40 weeks old, most hens can lay large, extra large, or jumbo eggs.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“If the cook is making an omelet, fried eggs, scrambled eggs etc (you get the drift) extra large are fine. But when it comes to baking, a large or medium egg is best”
— William G.
Comment

But it’s not chickens determining the uncanny consistency of your carton’s contents—that’d be the government (they’re also the ones deciding egg grades). The USDA classifies egg size by the total weight of a dozen eggs, which is why some eggs in the carton may look slightly larger or smaller than the rest. Overall, though, if you buy a carton of large eggs, the average weight won’t stray too far from 2 ounces.


When It Matters

There are so many different ways to use eggs. (Seriously—here’s 100.) But egg size matters most in two cases:

1. Baking

Eggs add moisture and stability to baked goods, and help leven and bind dough. Too much from a jumbo egg or not enough from a small can have a big impact on what comes out of the oven. Like all chemistry baking ingredients, you should measure each component carefully.

Food52 baking expert Erin McDowell uses large eggs both professionally and at home.

“Eggs are graded by their size, and their weights change dramatically from one size to another,” she says. “Since baking recipes are largely based on more precise ratios and formulas, using a small egg when a large egg is called for can result in serious alterations in the final product.”

After flipping through a dozen baking books, I found almost all recipes specifically require large eggs. The exception: Anne Bryrn notes in American Cake that older recipes often call for seemingly excessive numbers of eggs (think 12 or 16 for one cake) because eggs were smaller then.

2. Cooking in large quantities

Most recipe writers explicitly call for large eggs, or else assume that’s what you’ll be using. But just as whipping up a stew doesn’t require the same dedication to formulas as a cake, cooking gives eggs a little more wiggle room. If you’re frying up an egg to top toast or a salad, or scrambling yolks to flavor fried rice, go for the jumbo or medium in your fridge. You won’t notice too much of a difference in your dish. One exception: when recipes call for a lot of eggs—like a quiche or custard.


What to Do

So, you bought medium eggs for your morning scramble, but now you want to make cookies that call for two large. What do you do? Erin says the best way to utilize eggs that are the wrong size for your recipe is to convert the amount to weight and weigh out your eggs instead.

“I would do the math and know that would mean I’d need 4 ounces of eggs, and weigh out my medium eggs to match.”

If you need to convert partial eggs or measure eggs with a double yolk, make sure to whisk the egg first to combine the white and yolk, then scale it out by weight.

For me, I still love the idea of an extra large (or jumbo!) egg for an extra special breakfast. But I’ll no longer crack them into my cookies willy-nilly.

Share your favorite size of egg in the comments below!

9 Comments

gwyn March 18, 2018
So the USDA is grading on the weight of eggs in the shell, but we should weigh once cracked?
 
Smaug March 18, 2018
The USDA weights, as stated in the article, are averages, so not of much use in a recipe. At any rate, when making a recipe you need to weigh ingredients in the same way that the author did, which good recipe writers will make clear.
 
gwyn March 18, 2018
Yes, i understood they are averages. I bake on a weekly basis and very rarely run across a recipe in which the weight of the eggs is indicated or addressed at all. I just did a quick audit of my cookbooks, and the only one indicating weight is the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. The only one addressing weight in the ingredient section is Baking Illustrated, which lists 2 oz for large, but does not say if that is the whole egg or cracked (and the context is how to use the equivalent amount of egg substitute.) The reason I am interested in this is that i now purchase eggs from a farmer, and each dozen has eggs from a variety of breeds of hens, so they vary greatly in size, and some have very thick shells. I usually just wing it, but recipes such as macarons and meringues are more affected by the egg weight. Also, many people use recipes they find on-line, so there is no ingredient section to reference.
 
Smaug March 18, 2018
No, I don't remember coming across many recipes with egg weights, and few with volumes. Bakers actually did fine without such things for centuries, but it would seem that if you're trying to sort your eggs medium-large etc. weighing them in shell would be the only choice. Your farmer's eggs are likely to be of higher quality than what's available at the supermarket- probably that's why you use them- so they aren't going to behave precisely the same in recipes. Baking isn't really as exact as people like to say- you'll do fine with a modicum of common sense. People who find recipes online (or in newspapers and magazines) are taking their chances; on some sites- such as this one- you may be able to get questions answered by the recipe's author, but in general you're going to be flying blind to some extent. Cooking wouldn't be any fun if you could just look it up on your telephone and know how to do it.
 
William G. March 15, 2018
If the cook is making an omelet, fried eggs, scrambled eggs etc (you get the drift) extra large are fine. But when it comes to baking, a large or medium egg is best
 
Greenstuff March 15, 2018
Eggs vary so much these days--shell thickness, percent yolk, quality. I'd love to see an article that looked deeper.
 
ktr March 15, 2018
Is the weight for the egg including the shell, or should the egg be weighed after cracking it?
 
Smaug March 14, 2018
Most good recipe writers will tell you what they mean- once again (my second time today)- read the ingredient section at the beginning of the book; it contains information that will be taken as read throughout. Some extra fastidious writers give egg use by volume- still, the proportion of yolk to white can vary...
 
Bobbie March 14, 2018
Ironically, Costco only sells large eggs. I prefer extra-large eggs for frying or poaching and large for baking. I'm pretty sure that Ina Garten uses extra-large in her baking recipes.