At this time every year, questions about eggs are plentiful. Readers ask how to hard-boil them, how long raw eggs keep, why yolks have a green tinge and how long they can keep cooked eggs.
All egg-cellent (sorry, I couldn't resist) questions.
And, of course, there are plenty of answers. For example, my friend Jim swears by poking a tiny pinhole at one end of the egg before cooking. This, he says, ensures that you don't get that green tinge – a sign of a chemical reaction that occurs with overcooking – around the yolk.
With all the interest, I decided that an egg primer was in order before Easter and Passover. For Easter, eggs are cooked, dyed and hunted. At Passover, eggs are used a lot in place of traditional leavening agents like flour, baking powder and baking soda in many dessert recipes.
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Here are some other eggs tips and answers to common questions:
– The U.S. Department of Agriculture says eggs will keep three to five weeks in the refrigerator after you purchase them. Once cooked, eggs should be used within one week.
– In culinary speak, the correct term for cooking eggs in their shell is "hard-cooking." Most sources say eggs should not be rapidly boiled because you risk overcooking them. But I'll stick with "hard-boiling" because that's the term most people use and are familiar with.
– Some sources recommend starting eggs in boiling water because starting them in cold water is one of the things that makes them harder to peel. But other sources say cold water is best because it heats the egg slower and gently, and the white adheres to the membrane more than the shell. Both methods work just fine.
– For easier peeling, it's best to buy eggs at least week to 10 days out from hard boiling to give them some breathing time to absorb air. Once an eggshell's protective coat wears off, the shell becomes porous and absorbs more air. This makes the white more acidic and less likely to stick to the inner membrane; it also shrinks. As it shrinks, the air space between the eggshell and the membrane gets larger, making the eggs easier to peel.
– Another peeling tip is to shock the eggs in ice water immediately to stop the cooking process.
Here are two of my favorite ways to hard-cook eggs.
– Place eggs in a saucepan that gives them room to wiggle a bit. Add water to cover by at least 1 inch and bring to a full boil. Once water is boiling, turn off the heat, cover the pan and set the timer for 15 minutes (for large eggs). You can take one out, peel it and slice it to check. Immediately shock in ice water to stop the cooking and leave eggs in the cold water a good 10 minutes. When cool, peel eggs or store the eggs in a bowl in the refrigerator.
– Steaming eggs has been my go-to method. It turns out perfect eggs every time. When you steam eggs, they cook more gently than when boiled. It's a quick method, too, because you use less water and don't have to wait for it to come to a boil. To steam (see video), fill a saucepan with 1 inch of water. Place the steamer basket in the pan. Heat the water on high until it's boiling and you see steam. Place the eggs in a single layer on the bottom of the steamer basket, reduce heat to medium and cover the pot. Set the timer for 15 minutes for large eggs. Take one egg out, run under cold water, peel and check it. Once done, immediately shock eggs in cold water or ice water for 10 minutes. Then peel.
TARRAGON DEVILED EGGS
Makes: 12 / Preparation time: 20 minutes / Total time: 30 minutes
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons chopped shallots or green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup regular or reduced-fat sour cream
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Dash of hot red pepper sauce, optional
Salt and black pepper to taste
Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the cooked yolks to a medium bowl and mash them with a fork. Set aside the egg white halves.
Add the shallots and tarragon to the egg yolks and mix together. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, garlic powder, hot red pepper sauce, salt and black pepper. Mix until slightly smooth.
Fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture. If desired, sprinkle the tops with paprika.
Cook's note: If the mixture is not creamy enough for your taste, add more mayonnaise as desired. Adjust the seasonings as necessary to your taste.
From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
43 calories (50 percent from fat), 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 2 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein, 84 mg sodium, 93 mg cholesterol, 20 mg calcium, 0 g fiber.