Making Your Eggs Safe

The risk of contracting salmonella-related illness is rare. But here are a few quick tips for handling eggs to ensure your family stays healthy.

Egg Storage
Choose Grade-A or AA eggs with clean, uncracked shells. Buy only eggs that have been kept refrigerated–any bacteria present in eggs can grow rapidly outside refrigeration. If the egg carton has a date printed on it, make sure it hasn’t passed.

Pressure Cooker Hard-Boiled Eggs

Photo by Gremolata

Keep eggs refrigerated. Get eggs into a 40-degree F refrigerator as soon as possible after purchasing. Leave eggs in their original carton in a colder section of the refrigerator, not in the door.

Do not wash eggs prior to storage because that will remove the protective coating applied at the packaging plant

Fresh shell eggs can be kept safely in the refrigerator three to five weeks from the date of purchase, not from the date on the carton.

Handle with Care
As with any food preparation, make sure to wash hands, utensils, equipment, and work surfaces with hot soapy water before and after they come in contact with eggs and raw egg-rich foods. Minimize preparation and serving time-don’t allow eggs to remain out of the refrigerator for more than two hours (not counting cooking time).

Serve cooked egg dishes immediately after cooking, or refrigerate at once for serving later. Use within three to four days, or freeze for longer storage.

Favorite Egg Desserts

Some recipes such as chiffon pies and fruit whips are made with raw beaten egg whites. You can substitute whipped cream or use pasteurized dried egg whites, available in cake decorating departments.

Another option is to adapt the recipe by using the Swiss meringue method:

  • Place the egg whites with at least 1/2 of the sugar called for in the recipe in a large bowl–whisk a couple times.
  • Place the bowl in a saucepan over (not in) barely simmering water.
  • Beat the egg whites for 3 1/2 minutes (using a hand-held mixer or large whisk). They should be hot to the touch.
  • Remove the bowl from the simmering water.
  • With the mixer at medium speed, continue to beat until the egg whites cool to room temperature and increase slightly in volume, usually about 5 minutes or less. Do not overbeat.
  • Fold the meringue into the other ingredients as directed in the recipe.

To make key lime pie safely, heat the lime juice with the raw egg yolks in a pan on the stove, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Then combine it with the sweetened condensed milk and pour filling into baked pie crust. Top with meringue. Bake all meringue-topped pies at 350 degrees F for at least 15 minutes.

Simmer small poached meringues in liquid five minutes or until firm. Dry meringue shells are safe, as is divinity candy.

Odds and Eggs
According to the American Egg Board, your chances of cracking open an infected egg is about 0.005% (five one-thousandths of a percent). Scientists conservatively estimate only one out of every 20,000 eggs produced might contain the salmonella bacteria.

Even if an egg does contain the bacteria, the amount in a freshly laid egg probably will be small, and if the egg is properly refrigerated and handled, will not multiply enough to cause illness in a healthy person. However, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with an immune system disorder should take special care to avoid the risk of salmonella food poisoning

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