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.
For people with coronary artery disease, high cholesterol levels, or other cardiovascular risks, the cholesterol limits may be even stricter -- often, 200 milligrams a day.
So the trick to healthy egg cookery is cutting fat and cholesterol when possible while retaining flavor. Here are some ways to do that:
1. One egg goes a long way. When I'm creating or lightening bakery recipes and batters, I use only one egg whenever possible. That's because the emulsifying power of one egg yolk goes a long way. And if I can get away with one egg yolk instead of two or three, then why not? I usually add egg substitute or egg white to make up the difference so I'm still getting the protein from the eggs.
2. The half-and-half rule of thumb. In egg-based dishes like quiche or frittatas, I use half eggs and half egg substitute. That means there's enough real egg in the dish to pull it off, yet I've cut the fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol from the eggs in half.
Several brands of egg substitutes, which are made from mostly egg whites, are available in markets. I personally prefer the EggBeaters brand because it seems to perform better in recipes. Each 1/4 cup (the equivalent to 1 egg) of EggBeaters contains:
- 30 calories
- 6 g protein
- 1 g carbohydrate
- 0 g fat
- 0 g saturated fat
- 0 milligrams cholesterol
- 115 milligrams sodium
- 15% Daily Value for vitamin A and folic acid; 10% for Vitamin D; 4% for vitamin E
3. Whites can sub for substitutes. If you don't want to buy egg substitutes, you can use regular eggs without the yolks. Substitute 2 egg whites for each whole egg (or 1/4 cup of egg substitute) your recipe calls for.
4. Up your omega-3s. You can increase the omega-3 fatty acids and, in some cases, vitamin E, in your diet while decreasing cholesterol and fat just by switching to higher omega-3 eggs.
You heard it right, folks! There are now vegetarian-fed hens that are laying a whole new generation of eggs. The farmers have changed the nutrient content of the eggs by feeding the hens a different diet.
Several brands are available across the country. Some have more omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E per egg than others, so check the label.
Here's a typical breakdown. One Eggland's Best brand egg contains:
- 70 calories
- 4 g fat
- 1 g saturated fat
- 0.1 g (100 milligrams) omega-3 fatty acids
- 180 milligrams cholesterol
- 65 milligrams sodium
- 25% Daily Value for vitamin E; 6% for vitamin A
Ready to get cooking? Here are a couple of egg recipes, one that's perfect for using up any hard-boiled eggs you have left after Easter, and another that shows how well egg substitutes can pinch-hit for a portion of the eggs in an egg-based dish.
Smoked Salmon Egg Salad Filled Tomato
This egg salad is just as delicious served with whole-grain crackers, but it is beautiful served in hollowed-out tomatoes.
4 large hard-boiled eggs (use higher omega-3 eggs, if available); shells removed, chopped
2 small stalks celery, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
4 ounces diced smoked salmon
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dill weed (dried) or 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
8 medium tomatoes, tops cut off and hollowed out
- In a medium bowl, combine chopped eggs, celery, onion, salmon, and mayonnaise.
- Season with dill, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow flavors to combine.
- Spoon egg mixture into hollowed-out tomatoes. Cover well and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Yield: 8 filled tomatoes (4 servings)
Per serving: 188 calories, 13 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat (2.8 g saturated fat, 4.6 g monounsaturated fat, 3.2 g polyunsaturated fat), 218 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 414 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 53%
You Say Tomato and I Say Frittata
You can make this quick dish for breakfast, brunch, or even a weeknight dinner. You may already have all the ingredients in the refrigerator.
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 teaspoons olive or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large eggs
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup shredded, reduced-fat Swiss or sharp cheddar cheese
Canola or olive oil cooking spray
1 large vine-ripened tomato, cut in half and then sliced (or 2 medium tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or any herb blend you like)
- In a 9-inch nonstick skillet, cook the onion and bell pepper with salt and pepper to taste in 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat, stirring often, until pepper is tender (about 3 minutes).
- In a mixing bowl, beat or whisk together eggs, egg substitute, and cheese. Add the bell pepper mixture and beat or whisk until well-combined.
- Heat the 9-inch skillet again over medium heat.
- When it's hot, coat the pan generously with canola cooking spray and quickly pour in the egg mixture, distributing the bell pepper evenly. While it begins to cook, arrange tomato slices decoratively on top. Then, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning on top.
- Cover the skillet and cook without stirring for about 6 minutes, or until frittata is set and bottom is nicely brown.
- If desired, broil under a preheated broiler, about 4 inches from the heat, for 2 minutes to lightly brown the top. Let cool in skillet for 5 minutes.
- Slide onto a serving plate and cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per serving: 270 calories, 22.5 g protein, 13.5 g carbohydrate, 14 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 6 g monounsaturated fat, 2.4 g polyunsaturated fat, 228 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 325 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 46%.
Originally published March 21, 2005
Medically updated March 2007.
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