Post #395 Storing Eggs, Are We Doing It Right?

July 22, 2015 at 10:37 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #395 Storing Eggs, Are We Doing It Right?

Being the cook that I am, I tend to buy things in bulk to save money and to make sure I’ve got ingredients on hand.  Dry goods, things like flour, sugar, beans, noodles, rice, etc. are easy.  Since they won’t spoil over the long term since they don’t have any moisture in them (hence the term “dry goods”), they can be put into any dark, dry space until they’re needed.  But other things that tend to spoil must be managed over time to reduce the chance of spoiling as much as possible.  Fresh vegetables get canned or frozen.  Meats can be frozen, dried, or salted.  But there are some items that defy “normal” preservation processes.  For me, two of the biggest are butter and eggs.  What’s the best way to store them, and how long will they stay fresh?

Let’s talk about eggs first.  “Everyone knows” you’re supposed to store eggs in the fridge.  Yet, you can also see eggs stored in a bowl on counters, too.

eggs 1

Well, first, you should store eggs in the fridge for a lot of reasons, all of them due to health concerns.  What many people don’t know is that egg shells are porous; they need to be to incubate the baby chicks.  The shells don’t change simply because the egg is unfertilized.  However, when the egg comes out of the chicken, there’s a protective film around it to keep bacteria out.  (My mom raised chickens in our back yard for a little while.  Nasty critters, they are.  And eggs don’t come out of the chicken looking nice.)  In Europe, the eggs are cleaned and processed in a manner that leaves the outer coating intact so they can stay unchilled and safe longer than in America.  Here in the States, we have a different process.  The eggs get cleaned with warm water and an antibacterial soap which strips the shell of its protective coating.  (And blood, feces, and feathers as it turns out, making them look nicer.)  The eggs do get a very thin coating of oil during their processing, but this coating doesn’t do the same job.

Because the shells are porous and treated, salmonella is a real threat to old eggs if they’re left at room temperature and exposed to the air.  However, storing eggs in the fridge at 40 degrees or below protects them from this.  And just as good, it extends the usability time of eggs from 2-3 weeks to 5-6 weeks.  Left on the counter, you should toss them after 10 days just to be safe.  Left in the fridge, you can be reasonably certain they’re safe 30-40 days later.  (I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a carton of eggs last that long.  Ever.)

Let’s talk about the fridge for a moment.  Where do you suppose you should store the eggs?  For a long time, every fridge had an egg holder on the door.

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Eggs need to be kept at a steady temperature.  Living on the door that keeps getting opened and exposed to the warmth makes their temp go up and down.  Leave your eggs on a shelf, not near the light bulb, and towards the back, if you can.  Also, it’s best to keep your eggs in the carton they came in from the store.  Those cartons are designed to protect the eggs as much as possible during shipping.  They already cushion to eggs to minimize breakage, but they also keep out the maximum moisture and air and light.  A while back, I mentioned in a post a trick my mom taught me to make sure the eggs aren’t cracked on the bottom.  Just wiggle them a little in their carton when you open it to check for breakage.  Takes about 3 seconds.  Well, I learned another tip when I was researching this post.  Pick one egg out of the carton and hold it in your hand.  The fresher it is, the heavier it is.  There’s an air pocket in the egg.  When the egg is fresh there is a lot of moisture in the egg and the air pocket is small.  The older the egg is, the more moisture dissipates and the large the air pocket gets.  Thus, it becomes a lighter egg.

So, why do we see bowls of eggs sitting out in restaurants and cooking shows?  It’s best to use eggs at room temperature.  They blend better; they cook better and fluffier; and they tend to taste better (at least, to me.)  It only takes an egg about 30 minutes to reach room temp, but if you’re in a hurry, put it into a small bowl with very warm water for about 10 minutes.

egg

Now, butter is the opposite of eggs when it comes to storing it.  Butter can be left out on the counter to reach room temperature and used for days.  In my house, a quarter pound stick of room temp butter never lasts for days.  Sometimes, it doesn’t last for day.  Butter can be stored in the fridge for several months.  Butter can be stored in the freezer for up to a year and a half (as if.)  The key to storing butter is similar to storing eggs.  Store butter in its original wrapping until you’re ready to use it.  The people who make and ship butter know the best way to handle butter to protect it from the elements and from shipping.  So leave them in their wrappers and boxes.

However, if you’re going to leave some out of the fridge, it needs to be protected.  There are all kinds of gadgets and devices to do this, but the one I like best is this one:

butter dish

It’s simple and elegant, and most importantly, it’s air tight.  And you can see exactly how much butter is there.  It’s so disappointing to pick the cover off a butter dish and find it empty.  Cold butter is death to anything it’s spread on.  Except maybe brick.  I get so frustrated that I refuse to use cold butter on bread or toast unless I’m eating European style (tear a bite-sized piece of bread, slice a small piece of butter and put it on the bread, pop it all into your mouth.  Good stuff.)  But then I found this:

Butter Mill

This is called a butter mill and I have no idea how it ended up in my ad list on FB.  As soon as I saw it, I investigated and was able to get this one fur under $20.  You put a stick of butter in the white hopper and screw it all together.  As you continue turning, the butter is forced against a fine grating plate which scrapes incredibly small butter worms for you to scrape off and put on your toast or bread or whatever.  It comes with a cap to keep the butter protected in the fridge.  Easy to use, and kinda fun, too.

Enjoy

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