Food Friday: Eggs

2 03 2012

Someone once said, “The egg is to cuisine what the article is to speech.” Since the egg is so yummy, so versitile, so prevelant, we’ll spend this whole month on Food Fridays exploring the incredible edible egg.

I thought I knew everything there was to know about eggs, but turns out, I had a lot to learn. (Like did you know that while we typically discard the shell, it’s totally edible? They can be ground and used to add a source of calcium.) Habits form from years of watching momma select the same size, color, and so on and I never even explored how many different sizes, grades, exteriors there were for eggs.

But, if you’re like me, there’s a lot of information out there, so Sweet Iced Tea has spent a little time learning about eggs — purchasing, seperating, egg safety, cooking, everything you’ll need to know. Stick with us! And let’s talk about eggs.

While they have gotten a bad rep in years past for being high in cholesterol, eggs are a great source of protein when eaten in proper moderation. They’re also full of amino acids and vitamins. Though if you’re worried about cholesterol, most of it is found in the egg yolk, so you can separate the yolk or purchase egg whites in most store refrigerated sections. Egg white can easily be substituted in for most egg recipes. Perhaps because of their placement in most grocery stores, eggs are sometimes thought of as dairy, but the USDA considers them part of the meat section of the food pyramid. There are so many different types of eggs — birds (chicken, duck, goose, turkey, ostrich, quail), fish eggs, even amphibian eggs. But for our purposes, we’ll concentrate primarily on chicken eggs, the most common of egg.

First off, let’s talk about some practical egg tidbits. Your most commonly going to see eggs sorted by size and grade at the grocery store, but what are those qualifications, exactly? The grades AA, A, and B speak to the egg’s quality, both exterior and interior. The sizes are also a weight measurement per dozen — jumbo (30 ounces), extra large (27 ounces), large (24 ounces), medium (21 ounces), small (18 ounces), and even peewee (15 ounces). Most recipes call for large eggs unless otherwise stated. The white or brown shell coloring has nothing to do with diet or quality, but rather the breed of the hen that has laid it. There is no taste or nutritional value difference.

Producers wash and seal the coating with a mineral oil, which typcially protects most eggs from increased salmonella growth. Be wary of “farm fresh” eggs you buy at roadside stands. Eggs need to be stored in the refrigerator as they can only stand about one day unrefrigerated before spoiling, versus one week in the fridge. Those fresh roadside eggs may not be as fresh as you think.

Most of us have heard to never eat raw eggs, but here’s added incentive for any of you protein junkies out there who are tempted to throw a raw egg in your shake — cooking the egg actually more than doubles the amount of protein our bodies are able to absorb from an egg versus the egg raw. And the cooking process is usually sufficient to kill most any strain of salmonella that might have left a trace on the raw egg.

So eat up! Eggs are never out of season, always easy to prepare but luxurious to eat, a great meal for any time of day.

What are some of your favorite egg dishes? Come on back next Friday when we’ll talk about the specifics of using those eggs and a few tips on easily separating and cooking with whites and yolks.

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