The cooking references section of Food Nirvana referred to the Culinary Institutes® book, The Professional Chef©, as a great source of cooking information. One section I particularly enjoyed was about handling, processing and cooking eggs. I learned a few important facts that are worth passing on to others so I decided to include some of their egg information and some of my own, and a few recipes. Eggs are so versatile that we use them in all kinds of ways. Here are a few examples: Eggnog, fried/scrambled eggs and omelets, poached eggs, soft and hard boiled eggs, many baked goods, ice creams, pancakes, French toast, salad dressings, souffle´s, egg foo yung. The list goes on and on, so it makes good sense to understand optimal ways of using eggs.
Let's look first at the egg as purchased. Most of all it must be fresh and without any internal development/red spots. When broken open the egg white should not be runny, nor should the yolk be any color other than light yellow, though some producers use feed supplements that result in a slightly darker colored yolk. Jumbo eggs provide the best value for dollar spent, brown or white.
You can process bulk purchase raw eggs and have them for future use by breaking them into a bowl and whisking them and then vacuum sealing specific portions and then freezing them in a deep freeze. I create flat packets of two eggs as they store easily and thaw very quickly later. The frozen eggs are perfectly fine to use as a backup for those times when you unexpectedly run out of eggs and need some immediately, for they can be thawed quickly and used like fresh eggs, except for making dishes like poached eggs or "eggs over easy." I recommend using frozen, vacuum sealed eggs within one year. Note that the frozen eggs develop a darker color when frozen, but on thawing they become the same color as they were when originally processed, so don't think that your frozen eggs are degraded. Various forms of dried eggs are a poor substitute. Avoid them.
A lot of fear mongering has happened regarding the consumption of raw eggs. We use raw eggs in eggnog and in salad dressings like that for Caesar Salad and for dishes like well seasoned raw ground beef and raw egg (Steak Tartare), which is very popular in Europe. And note that raw eggs are typically used in making the best ice creams, like Ben&Jerry's®. Can one become ill eating raw eggs? Of course, salmonella can be had from eggs from a sick chicken or by unsanitary handling. And one can also be hit by a car if he/she is careless. The idea is that the probability of becoming ill if you buy and consume fresh and clean eggs in raw form is almost zero. If you get them from the farm directly and are uncertain about surface contamination then wash any eggs you plan to use raw before you break the shells, gently, in warm soapy water.
What about cholesterol? Your annual physical blood tests will let you know if you have a problem that requires medication and/or diet control, but don't blame the egg. Cholesterol comes from many sources, like meats, and your body actually produces additional cholesterol, so singling out a food like eggs for cholesterol avoidance is flat out silly. The nutritional value of eggs in terms of protein is too high to ignore, especially when you consider the ease of making various egg dishes. They are a great tasting and inexpensive meat substitute for a quick meal. Ignore the whining fear mongerers and simply limit your egg consumption to around six each week, raw or cooked.
Okay ... Now we will look at some egg processing and cooking techniques.
Soft-boiled eggs are prepared by putting raw eggs into cold water in a small to medium size saucepan, with the water almost covering them. Do not crowd the eggs as that can cause shells to break during boiling. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the water. The water is brought to a boil on high heat. The eggs are then cooked on low heat, with the water barely boiling, for anywhere from three minutes to four minutes, based on the size of the eggs, from small to jumbo. Thus, a medium egg will take about three minutes and fifteen seconds, a large egg three minutes and thirty seconds, an extra large egg three minutes and forty-five seconds and a jumbo egg about four minutes. The perfect soft-boiled egg will have barely solidified/cooked white and a completely liquid but warm yolk. Chill each egg briefly in cold water after the boiling period to avoid further cooking and to allow you to handle the eggs without discomfort. Crack the middle of each egg with the edge of a table knife and insert the knife tip into the crack and all the way through the shell on the other side to facilitate breaking the egg in half. The content of each half is removed from the shell carefully with the knife used like a scoop, and the removed content is simply dropped into the serving dish. It is important to avoid getting small bits of eggshell into the dish, so be careful while removing the egg from the shell and also check the serving dish during the process for any bits of shell and remove them. This type of egg is delicious served over hot toast with butter, salt and pepper.
Hard boiled eggs are made in a manner similar to soft boiled eggs except they are boiled for ten minutes and then chilled briefly in cold water. It is best to remove the egg shell while the egg is warm, breaking it gently on any hard surface and peeling/breaking the shell from the egg. Some times it is easiest to do that under a faucet with warm water flowing lightly over the egg. The idea is that some eggs are easy to process regarding shell removal, while others fight you every step of the way. It is a matter of the type and quality of the egg, not how you cooked it. In all instances remove the membrane between the shell and the egg and that will facilitate shell removal. Hard boiled eggs are used as quick and easy snacks, and as sliced cold for salads or halved for making deviled eggs. They are also used whole when making foods like pickled red beets.
We now move on to the world of fried eggs in various forms. The first consideration is the skillet. The Professional Chef© says to have the skillet hot before introducing the raw eggs so that they cook quickly (and retain moisture). I add that the skillet should be thick bottomed and non-stick. I bought Ozeri® ceramic coated skillets that are so good you can cook without oils or butter and clean up afterward with a cold water rinse and a quick cleaning with one paper towel. That is really impressive. I love those skillets and I have them in different sizes with glass lids available when I want them. Sometimes I will use butter for taste when frying eggs but that is not essential to the cooking process if you use an Ozeri® ceramic coated skillet.
If you are making scrambled eggs always break the raw eggs into a bowl and whisk them thoroughly, then add a small amount of milk and any other ingredients you want, including salt and pepper, and whisk until the mixture is uniform. Then pour the mixture into the hot skillet and use a hard polymer spatula to turn the eggs over a few times to avoid overcooking the surface exposed to the skillet. Continue just until the eggs are barely cooked, then quickly remove them to a warmed bowl or a plate. Do not overcook the eggs if you want them to be light and fluffy.
If you are making "eggs over easy" then break the raw eggs into a bowl first, gently, then decant them into the hot skillet gently and evenly and the yolks will not break. Note that the number of eggs to be fried at one time depends on the size of the skillet, such that only half of the area of the skillet is used, allowing for space between each egg. That will facilitate separating and turning the eggs over without risking breaking of the yolks. Separate the eggs from each other after a minute of frying with the spatula and wait for about one minute longer and then use the spatula to flip them over gently. Remove the eggs to a plate after about 30 seconds of frying on the second side. With the Ozeri® skillets you simply tip the skillet and the eggs will slide gently from the skillet onto the plate.
If you are making omelets the frying process is somewhat different. First, start with the same mixture that you would use making scrambled eggs, except hold back on introducing ingredients other than salt and pepper, and possibly use a tiny bit more milk to create a lighter egg/milk mixture that will flow easily within the skillet. Also, use a skillet appropriate to the size of one omelet. Pour the amount of whisked raw egg and milk mixture into the hot skillet, distributing the raw egg mixture evenly on the entire bottom of the skillet. While the bottom surface of the eggs cooks to a light tan or golden brown introduce the other ingredients into the center one-third of the egg mixture, going from one side of the skillet to the other, leaving small areas on both edges of the filled area without extra ingredients, and leave two-thirds of the egg area without any extra ingredients (One third of the area on each side of the center third). After two minutes of frying the underside of the omelet should be turning a light tan or golden brown color, but not necessarily evenly. Put a spatula under one side gently and lift the edge and fold it over to make it partially cover the ingredients in the middle section. Then put the spatula under the other side and make it complete the covering of the middle section, with maximum overlap of the first side. Gently flip the omelet over using a spatula wide enough to keep the omelet from breaking apart. Fry the omelet for one additional minute and then remove it to a warmed plate.
I do not provide other egg recipes in this section. Individual recipes elsewhere in Food Nirvana cover essential details using eggs. In any event, if you follow the procedures recommended in this section you will likely have great egg dishes every time. Enjoy!