NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Eggs, Eggs, Eggs

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs,

 

                Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on earth and can be part of a healthy diet. In the refrigerated section of a grocery store you will find different grades and sizes of eggs all stored in cartons with some rather confusing dates printed on them.  Why all the info for one small piece of food?  Let’s try to solve the mystery of egg grades, sizes and expiration dates.
                What are egg grades?
                There are three consumer grades for eggs: U.S. Grade AA, A, and B. The grade is determined by the interior quality of the egg and the appearance and condition of the egg shell. Eggs of any quality grade may differ in weight (size).
                U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells. Grade AA and Grade A eggs are best for frying and poaching where appearance is important.
                U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are "reasonably" firm. This is the quality most often sold in stores.
                U.S. Grade B eggs have whites that may be thinner and yolks that may be wider and flatter than eggs of higher grades. The shells must be unbroken, but may show slight stains. This quality is seldom found in retail stores because they are usually used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products.
                Sizing of Eggs
                Size tells you the minimum required net weight per dozen eggs. It does not refer to the dimensions of an egg or how big it looks. While some eggs in the carton may look slightly larger or smaller than the rest, it is the total weight of the dozen eggs that puts them in one of the following classes:
 

Size or Weight Class

Minimum net weight per dozen

Jumbo

30 ounces

Extra Large

27 ounces

Large

24 ounces

Medium

21 ounces

Small

18 ounces

Peewee

15 ounces

               
                Dating of Cartons
                Egg processors typically print dates commonly called "Code Dates" on cartons for purposes of rotating stock or controlling inventory. "EXP," "Sell By," and "Best if Used Before" are examples of terminology used for code dating. Use of code dates on USDA graded eggs is optional; however, if they are used, certain rules must be followed.
                If an expiration date is used, it must be printed in month/day format and preceded by the appropriate prefix. "EXP," "Sell By," and "Not to be sold after the date at the end of the carton" are examples of expiration dates. Expiration dates can be no more than 30 days from the day the eggs were packed into the carton.
                Another type of code dating used indicates the recommended maximum length of time that the consumer can expect eggs to maintain their quality when stored under ideal conditions. Terminology such as "Use by", "Use before", "Best before" indicates a period that the eggs should be consumed before overall quality diminishes. Code dating using these terms may not exceed 45 days including the day the eggs were packed into the carton.
                Whatever grade or size of egg you purchase, proper refrigeration, cooking, and handling are needed to prevent egg-safety problems. Persons can enjoy eggs and dishes containing eggs if these safe handling guidelines are followed:

  • Wash utensils, equipment, and work areas with hot, soapy water before and after contact with eggs
  • Don't keep eggs out of the refrigerator more than 2 hours.
  • Raw eggs and other ingredients, combined according to recipe directions, should be cooked immediately or refrigerated and cooked within 24 hours.
  • Always cook eggs until both the white and yolk are firm.
  • Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 °F. Use a food thermometer to be sure.
  • Serve cooked eggs and dishes containing eggs immediately after cooking, or place in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerate at once for later use. Use within 3 to 4 days.

                Dry meringue shells are safe. So are divinity candy and 7-minute frosting, made by combining                 hot sugar syrup with beaten egg whites. Avoid icing recipes using uncooked eggs or egg whites.

  • Meringue-topped pies should be safe if baked at 350 °F for about 15 minutes. Chiffon pies and fruit whips made with raw, beaten egg whites cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Instead, substitute pasteurized dried egg whites, whipped cream, or a whipped topping.
  • To determine doneness in egg dishes such as quiche and casseroles, the center of the mixture should reach 160 °F when measured with a food thermometer.
  • Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiches or soufflés, may be refrigerated for serving later but should be thoroughly reheated to 165°F (74°C) before serving.
  • Use pasteurized eggs or egg products when preparing recipes that call for using eggs raw or undercooked.
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