Egg tips and trivia: How to peel, scramble and fry eggs like a pro

Washington Post Food and Travel Editor Joe Yonan walks you through four handy ways to prepare eggs—from separating the yolks to slow scrambling. (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)


Presenting a few egg-citing facts about this ubiquitous, versatile food.

IF YOU’RE GOING to chop hard-cooked eggs, here's an easy way to peel them: Cut them in half with a sharp serrated knife while they’re still in the shell, then use a spoon to pop out each half. (You might be left with some ragged edges, so they’re not good for deviling.)

IF YOU HAVE several yolks left over after separating eggs, you can cook them without the whites: Just drop yolks, one at a time, into boiling water until they become hard-cooked. Keep in the refrigerator to use for slivering or crumbling over creamed dishes, salads or vegetables.

THE SECRET OF success in cooking eggs and dishes in which eggs predominate is to cook slowly at moderate, even heat.

BRIOCHE AND CHALLAH differ in their amounts of egg and fat. Whole eggs are used in brioche; challah can be made with whole eggs or yolks only. The added fat in brioche dough keeps gluten from forming, resulting in a cakelike bread. Challah, made with less fat, has a chewier crumb.

THE BEST WAY to test an egg for freshness is to crack it: A slightly cloudy white is a sign the egg is very fresh. A clear egg white is an indication the egg is aging. Easily broken or flat yolks signal older eggs (or poor nutrition in the hens).

FOR SUPER-CREAMY scrambled eggs, use a double boiler (or a pan fitted over a pot of barely bubbling water), slowly stirring the eggs until they form big, moist curds. It can take up to 20 minutes, but it’s worth the wait.

EGGS ARE GRADED by quality, not freshness or nutritional value: “AA” means the yolks are rounded and the whites are compact. Grade “A” means the yolks are a bit flatter and the whites are slightly thinner.

NO MATTER HOW your refrigerator is outfitted, store eggs in their original carton — not on the door. Agitation will cause the whites to loosen and deteriorate. The storage temperature should remain below 45 degrees (to prohibit microbial growth).

IF YOU LIKE sunny-side-up eggs with no crisp edges, try “blindfolding” them: Cook just until the whites are set, about 1 minute, then add 1 / 4 cup ice cubes to the pan, cover, and cook another 2 minutes until they film over.

CONCERNED ABOUT HOW chickens are raised, and trying to decipher egg-carton labeling? “Cage-free” means the birds are not in battery cages, but they still might be crowded in barns without much or any outdoor access, and this term has no legal definition. “Free range” means the chickens have some outdoor access, but there’s no guarantee about how much or for how long. Some farmers use the terms “pastured” or “pasture raised” to mean the chickens were raised on pasture with access to shelter, but those terms also are not regulated. For chickens raised according to the highest animal-welfare standards, look for the label “Animal Welfare Approved,” which, among things, prohibits facilities from cutting chickens’ beaks.

TO SEPARATE a large number of egg yolks and whites, try using a clean plastic water bottle. Hold the bottle upside down, squeeze it, hold the opening over the yolk, and release; the vacuum created will suck the yolk right into the bottle. To release the yolk, just squeeze the bottle.

AN EGG SEPARATES better when it is cold, but it beats better at room temperature.

WHEN YOU NEED a small funnel, an eggshell with a hole punched through the small end makes a good substitute.

THE PECULIAR SHAPE of the dome of the Mohammedan mosques is regarded as a vestige of early egg worship.

AB OVO USQUE AD MALA (“from the egg to the apples”): Horace used the phrase, which refers to the Roman practice of beginning the evening meal with egg as a relish and ending with fruit.

A RECIPE FOR “stuffed” or deviled eggs appeared in a 13th-century Andalusian cookbook: The cooked yolks were pounded together with cilantro, onion juice, pepper and coriander, then beaten with oil, salt and a fermented condiment called murri.

EASTER EGG PRECURSOR? After the 4th century, the Catholic Church prohibited the use of eggs and other animal foodstuffs during the 40 days of Lenten fasting. To preserve the eggs laid during that period, people dipped them in wax to coat them and created designs in the wax.

ON THE FARM, eggs used to be gathered in wire baskets to cool them as quickly as possible.

IT TAKES A HEN about 26 hours to create an egg.

Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes: washingtonpost.com/recipes.
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