There is an ever-growing concern about the threat of salmonella, bacteria that contaminate eggs and poultry. We often eat eggs lightly cooked and even raw which pose a greater threat. There is no way of knowing the degree of risk when eating raw or lightly cooked eggs. It has been recommend that immuno-compromised patients, the very young and the elderly, all of whom are the most severely affected when stricken, should not eat raw or lightly cooked eggs. Those who are consuming eggs that have not been cooked to 165*F (75*C)are doing so at their own risk.
You can take comfort in the knowledge that eggs in cakes, cookies and breads have been sufficiently cooked to be safe.
Although the overall risk of egg contamination is very small, the risk of foodborne illness from eggs is highest in raw and lightly cooked dishes. To eliminate risk and ensure food safety, replace all your recipes calling for raw or lightly cooked eggs with cooked egg recipes or use pasteurized eggs or egg products when you prepare them. To cook eggs for these recipes, use the following methods to adapt your recipes:
Cooking Whole Eggs for Use in Recipes As a nutritious combination of egg whites and yolks, whole eggs should be fully cooked for assured safety in recipes that call for raw or lightly cooked eggs. The following method can be used with any number of eggs and works for a variety of recipes.
Cooking Egg Yolks for Use in Recipes Because egg yolks are a fine growth medium for bacteria, cook them for use in mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, chilled souffles, chiffons, mousses and other recipes calling for raw egg yolks. The following method can be used with any number of yolks.
Cooking Egg Whites for Use in Recipes Cooking egg whites before use in all recipes is recommended for full safety. The following method can be used with any number of whites and works for chilled desserts as well as Seven-Minute Frosting, Royal Icing and other frosting recipes calling for raw egg whites.
Alternatives for Raw Egg Whites You can use pasteurized dried or refrigerated liquid egg whites. Egg substitutes often contain gums and/or added salt which can hamper foaming. Pasteurized dried and liquid egg whites on the retail market either contain no other ingredients for recipes where little foaming is required or contain only a whipping agent for recipes that require a stable foam. Follow package directions to substitute dried or refrigerated liquid egg whites for raw egg whites or use about 2 tablespoons water and 2 teaspoons dried egg white or 2 to 3 tablespoons liquid egg white for each Large egg white.
Using Pasteurized Shell Eggs Pasteurized shell eggs are heat-treated to destroy any bacteria, should they be present, and are especially suitable for preparing egg recipes that are not fully cooked, but may also be used for other recipes, including baked goods. The heating process may create cloudiness in the whites and increase the beating time needed for foam formation. When you separate pasteurized shell eggs for beating, allow up to about four times as much time for full foam formation to occur in egg whites as you would for the whites of regular eggs. Prepare other recipes as usual. You can keep pasteurized shell eggs refrigerated for at least 30 days from the pack date (a three-digit number on the short side of the carton which represents the day of the year, with 1 = January 1 and 365 = December 31), but do not freeze them.
If pasteurized shell eggs are not available in your area, use the cooking methods outlined above or, in place of raw egg whites, use pasteurized dried or liquid egg whites.
Information provided courtesy of The American Egg Board, where you can find additional information on the subject of egg safety.
No matter what technique you use, it is essential to use low, gentle heat when cooking eggs: egg protein begins to thicken at only 144*F (60*C), and toughens rapidly. The exception would be omelets as the bottom is cooked rather quickly over medium-high heat, but the surface remains slightly runny, making for a soft interior when folded. Serve cooked eggs on warm, not fire-hot plates, or they will continue to cook after they are removed from the pan.
Not sure how long meat can be kept in the freezer? Don't know how long to cook hamburger to kill those nasty illness-causing bacteria? Don't just guess! Pick up the phone and talk to the food experts who staff the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Meat and Poultry hotline.
It's almost inconceivable in this world of impersonal voice mail, but living, breathing home economists, food technologists, and registered dietitians staff the hotline from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time every day of the year. All you need to do is call (800) 535-4555. If you live in Washington, D.C. area, the number is (202) 720-3333.
For off-hour questions, the hotline offers an extensive selection of food safety recordings that you can hear 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the help of your touch-tone phone.