Once touted as a cause of high cholesterol and heart disease, the simple egg now enjoys a reputation of being a good source of dietary protein for people in good health.
The average large egg contains about 70 calories, 7 grams of high-quality protein, 5 grams of fat (1.5 grams of saturated fat) and is a good source of Vitamin D, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12 and other nutrients.
It's true that eggs approximately 185mg of cholesterol, but decades of studies have shown that blood cholesterol increases only slightly after eating high-cholesterol foods. It's the foods thatare high in saturated fats that contribute to unhealthy increases in blood cholesterol.
Consequently, healthy adults can safely consume up to one egg per day without worrying about increased risk of heart disease.
The size of an egg is determined by weight per dozen. Available sizes include jumbo, extra-large, large, medium and small, with large eggs (weighing about 2 ounces each), being the most commonly used size in recipes.
Egg quality is determined by the appearance of the shell, yolk and white. USDA Grade AA and A eggs have a regular shape, smooth shell, thick white and rounded yolk. Grade B can have imperfections in the shell, thinner whites and flatter yolks.
- Cage-Free eggs are from chickens that are not confined to cages, but live in open barns where they are given perches and nest boxes. While the conditions are preferable to those of conventional producers, some farms may still keep these birds in tight quarters.
- Free-Range eggs are laid by hens that are permitted to roam outdoors and engage in other natural behaviors like nesting and foraging for food.
- Organic eggs can come from chickens that are caged, cage-free (most common) or free-range. The organic designation means that these hens are fed a diet free from chemical pesticides and fertilizers and don't receive vaccines or antibiotics.
- Pasteurized eggs are regular eggs that are gently heated in their shells to kill bacteria. They're perfect for recipes that call for raw eggs, like egg nog and mayonnaise
To keep eggs fresh, always refrigerate them at a temperature of 45°F or below and discard any that are cracked or broken. It's best to store them in their original carton so you can keep track of their pack and sell-by dates.
Most states require that egg cartons are labeled with 2 dates – the pack date and a sell-by date. The pack date is labeled in Julian format (001=January 1st / 365=December 31st) and eggs are generally safe to eat for 4 to 5 weeks beyond that.
Wash your hands after handling raw eggs to avoid cross-contamination with other foods.
To avoid the possibility of bacterial contamination, always cook your eggs to an internal temperature of 160°F or use eggs that have been pasteurized in the shell for dishes that require less cooking.