Eggs are one of the most essential ingredients in all of the culinary arts. Not only can they be eaten alone, they are used in all kinds of recipes, like sauces, desserts, cakes, and breads. But eggs are not just one thing. There are many different types of eggs. Here's an overview of all the different ways to cook eggs, as well as all the information you need to buy the eggs you want.
Different Ways To Cook Eggs
There are numerous ways to prepare eggs, either alone or with other ingredients. Here are some of the most common.
- Fried eggs (which includes styles like over-easy and sunny side up)
- Scrambled eggs
- Poached eggs
- Boiled eggs (hard-boiled and soft-boiled)
- Shirred or baked eggs
- Frittatas and omelets
Eggs are also used in emulsified sauces like mayonnaise, Hollandaise and others.
You've seen the eggs from your store are described as "Grade A," or possibly "Grade AA." But what does that mean, and are there any other grades?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture grades eggs sold to consumers, and awards three different grades, AA, A, and B. These grades are based mostly on the thickness and firmness of the whites of the egg as well as how round and high the yolks are, and these attributes are largely linked to freshness. The fresher the eggs, the higher and rounder the yolks will be, and the thicker the whites. As an egg ages, the yolks will be flatter and the whites will be more runny.
Grade A eggs are very high quality, while AA are the highest quality, meaning that their appearance is almost perfect. This matters most in preparations where you see the whole yolk, such as with poached or fried eggs. Grade A is the one sold most commonly in stores, but you can also find AA eggs. How common they are depends on where you live. Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and California are the top egg-producing states, so if you live near those places, you might have better luck finding Grade AA eggs.
Grade B eggs have flatter yolks and runnier whites. They're seldom sold in stores, but end up being used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products.
The USDA categorizes hen eggs into six sizes, which are based on the weight of the egg minus the shell. The sizes most commonly sold in stores are medium, large and extra-large.
- Jumbo: 30 oz. (63 grams)
- Extra-large: 27 oz. (56 grams)
- Large: 24 oz. (50 grams)
- Medium: 21 oz. (44 grams)
- Small: 18 oz. (38 grams)
- Peewee: 15 oz. (32 grams)
A single large egg (50 grams) provides around 70 calories, along with 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and less than a gram of carbs. It also provides various vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B9
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
Most of the nutrients are contained in the yolk, while the white is mostly protein.
Have you ever wondered why the shells of some eggs are white and others are brown? It's simple: white eggs come from white hens and brown eggs come from brown ones. Other than the color of the shell, brown and white eggs are identical in every way. Brown eggs sometimes cost a bit more because brown hens are larger and require more food to produce an egg.
What Egg Labels Mean
Conventional eggs are typically just labeled "Eggs," but there are a few designations that you might also see on egg labels.
Cage-free: Cage-free eggs come from hens that are free to walk around the hen house, as opposed to conventional eggs, which come from hens that are kept in small cages. There is no requirement for any specific minimum amount of space, they're just not kept in a cage.
Free-range: Same as cage-free, but the hens must have access to an outdoor area.
Organic: Organic eggs are required to come from chickens that are fed certified organic feed, and are both cage-free and free-range.
Omega-3: Eggs with labels claiming "Omega-3 enrichment" come from hens that have been fed a diet rich in sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed oil, linseed oil, and kelp.
Pastured: Eggs labeled "pastured" come from hens that walk around in open fields and woods, foraging for food, and going back into a hen house at night to roost, nest, and lay eggs. These eggs usually come from small farms and are often available at farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer methods.
Different Animal Eggs
And in case you thought the only eggs you could eat were from chickens, think again. The eggs of ducks, turkeys, geese and even quail are sometimes available in stores.
Duck Eggs: Much like chicken eggs but with a richer, creamier flavor.
Quail Eggs: About the size of a peewee chicken egg, quail eggs are often eaten in Japanese and Chinese cuisines.
Turkey Eggs: Larger than chicken eggs. Not usually sold in stores, but might be available from farmers.
Goose Eggs: About twice the size of chicken eggs. Lots of eggy flavor.
Egg, whole, raw, fresh. FoodData Central, U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA Grademarked Product Label Submission Checklist. Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture