White shell or brown shell? Eggs must be bought clean, as the shell is porous and allows germs to penetrate. Brown shells are thicker and less porous than white shells.
A soiled egg should be wiped with a slightly damp cloth, washing it would take away the natural protecting film which prevents bacteria and odours entering the egg.
Most cooks advocate keeping eggs at low room temperature as temperature variations cause the whites to become thin.
Eggs should be stored big end downward to retain their freshness and quality longer.
To get an egg out when stuck to the cardboard egg carton, wet the box, then it will not stick for long.
Eggs are fresh if:-
- When placed in a bowl of cold water, they sink straight to the bottom and stay there;
- If they float, they are not fresh.
- If they tilt between the two they can be used for pastries.
- To test for freshness you can also place your tongue on the end of the egg: a new egg will feel warm, whereas an old egg will feel quite cold.
- Shake the egg by your ear: a fresh egg will not make any noise, an old one will.
To find out if an egg is stale:-
- Break it on a plate.
- It the yolk is flat and the white thin and spreading out then the egg is stale.
- A fresh egg will have a domed yolk and the white will be thick.
To preserve new-laid eggs:-
- Smear the shells with pure glycerine on the day they are laid.
- At the end of a few weeks, they will be just as fresh.
- If possible, store eggs with the small end upwards. They will keep for a month if you boil them for one minute.
Fresh eggs tend to take a little longer to cook than those that are a few days old, as do eggs coming straight from the refrigerator.
Hens’ eggs should be lightly cooked. Prolonged cooking toughens the white and makes it less digestible.
Duck eggs do not keep fresh for very long because they have a very Porous shell. They can be contaminated by germs from the duck, they should be thoroughly cooked to be safe for at least twelve to fourteen minutes. They should not, therefore, be used in lightly cooked dishes, but cooked at temperatures high enough to kill any germs that have been present. They should not be preserved.
Goose eggs are larger than hens’ eggs, but they are as delicate in flavour and can be cooked in many different ways. One goose egg is the equivalent of three hens’ eggs. Cook seven minutes for a soft-boiled egg, fourteen minutes for a hard-boiled egg.
Gull, plover and pheasant eggs are usually eaten hard-boiled and can be served as an hors-d’oeuvre. (Cook for ten to fifteen minutes.)
COOKING TIME FOR HENS EGGS
Cooking time for hens’ eggs varies according to the size of the eggs, but on average the time is as follows:
- 2 minutes very soft-boiled egg with creamy white and slightly liquid yolk 3 minutes soft white, very soft yolk
- 3.5 minutes well-done white, soft yolk
- 5 minutes very well-done white, well-done yolk
- 6 minutes very well-done white, thick yolk
- 10 minutes hard-boiled egg
The perfect way to boil an egg is to bring the water to the boil, put the egg in it and then remove the saucepan from the heat. Leave the egg in the water for six minutes. This method prevents the white becoming leathery and is also very economical. Leave the egg for a few minutes longer if you prefer it cooked.
To distinguish a raw egg from a cooked one, give it a twirl on the table. A raw egg will spin several times; a cooked one will stop spinning immediately.
You can tell when a hard-boiled egg is cooked and ready if you blow into the shell as soon as you take it out of the water. If the shell dries instantly, it is ready; if it stays wet, the yolk is still soft.
When cooking an egg straight from the refrigerator do not place it in boiling water or it will crack. Put it in lukewarm water then bring it to the boil. Time it from the moment the water starts to boil.
An egg will not crack when dipped in boiling water if you previously removed the head from a wooden match, break the match in two and throw it into the boiling water.
To prevent an egg cracking while boiling, prick its pointed end with a needle.
When an egg cracks in boiling water, quickly put in a teaspoon of vinegar to prevent the white running; if the white is already escaping, put a teaspoon of salt in the water.
Before putting a cracked egg into the water, wrap it tightly in tissue paper or silver foil (screw the ends in opposite directions) and it will not boil out of its shell.
To stop the yolk of a hard-boiled egg becoming greyish, plunge the egg in cold water immediately after cooking.
If, when peeling a hard-boiled egg, you realize it is not sufficiently cooked, return it to the boiling water wrapped in aluminium foil and cook it for a few minutes more.
If a hard-boiled egg is cracked at each end, the shell will peel off easily.
When cutting hard-boiled eggs, dip the blade of your knife in hot water beforehand to prevent their breaking.
Peeled hard-boiled eggs will keep fresh longer if placed in a bowl of cold water to which a dash of soda water has been added. Store in the refrigerator.
When poaching an egg, add a little vinegar to the water to prevent the egg breaking.
A delicious way of poaching an egg is to put a small piece of butter into a cup, stand the cup in a little boiling water in a pan, break the egg into it and steam for seven to nine minutes.
SCRAMBLED EGGS, FRIED EGGS AND OMELETTES
Eggs continue to cook in the pan when it is removed from the heat. When making scrambled eggs, fried eggs or omelettes, take the pan off the heat before they are quite ready and let them finish cooking in the pan.
if scrambled eggs have to wait for a little while after being cooked, don’t despair, you will still serve them moist and soft if you stir a raw egg into them before putting in a warm serving dish.
SEPARATING EGG WHITES AND YOLK
When separating an egg, break it into a funnel. The egg white will run through and the yolk will remain.
When the white only is needed, separate the egg in the usual way and put the yolk into a container. Cover it with cold water and keep in the refrigerator. When needed, drain off the water. The yolk will stay perfectly fresh for several days.
WHIPPING AND WHISKING EGG WHITES
When beating the white of an egg, add a small pinch of salt (not too much as it would make it watery). It will whip better and faster. Do not whip an egg white when the egg is cold from the refrigerator. You do not get the same volume from cold eggs.
To get the most volume out of your whites of an egg when whisking them, first rub the inside of the whisking bowl with the cut side of half a lemon, and do not over-beat the egg white, stop when the mixture is firm enough to keep in shape. By over-beating the air will escape and make the egg white flat and too stiff.
Stop your whisked egg whites from liquifying if not used immediately by covering the bowl with a plastic wrap or turning the bowl upside down. (If Whisked perfectly the whites will not fall.)
When making pastries, sauces etc. use medium eggs. Eggs which are too large could alter the recipe.
When using eggs to thicken a sauce, add a pinch of white flour before pouring into the sauce. This will prevent the eggs from curdling in the sauce when It is brought to boiling point.
Do not add milk to the whole beaten raw eggs if you are cooking them with tomatoes. The acid in the tomatoes will curdle the milk.
If you drop a raw egg on the floor, sprinkle a generous amount of fine salt over it to absorb the moisture before wiping it up. It will be much easier to remove.
To avoid breaking the eggs when going camping for the weekend, before leaving break the eggs into a thermos and carry them that way. You will just shake the thermos a little before pouring the eggs out as you need them to make scrambled eggs or an omelette.