Tag Archives: food science

How do you make egg salad, and how do you know if an egg is still safe to eat?

So let’s start with egg safety.  As I’ve said before, you can use eggs after the expiration date.  But there are limits that depend on how fresh the eggs really were when you first bought them, and how well they were stored after that (inside the fridge, not on the door, in the original package).  As eggs age, the space inside (the air cell) enlarges and the egg white degrades in quality.  If you’ve ever made a very fresh sunny-side up egg, you’ll notice a very firm, sturdy egg white surrounding the yolk.  An aging egg will look less firm around the yolk, and the egg white will spread thinly around the pan.  Still perfectly safe to eat, but if you were making a cake, you would notice differences since eggs lend structure.

When an egg begins to stand up a bit, it’s sign that the air cell has grown — and it’s perfectly fine for use, but when that sucker floats, it’s old, and therefore too much of a risk.  The USDA disagrees:

 What does it mean when an egg floats in water?
An egg can float in water when its air cell has enlarged sufficiently to keep it buoyant. This means the egg is old, but it may be perfectly safe to use. Crack the egg into a bowl and examine it for an off-odor or unusual appearance before deciding to use or discard it. A spoiled egg will have an unpleasant odor when you break open the shell, either when raw or cooked.

Egg floating in pyrex measuring cup

Another view of the floater. Again, don’t consume this one.

Eggs in pan with floating egg

See that egg floating at the top of the photo?

Clearly the USDA hasn’t spent time holding its tummy with Salmonella.  So with the remaining eggs, let’s make hard-boiled eggs.  It’s pretty simple.

Basic Hard Boiled Eggs:

  • Place eggs gently into the bottom of a saucepan and fill about 1″ above eggs with water.
  • Place heat on high and wait until eggs just reach a boil (and by this I mean that a large bubble or two comes to the surface). (I usually do 8 eggs at a time and it takes about 8-10 minutes to reach a boil)
  • Turn off the heat and cover the pan.  Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  • Fill a mixing bowl with water and ice, or refreezable ice as below.
  • Immediately after the timer goes off, use a slotted spoon to remove each egg and place into the ice water.  This is the crucial step, my friends.  Do. Not. Skip. This. Step.* 
  • After a few minutes, peel, rinse, and split each egg in half in the bowl if you intend to make egg salad.  This will cool the center.  Newer eggs are more difficult to peel than older ones…
  • Mash with a masher or fork, add Veganaise or Mayo to taste (start with a tablespoon, then add), throw in some green onions and a bit o’ salt — egg salad!

*The key to good egg salad is avoiding the green ring around the eggs, which is caused by (sulfur in the egg whites and iron in the yolks) overcooking.  The ice draws the heat away from the yolk, avoiding the problem of an off-tasting egg with the texture of a rubber ball.   Instead you’re left with beautiful yellow yolks and eggs that have a clean taste and tender texture.

Eggs hiding under refreezable ice

Keep that water COLD. I put refreezable ice in water while the eggs boil, and replace with two fresh ices after they come out of the pot. However you do it, keep the water cold!

Eggs chilling in water

Eggs, chillin’. I usually make no more than 9 to keep the cooking temperature where it needs to be.

Hard boiled eggs with yellow yolks

After peeling each egg and rinsing it under water to be sure no shell makes it into the mix, I split each egg in two to help cool it down. Yeah! No green rings around these yolks = better flavor. Also, not overcooking = better texture.

Egg salad sandwich and potato salad with peas

Slap that egg salad onto the finest bread money can buy. I also made a potato salad with red potatoes and peas.  Not the best picture, but you know, it was time to eat.