It is good to be egg-centric, again!

After decades of avoiding eggs because we were told that cholesterol caused heart attacks, the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines officially exonerated them, finding no link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease. Now eggs are a health food again. But that doesn’t mean you should eat just any eggs or prepare them any old way.

They are super nutritious

Eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Eggs contain selenium, biotin, B vitamins, phosphorus, A, D, E and K and lecithin selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper. Egg yolks, which happen to be the most nutritious part of the egg, contain powerful antioxidants, especially choline.  But when the yolks are cooked in high heat, they will lose the antioxidants they contain. To preserve these antioxidants cook them runny. With pastured eggs more fat-soluble flavor components will be transferred to the eggs, which may also make the local eggs more fragrant. 

Chicken, Duck, Goose, Ostrich, Turkey, Quail

Duck eggs are highly sought after, especially by people who are otherwise allergic to eggs. They are also excellent for baking because they have higher fat content making cakes rise higher, and giving meringues more volume and stability. You substitute one duck egg for every chicken egg (no more and no less). Duck eggs are also higher in protein, calcium, iron, potassium, and other major minerals than chicken eggs, along with a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. They have a much larger and richer yolk which will also be more orange than a chicken egg. Turkey eggs have more zinc. Goose eggs are used for Easter decorating because of the larger size. Chicken eggs are roughly 1/3 yolk, while goose eggs are slightly over 1/2 yolk.   Chickens and ducks require at least 16 hours of daylight to lay an egg, which means that they will lay in natural light for much of the spring, summer and fall. Geese lay best with only about 10 hours of daylight. Specialty eggs such as pigeon eggs and ostrich eggs are very expensive. The reason why they are expensive is more due to their low yield and high breeding cost, making them rare and hence expensive. 

Free-Range, Cage-Free, Pastured

Conventional egg-laying hens live in “battery cages”. Seven or eight birds sometimes share a single cage. These cramped mesh cells that prevent hens from ever stretching their wings, nesting, or doing much at all beside produce eggs. Their days are shortened by artificial light to make them produce more than one egg a day. But cage-free doesn’t always mean cruelty-free. Cage-free only means that chickens aren’t kept in cages. They might still live on top of one another in cramped facilities and never see daylight. Some studies suggest cage-free chickens have a higher mortality rate because without cages, chickens peck each other to death and disease spreads more easily. The highest quality standard for eggs is “pastured”. Usually pasture-raised hens actually live outdoors and eat a diet of seeds and insects that could improve the taste and nutrition of the eggs. More fat-soluble flavor components in these eggs also makes the local eggs more fragrant. 

How to cook an egg

Egg is perhaps the world’s most versatile ingredient. There are probably hundreds of ways to cook an egg. Soft boiled eggs are perhaps the most popular and also the most nutritious (as explained above). To soft-cook eggs, bring a deep saucepan filled halfway with water to a rolling boil. With a slotted spoon, gently lower eggs into water. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 4 to 6 minutes (depending on how soft you like the yolks).

To serve eggs in their shells, quickly crack the wider end with a knife and remove the top. To serve out of the shell, hold egg over a small bowl, tap around center with a knife, and gently pull shell apart, then scoop out egg with a spoon into the bowl.

How to peel an egg

Make sure your eggs are at least a few days old. Really fresh eggs can be harder to peel. For the easiest peeling, don’t boil them; steam them! Bring to boil a quarter-inch of water in the bottom of the pan, add the eggs, cover with a lid and wait for 12 minutes for hard boiled eggs.  Before peeling them, let them cool down. You don’t need to shock them in cold water to make them easy to peel. But, if you do cool them in cold water before peeling, you will avoid the “flat bottom” – they will be rounder. Unpeeled eggs can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Why Europeans don’t refrigerate their eggs

To combat the problem of Salmonella, back in the 1970s, the US perfected egg washing: After laying, the eggs go straight to a machine where they are shampooed with soap and hot water. This steamy shower washes away any potential salmonella, but it also strips the eggs of a thin coating called a cuticle. Without this protective layer, the eggs can’t keep water and oxygen in, or harmful bacteria out. So the eggs are refrigerated to combat infection. European food safety experts took a different tack. They left the cuticle intact, made it illegal for egg producers to wash eggs and discouraged refrigeration. Also, in European cultures, rooted in daily at home cooking, eggs are assumed to be consumed quickly.

If you want to try room-temp eggs, (which will also be pastured and more nutritious), head down to the local farmers’ market for some colorful heirloom eggs. Chances are they haven’t washed or refrigerated the eggs, the cuticle is intact, and you could keep the eggs on the counter. In the spring time you have the best chance to see duck, geese, turkey and quail eggs. In the winter months chicken are resting and not laying as much, so eggs are sold fast. See if you can tell the difference. Refrigerated eggs have shelf life of 50 days, on the counter 21 days.  

Easy Egg salad:

2-6 hard boiled eggs

1-2 tbs of mayonnaise

1 tsp fresh and dried chives, minced

Egg cuter

Slice eggs two direction on an old fashioned egg cutter. In a bowl mix with mayonnaise. Add chives. You can also add salt, paprika, turmeric or other spices according to your liking. Makes a great healthy breakfast or snack. Enjoy!

Library resources:

Eggs by Michel Roux; photography by Martin Brigdale

Lucky Peach All About Eggs: Everything We Know About the World’s Most Important Food by Rachel Khong and the editors of Lucky Peach

Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? by Mark Hyman.

Internet Resources:

The 1-2-3s of Hard-Cooked Eggs

Cracking the Egg

How many eggs can I eat?

Is Grassfed Meat and Dairy Better for Human and Environmental Health?

Magda Born

Community Services Librarian

Kansas City, Kansas Public Library

625 Minnesota Ave.

Kansas City, KS 66101

913-295-8250 ext 1103