February 19, 2008

Cooking with Eggs

by Lisa Paterson

We use eggs in so many recipes. They are a staple in the kitchen.

An egg can be cooked alone - boiled, poached, fried, scrambled. Or used as an ingredient in baking, batters and cakes. Alternatively use an egg to thicken sauces or to add air to lighten dishes.

The egg is truly amazing. And without it - well our menus sure would be dull.
But do you know much about the egg?

Chances are that you have never even given it a thought. Well it is time you did.
The most critical aspect of the egg is - it's air content. (bet you thought I was going to say the shell).

When first laid, the egg has barely any air inside a tiny air pocket. However, because the shell is porous, it allows air to penetrate. And as time passes, air moves inside the egg and the air pocket grows.

As this air pocket enlarges, the moisture in the egg evaporates. So, as the egg gets older the yolk becomes less plump and flatter and the white separates and spreads.

And this all impacts on cooking. Depending on how you intend on using the egg determines how fresh an egg you should use.

If you fry an older egg, you will end with a flat 'pancake' instead of a neat rounded egg.

The more stale an egg the more fragile and difficult to separate it will be.

As opposed to the fresh egg, which has a tight and tough inner skin. This makes peeling the shell off the boiled egg very frustrating. As the egg ages with skin relaxes allowing the shell to peel much easier.

If you are lucky enough to have your own hens, then you know how old your eggs are. But what if you have to buy them?

The easiest method of tell how old an egg is, is to put the egg in a dish of water.

If it sinks and lies horizontally - very fresh. If it sinks but tilts slightly - about 1 week old. If it sinks but stands vertically - older, stale. But if it floats - it's off and be careful not to crack the shell.

Some people prefer brown eggs and some white. But nutritionally they are the same.

The yolks will also vary in color depending of the diet of the hen.

Do you find your eggs crack when boiling? Well, follow these simple steps to get perfect eggs, every time.

Use 2 week old eggs and ensure they are at room temperature. Make as pin prick in the rounded flat end of the egg - this allows any steam that might build up to escape.

Use as small a saucepan as possible, so the eggs fit in snuggly - you don't want to much space otherwise they may bounce around and crack.

Bring to the boil but only simmer do not boil vigorously. Follow these tips and your eggs won't crack.

So, for frying and poaching use as fresh an egg as possible. When the recipe calls for eggs to be separated, use fresh eggs as well. But if you want easy to peel eggs use the older ones. And when it comes to scrambling, fresher is best but older ones will do.

Happy Egg CookingLisa "The Crock Cook"
Lisa cooks Crock Pot Recipes at www.a-crock-cook.com, bakes chinese fortune cookies and creates cupcakes at www.cupcake-creations.com. *Webmasters ensure ALL links remain live and static.*