It’s so easy to take eggs for granted because they’re cheap and readily available, but in fact they’re one of the most valuable, versatile foods you can buy. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.
Perfectly packaged by Mother Nature in a biodegradable shell, and of course gluten free, egg protein has such high quality that it’s often used as the standard by which all other protein is measured, according to the Iowa Egg Council.
Nutrient dense, with a very high proportion of nutrients to calories, eggs contain all the essential amino acids. The human body can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids it needs, but the remaining 10, called essential amino acids, can only be obtained by eating the right foods.
One large egg provides a generous 6 grams of protein, around 75 calories, and 13 essential vitamins and minerals. The valuable nutrients contained in the yolk include choline, folate, lutein and vitamin D. The yolk also contains a moderate 5 grams of fat, of which less than a third is saturated; the rest is healthful poly- and monounsaturated fat, which boosts your HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
Around the world, eggs feature in classic recipes from elegant French soufflés, Mexican huevos rancheros, and savory Italian frittatas layered with fresh veggies to my latest finger-food favorite, Syrian egg patties.
Nine Exacting Egg Facts
1. There’s no difference in the amount of nutrition between eggs with brown, white or pale green shells. (The color depends on the breed of the chicken, not on what they eat.) A high protein, 75-calorie, Grade AA Large egg, the size used in most recipes, weighs 2 ounces and is a great food bargain.
2. The egg yolk contains most of the vitamins and minerals and some protein. The egg white protects the yolk and contains most of the protein.
3. Egg carton labels are confusing at best. Certified organic means the uncaged hens get an organic, vegetarian diet with no antibiotics or pesticides and have some outdoor access. Free range means the hens get some outdoor access, but an unspecified diet. Certified humane and cage free means uncaged, but often without any outdoor access and an unspecified diet. “Farm fresh” and “all natural” on the carton sounds good, but doesn’t mean anything.
4. Brown, cream, white and pale green eggs from local small farms come from free-range chickens living natural outdoor lives with coops for roosting in at night. They are given high-quality feed, and their eggs have a deep-colored, almost orange yolk with a noticeably rich flavor. Not surprisingly, these eggs cost more to produce. A special treat, they can be found, impeccably fresh, at most farmers’ markets.
5. Egg shells are porous and can absorb other flavors in the refrigerator, so always store eggs in the cardboard carton in which you bought them, which also helps the eggs to retain moisture. Place the carton on an inside shelf rather than the refrigerator door, which tends to be too warm for eggs.
6. Those two cloudy little blobs you might have noticed in a raw egg are harmless. Called chalazae, they serve to hold the yolk in the center of the white. They are not part of an embryonic chick!
7. Eggs should keep well, refrigerated, for at least two weeks after the expiration date on the carton. To freeze whole eggs and egg yolks, which will keep for up to six months, remove them from the shell and place them in an airtight container — preferably a glass jar — and add 18 teaspoon salt and 1 ½ teaspoons sugar to every 4 yolks or 2 whole eggs to keep them from becoming gelatinous. Thaw in the refrigerator.
8. To make perfect hard-boiled eggs every time, put them in a saucepan with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan, remove from the heat, and let stand for 12 minutes.
9. Very fresh hard-boiled eggs can be hard to peel. To avoid this problem, crack the shell all over by tapping on a hard surface and peel under cold running water, which gets under the membrane just beneath the shell.
The author of more than a dozen cookbooks, Gluten-Free Living Food Editor Jackie Mallorca’s most recent titles include The Wheat-Free Cook and Gluten-Free Italian. For more information, tips and recipes, visit her website at GlutenFreeExpert.com.
Our Favorite Egg Recipes