I visited the Union Square Farmer’s Market this morning in search of eggs for Easter. They had duck eggs, pheasant eggs, dark brown eggs, light brown eggs, and of course white eggs. From my experience in culinary school – all of these eggs taste just about the same. The difference is all aesthetic.
Duck eggs are generally larger than chicken eggs, more oval shaped, and have a larger yolk. Quail eggs are tiny, blueish grey with speckled shells. They are the size of a grape tomato and also have a larger yolk to white ratio than chicken eggs. Pheasant eggs are walnut size and are a blueish grey color.
Generally speaking, the color of the egg depends on the color of the hen. A dark brown/reddish color hen will lay brown eggs. A white hen will lay white eggs.
It is not color that determines nutrition – but the feed given to the hens. Grass-fed or pastured chickens lay eggs that are nutritionally superior to grain-fed chicken eggs. They are found to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A, while being lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. If you can find these types of eggs, they are the healthier choice.
Nutrition Facts (standard large egg from grain-fed chicken):
Total Fat: 5 grams
Saturated Fat: 1.5 grams
Cholesterol: 211 mg
Protein: 6.3 grams
Nutrition Facts (Standard large egg white only from grain-fed chicken):
Total Fat: 0 grams
Saturated Fat: 0 grams
Protein: 3.6 grams
The Good: Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they contain almost equal amounts of all the essential amino acids. As a result, the protein is easily utilized by your body. Whole eggs are also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, phosphorus, selenium, and choline (all antioxidants). They have some omega-3 fatty acids, but the amount depends on the feed of the chickens. Egg whites are fat-free, cholesterol free, and almost 100% protein. They are a good source of riboflavin and selenium.
The Bad: Whole eggs are high in cholesterol, one egg gives you about 70% of the recommended daily value. However, all cholesterol is contained in the egg yolk.
Recommendations: Eggs are a great source of protein. Eggs can add omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants to your diet, and should be purchased from grass/pasture-fed hens when possible. To keep cholesterol in check, you should not consume more than 4 whole eggs a week. If you already have high cholesterol, 2 whole eggs is the recommended limit.
The Fool-Proof Hard-Boiled Egg Method:
Place eggs in large pot, in a single layer with some wiggle room. Cover them with cold water by about 2 inches. Put on the stove top and bring water to a boil. Allow to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat and take the pot off the heat. Cover and let eggs sit in the hot water for 15 minutes.
Next, if you are storing them, place the eggs in an ice-water bath for about 3-5 minutes to prevent further cooking, drain, and store in the refrigerator.
If you are eating them immediately, place eggs in ice-bath for about 1 minute. To peel, roll on hard surface to crack shell. Hold egg under cold running water and remove peel.
Greenish Yolk Ring: This can happen when your eggs are older since they have lower acid levels than fresh eggs. A reaction occurs between sulfur in the egg white with iron in the egg yolk to create a green iron sulfide ring. It is harmless, but not pretty. This reaction can also occur from over-cooking your eggs. You can greatly reduce the greenish color with acidic ingredients. For example, if you are making egg salad you can add a little more lemon juice or white wine vinegar to your mayonnaise base.
Freshness of an Egg: A fresh egg will sink the bottom of a pot of water (discard floaters). A fresh egg will hold together well when cracked on a plate – the yolk with be high and rounded, the white will hold onto the yolk nicely. If you shine a light behind the egg and look through it, a small air sac means a fresh egg. An older egg with have a large air sac and when shaken, will be more loose in the shell.