A few days ago I prepared brunch for a group of 75. With my menu planned, I compiled a grocery list and headed for the supermarket. Among the various items in my shopping cart were 25 dozen eggs.
Based on the amused glances and comments I received, I presume I was an oddity at the store that day. A few brave souls asked what I was going to do with so many eggs; one person thought I had a very large family.
I enjoyed the friendly patter, but back in my kitchen, I had work to do — primarily cracking 300 eggs.
The event went very well. However, the next day, the news broke that a huge egg recall was under way due to a salmonella outbreak. The recent recall has generated several questions about eggs:
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How common is salmonella in eggs? It seems like we are hearing more about it recently. Why is that?
Actually, according to national figures, salmonella is relatively rare. One of the reasons we hear more about egg recalls today is that most egg production operations involve large masses of hens usually confined in a very small space. If one hen is infected in the flock, the disease spreads and affects many hens and the eggs they produce. The larger the operation, the larger the problem.
Do eggs always need to be refrigerated? Some recipes call for eggs at room temperature.
Yes, you should refrigerate eggs immediately after purchasing them. Refrigerate them in their carton on an inside shelf of the refrigerator. Some refrigerators have egg storage compartments on the door, but that area tends to be the warmer part of the refrigerator and is not the best area to store eggs or milk.
Recipes sometimes call for room-temperature eggs because they mix in or whip better than cold eggs. It takes only about 30 minutes to bring eggs to room temperature. Sometimes when I have neglected to let them come to room temperature, I quickly warm them by placing in a bowl with warm water for a few minutes. If eggs are at room temperature for longer than two hours, they will be in what is known as the danger zone — a time when microorganisms can proliferate at a rapid pace. If the egg contains salmonella, it will not be safe to consume.
Is there a way to avoid salmonella food poisoning from eggs?
While working with eggs, I am always aware of the risk, albeit slight. I never use raw eggs in mayonnaise, salad dressings, ice cream or other dishes in my cooking classes. Always follow safety precautions when working with eggs. Discard any cracked or dirty eggs. Keep eggs refrigerated and remove only the amount you need from the carton and return the carton to the refrigerator. Cook eggs properly. Eggs that will be served right away need to be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees for at least 15 seconds. Another important issue is cross-contamination. Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands, cooking utensils and countertops when working with raw eggs.