Egg Safety Tips, Recipes, and Eggcetera

Everything you need to know about cooking and serving eggs -- just in time for the Easter bunny

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

What's not to love about the Easter Bunny season: baskets, flowers, chocolate, and eggs -- lots of them! Around this time of year, many of us are either dyeing eggs or making favorite egg dishes.

In either case, there are a few things you need to know.

7 Egg-cellent Egg-Safety Tips

1. Avoid the "S" word: salmonella. Fresh eggs may contain the bacteria Salmonella enteritidis. Although S. enteritidis affects a very small number of eggs, it's still wise to refrain from eating raw or undercooked eggs. The salmonella tends to be found in the yolk of the egg, according to researchers. But it's possible for it to be in raw egg whites, so it's best to avoid both.

Just so you know what you're getting into, foods that may have been made with raw eggs include:

  • Homemade mayonnaise
  • Milkshakes and smoothies
  • Caesar salad dressing
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Homemade ice cream
  • Homemade eggnog

2. Pick pasteurized. If you want to make a recipe that calls for raw beaten eggs or egg whites, fear not! You have a few options here. Egg substitutes are pasteurized, which means they're rapidly heated at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time to destroy any salmonella. Dried egg whites are pasteurized by being heat-treated in their dried form. Pasteurized whole eggs are also available at some supermarkets.

3. Keep 'em cool. Salmonella bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature. So make sure the eggs you buy are well refrigerated at the store. Then put them in your refrigerator as soon as you get home.

4. Don't store them in the door. I know some refrigerator doors are designed with a special place to keep your eggs. But guess what? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the best way to store your eggs is to leave them in the carton they came in and keep them in the coldest part of your refrigerator (which is not the door!), set at 40 degrees or slightly below.

5. You've got three to five weeks. It's tempting to stock up on eggs when your market has a two-for-one sale on those 18-egg cartons. But unless you're making egg salad for a potluck or planning an egg-dyeing marathon, you might want to stick to the 12-egg option. According to government guidelines, it's best to use raw eggs in three to five weeks (check the purchase-by date on the carton for more precise information).

If you're making an angel-food cake or hollandaise sauce and have a bowl full of egg yolks or whites sitting in your fridge, keep in mind that leftover raw yolks or whites should be used within four days.

6. "Hard boiled" doesn't mean "hard to spoil." As soon as you hard boil an egg and let it cool, you need to refrigerate it and use it within a week. In Easter egg terms, this means that if you want to display your colorful works of egg-art in your kitchen or on your dining table, you shouldn't actually eat those eggs. If your family likes to hide Easter eggs, try to hide them in a well-shaded area, and don't keep them out of the refrigerator for more than two hours total.

7. Serve egg dishes safely. Keep hot egg dishes hot and cold egg dishes cold. Set your cold egg dish in a larger dish containing ice cubes to keep it cool while it sits out on the buffet table or at a party.

8. Safeguard the leftovers. Refrigerate leftover cooked egg dishes and use within three days. To speed the cooling process in the refrigerator, divide a large portion of food among several shallow containers.

Healthy Cooking With Eggs

Are eggs "good" or "bad" for your health? It depends on how you look at it.

On the upside, the egg white is a "complete" protein and the yolk portion contains fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamin D and vitamin A) plus other vitamins and minerals the body needs. And if you buy the new eggs that are higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, they contribute more omega-3s and vitamin E than regular eggs.

On the downside, each large egg yolk contains 5 grams of fat (2 grams of which are saturated) and around 213 milligrams of cholesterol.

The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams a day and says an egg a day is OK if you don't have elevated cholesterol. If you eat just one egg yolk, you're quickly approaching this limit. Most egg-based dishes and egg breakfasts have at least two eggs' worth per serving. That means you've gone way over 300 milligrams and you haven't even finished your morning coffee! And let's not forget that we get cholesterol from other animal-food sources in a typical day.