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FAQ's / Doneness Guidelines

Your preparation problems with eggs can be solved quickly and easily if you follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Greening
  2. Weeping
  3. Rubbery and Dry Eggs
  1. Checking for Freshness
  2. Shelf Life
  3. Doneness Guidelines

1. Greening

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Cooked eggs may turn green (a natural chemical reaction) if held over heat for an extended period of time. Here's how to avoid it:

Omelets and Scrambled Eggs

  • Use fresh eggs (Grade AA or A). Greening is more likely in older eggs.
  • Cook eggs in small batches, no larger than three quarts.
  • Substitute a medium white sauce for the liquid in the egg mixture. (One part white sauce to five parts egg.)
  • Use temperatures of 140°F and above for steamtable holding.
  • Do not hold hot foods on buffet line for longer than one hour.
  • Use only stainless steel equipment and utensils.
  • Try a liquid egg product if greening is frequent. (Many of these contain citric acid which retards greening.)
  • Beat in 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice for every 18 large eggs, or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid crystals for every dozen large eggs to prevent greening.

Hard-Cooked Eggs

  • Simmer eggs (185-190°F) in water. Don't boil.
  • Cool immediately in cold water. Peel when cool.

2. Weeping

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Water separating from cooked eggs is caused by overcooking or by cooking and holding at high heat or from the addition of watery ingredients. Here's how to avoid it:

Scrambled Eggs

  • Prepare eggs in small batches, no larger than three quarts.
  • Substitute a medium white sauce for the liquid in the egg mixture. (One part white sauce to five parts egg.)
  • Use temperatures 140°F and above for steamtable holding.
  • Use egg products with stabilizers (i.e. gums) added.
  • Limit the amount of added ingredients and make sure they are well-drained.

Meringues
(Due to under-coagulation of the foam during beating or cooking)

  • Beat whites until frothy before adding sugar.
  • Add sugar slowly.
  • Stop frequently and lift whites from bottom of bowl to ensure thorough and even beating.
  • Use a clean metal or glass - not plastic - bowl.
  • Beat until sugar is dissolved, the peaks barely fold over and whites do not slip from sides when bowl is tilted.
  • If the meringue is to be used on a pie, place it on a hot 160°F or above filling, and brown immediately at 350°F, for approximately 15 minutes (3 egg white meringue).
  • For pie meringues containing a larger number of egg whites, reduce baking temperature and increase baking time to achieve temperature of 160°F in center of meringue.

Baked Custards
(includes quiches, custard pies, timbales)

  • Blend egg and milk mixture thoroughly so that no strands of white remain.
  • Cook only until custard tests done.
  • Use a water bath for even cooking. Place baking pan in larger container and fill larger container with hot water to within one inch of top of custard.
  • Baked custards, quiches, custard pies, and timbales should be baked to an internal temperature of 160°F and mixture tests done (knife inserted near center removes cleanly).

3. Rubbery and Dry Eggs

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The problem is the result of overcooking and high heat. It generally follows weeping. Here's how to avoid it:

Omelets and Scrambled Eggs

  • Cook at medium heat until no visible liquid egg remains.
  • Cook in small batches, no larger than three quarts.
  • Use a medium white sauce as liquid in egg mixture. (One part white sauce to five parts egg.)
  • Use temperatures 140°F and above for steamtable holding.

Fried

  • Cook over medium heat on preheated grill or in preheated pan.
  • Use the right amount of fat to avoid toughening, about one teaspoon per egg.
  • Baste with fat or steam-baste by adding small amounts of water and covering.

4. Checking for Freshness

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The first step toward a delicious—and safe—egg dish is to select only fresh eggs. Here are a few simple tips to help make sure you do.

Determining Egg Freshness

  • Know when eggs were purchased and how long your eggs have been stored.
  • Fresh eggs should appear clean and unbroken.
  • Fresh eggs feel cool and dry to the touch.
  • When in doubt, throw them out.

5. Shelf Life

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How long do raw eggs "keep" when properly stored? When should cooked egg dishes be replaced in buffets? Here are several good "rules of thumb." And remember, a properly cooled refrigerator should always be at or below 40°F, and freezers at or below 0°F.

Raw Eggs in Shell

  • It is best to store eggs in the case or carton.
  • When kept refrigerated in their raw shells, eggs last up to 4 to 5 weeks without significant loss of quality. But remember, the clock on those "4 to 5 weeks" starts the moment eggs are laid. To be safe, keep refrigerated raw eggs in shell for no more than three weeks.

Egg Whites

  • Raw egg whites can be refrigerated up to four days.

Egg Yolks

  • Unbroken raw yolks covered in water in a tightly sealed container can be refrigerated up to two days.
  • Hard-cooked yolks can be kept four to five days when well drained, stored and refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.

Hard-Cooked Eggs

  • Avoid freezing hard-cooked eggs, or hard-cooked whites as freezing causes them to be tough and watery.
  • Hard-cooked eggs in the shell last up to one week when properly refrigerated.

Cooked Egg Dishes

  • No cooked egg dish should be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Allow no more than 30 minutes to one hour to elapse when serving dishes outside in weather hotter than 85°F.

6. Doneness Guidelines

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Eggs are incredibly versatile, able to be prepared using a variety of culinary techniques. How can you tell when they are done to perfection? Try using these guidelines.

Scrambled Eggs, Omelets and Frittatas

  • Cook until the eggs are firm throughout and no visible liquid egg remains.

Fried Eggs

  • Cook until the whites are completely set and firm.
  • To cook both sides while increasing the overall temperature of the eggs, cook slowly and either baste the eggs, cover the cooking pan with a lid, or turn the eggs.
  • Cook until yolks begin to thicken (no longer runny, but not hard).

Soft-Cooked Eggs

  • Bring eggs and water to a full, rolling boil.
  • Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 4 to 5 minutes.

Hard-Cooked Eggs

  • Bring eggs and water to a full, rolling boil.
  • Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 14 to 17 minutes.
  • While cooking easily raises the internal temperature to 160°F (killing any Salmonella bacteria), hard-cooked eggs can spoil more quickly than raw eggs.
  • Refrigerate hard-cooked eggs in their shells promptly and use them within 1 week.

Poached Eggs

  • Cook in gently simmering water until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken.
  • Avoid recooking and reheating poached eggs.

Soft (Stirred) Custards (including cream pie, eggnog, and ice cream bases)

  • Cook to 160°F and until thick enough to coat a metal spoon with a thin film.
  • Cool quickly by setting pan in ice or cold water, stirring for a few minutes.
  • Cover and refrigerate for a least one hour to chill thoroughly.

Soft Pie Meringue

  • Bake a 3-egg white meringue spread on a hot, fully cooked pie filling in a preheated 350°F oven for about 15 minutes until meringue reaches 160°F or higher.
  • For meringues using more eggs, bake at 325°F (or even lower temperature) until 160°F.
  • Refrigerate meringue-topped pies until serving.
  • Always refrigerate leftovers.

Miscellaneous Egg Recipes (French Toast, Monte Cristo sandwiches, crab or other fish cakes, quiches, casseroles, lasagna, and the like)

  • Cook or bake until a thermometer inserted at the center reads 160°F (most accurate method).
  • To ensure even heating, use a thermometer to measure temperatures at several locations throughout the dish.