Do you know how old the eggs you’re buying really are? The answer is hiding in plain sight on the carton. Lisa Steele, fifth-generation chicken keeper and author of “The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook,” shows us how to crack the code, and shares more expert tips for buying and cooking eggs.
Read the Carton
A simple three-digit code is printed on every egg carton. That code represents the day of the year on which the eggs were packaged. For example, a code of 001 is Jan. 1 and a code of 360 is Dec. 26.
Be wary of labels such as “all-natural,” “farm-fresh,” and “free-range,” which “[don’t] really mean anything,” Steele warns. Even “cage-free” simply means the cages have been taken away, but the chickens likely still get that same amount of space. “Hormone-free” and “antibiotic-free” are also misleading, because chickens can’t be given hormones and generally aren’t given antibiotics in the first place.
What you do want to look for are the words “pasture-raised,” Steele said, which means that “every one of those chickens is out on pasture—dirt, grass, wooded areas—for a certain period of hours every day, weather permitting.”
Time It Right
The most common mistake people make when cooking eggs? “They cook them too fast, because eggs do cook really quickly,” Steele said. “You need to undercook them a little because they’re going to cook a tiny bit more by the time you get them onto the plate.”
For perfectly peelable, crack-free eggs, “absolutely steam them instead of boiling them,” Steele said. “They just sit quietly in that basket, they’re not going to break, they’re going to peel perfectly.” She recommends steaming for five to seven minutes for soft-cooked eggs, or 12 to 14 minutes for hard-cooked, then cooling them in ice water once done.
Give Fried Eggs the Steak Treatment
To gently ease your fried eggs to your preferred doneness, “try butter-basting them, like how you would baste a steak,” Steele said. “If you like your yolk a little more cooked, instead of trying to flip the egg, which often ends up being really messy, you can just baste the yolk with whatever oil you’re cooking it in.”
Salt After Scrambling
The point at which you add salt to your scrambled eggs will affect their final texture. Salting before cooking will “loosen the protein bonds and make soft eggs,” while salting during cooking will “pull all of the moisture out of them and you’ll get watery eggs,” Steele said. She prefers to salt after they’re done cooking, so that they “retain their structure and moisture.”
The Perfect Poach
When your water is gently simmering, “make a whirlpool with the handle of your spoon in the water, slide the eggs into that whirlpool, and keep it swirling for another few seconds until the white starts to set up,” Steele said. “That’ll keep the white swirling around the yolk and make the egg nice and tight.”