Pasteurized eggs are gently heated in their shells, just enough to kill the bacteria but not enough to actually cook the egg, making them safe to use in any recipe that calls for uncooked or partially cooked eggs. Pasteurized eggs are worth looking into for anyone who has special concerns about food safety. They can be harder to find, however, as not every grocery store carries them.
Pasteurized eggs have been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. This is especially relevant when preparing recipes calling for raw or undercooked eggs, or feeding young kids, pregnant women, or the elderly. There is a decided flavor trade-off, but it might be worth it if you're in this demographic or are cooking for someone who is.
Pasteurized Eggs: Pros and Cons
Eggs can carry salmonella, which is the leading cause of food poisoning in the United States. Cooking kills the salmonella bacteria, but that still leaves two problems:
- Some recipes, like eggnog, spaghetti carbonara, and Caesar salad dressing, call for uncooked eggs.
- Even when preparing cooked eggs, you run the risk of cross contamination. A little speck of raw egg on your hands or cutting board can be transferred to something else and ultimately make someone sick.
One solution is to use pasteurized eggs (pasteurization can even be done at home, using your microwave). Note that poached eggs and eggs prepared over easy or sunny-side up aren't fully cooked.
Moreover, because of cross-contamination risk, if you're cooking for someone in one of the categories mentioned above, you might want to use pasteurized eggs anyway.
Cooking With Pasteurized Eggs
Pasteurized eggs tend not to be as firm as their unpasteurized counterparts—they lack some of the "bite" you expect from a properly cooked, fluffy scrambled egg.
Another problem is that pasteurized eggs are terrible for preparations where you want to whip the egg whites to get stiff peaks. The pasteurization process affects the ability of the proteins in the eggs to get firm.
If you're cooking for an important event, consider doing a test run with pasteurized eggs. A lot of factors—batch size or the method of cooking, for example—affect the textures and tastes we've discussed here.
The obvious solution is to use regular eggs for cooked egg recipes, and use pasteurized eggs for sauces and other recipes and dressings that call for raw or partially cooked eggs.