This post was written for a Food Safety Attorney.
“A box without hinges, key or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.”
Bilbo Baggins presented this riddle to Gollum in The Hobbit, and Gollum easily guessed the correct answer. Yup, eggs.
Boil them. Fry them. Scramble them. Poach them. Eggs are versatile, packed with nutrition, and, apparently, a fair bit of social clout.
A simple brown egg on a white background made headlines from CNN to Mashable to The Onion by smashing an Instagram record for most likes on a single post. The record was previously held by celebrity Kylie Jenner, with 18 million likes, with a picture of her new baby. The egg, at account world_record_egg has a single post, containing naught but the plea to beat Kylie Jenner’s record.
And, that’s eggsactly what happened. No one could have really eggspected that.
Let’s talk about another record-smashing egg for a moment. In New Jersey, in February of 1959, a White Leghorn laid an egg that weighed over 16 oz (according the to the Guinness Book of World Records). That egg had a double yolk and a double shell. Talk about a doozy. It’s truly a pity that the Guinness Book of World Records website does not include a picture of either the egg or the heroic hen who laid it.
We’ve all heard of Dr. Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham, but did you know that some chickens lay green eggs? Nothiing wrong with the eggs, the shells are just pale green. Or blue. The Ameraucana and the various “Easter Eggers” lay eggs with blue, slate, or pale green shells. There is even a cohort of chickens which lay rich chocolate toned eggs (no lie!). The instafamous egg is a humble brown, I imagine the internet would have assumed the chocolate egg was trying too hard.
“When I was a boy, I ate five dozen eggs, so I’m roughly the size of a barge!” – Gaston
In the animated Beauty and the Beast, Gaston followed up his pronouncement on eggs by swallowing a bazillion eggs whole. Truth is, putting a raw egg in some sort of alcohol was—once upon a time—a meal. Cracking a raw egg into It’s difficult for the modern western mind to understand why anyone would put raw egg into alcohol—in fact looking up recipes for ancient desserts and drinks like posset and syllabub you’ll find them stripped of the raw egg component. In Pennsylvania, egg in beer was referred to as the “miner’s breakfast.” Beer was viewed as one way to get necessary carbohydrates, and two raw eggs provided protein and a host of other nutrients. There are plenty of cocktail recipes involving raw egg, from whiskey sours to simple Sherry and egg, and in the 1930s drinking a raw egg was considered a civilized cure for a hangover.
“Whaddya want, egg in your beer?” was an American saying meaning that someone was asking for more when they already had plenty.
Now, of course, things are a bit different. The scale of farming and shipping which allow for efficient distribution of harmful bacteria is probably a factor, and a few socially scarring encounters with salmonella in the 1980’s have irrevocably changed American sensibilities toward raw eggs.
Those of us who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s will remember the Land Before Time movies, and perhaps the one with the egg-napping dinosaurs who crooned “Eeeeeeeeeggs” for most of the movie. Or, perhaps a less obscure egg-obsessed lizard is Joanna, the evil McLeach’s pet monitor lizard from Disney classic The Rescuers Down Under. In real life monitor lizards eat a wide variety of things, including eggs, but eggs are in fact an eggsellent source of nutrition.
Eggs are the least expensive source of high-quality protein. The average chicken egg has 6 grams of protein, that’s 13% of the generally recommend daily value. The best part is that it has no carbs and no added sugar. There is no blood sugar or insulin surge from eggs, and no sugar crash. Egg yolks also have 250 milligrams of choline, which is a chemical that promotes normal cell activity, as well as your liver function and it helps the body shuttle nutrients around. Besides lending a helping hand to the molecular taxi drivers, eggs fill the taxis with vitamin B (12 and 6, if you’re curious), and thiamin, riboflavin, and folate to name just a few. A breakfast of eggs equips your body with fuel for your brain and body, so you crave less at lunch and throughout the day.
So that humble brown egg is really a heavy lifter nutritionally, and Kylie shouldn’t feel too bad that an egg-beat’-er.
Now that we know eggs can also harbor salmonella, we can protect ourselves by following some basic steps for safe handling while we get the most out of this amazing food.
First off, keep your eggs refrigerated! The “danger zone”—or “ideal climate conditions”—for bacteria is 40 degrees through 140 degrees.
Store your eggs in their original carton and make sure to use them within 3 weeks of purchase.
Wash your hands, your utensils and any surfaces that come in contact with raw eggs while you are preparing your food. Crack your eggs into the pan or bowl, dispose of the shells, and immediately wash your hands with warm soapy water to avoid spreading contamination.
When you cook eggs, cook until the insides are firm. Scrambled eggs should not be runny. If you are cooking things which contain eggs, such as a casserole, make sure to cook to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Serve dishes containing eggs immediately, no waiting around. Cooked dishes like quiche can be refrigerated and served later, but should be reheated to 165 degrees before serving, just to be safe.
Never leave cooked eggs sitting out for more than 2 hours, especially if it is more than 90 degrees outside. If you’re bringing deviled eggs to a picnic, also bring a tray of ice to keep the eggs cold while they are out for eating.
Eggs are amazing things, little treasure boxes packed with glorious nutrition and record beating bantam fighting spirit.