Public Service Egg-nouncements

Eggs are one of my favorite foods. They are so versatile, adaptable to all kinds of recipes both sweet and savory. They have a rich cultural history and are touted as a near-nutritionally perfect food.

They are rich in protein and choline, an essential water-soluble nutrient that is utilized in the synthesis of the membranes of our cells.  As a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, choline might play a role in the maintenence of healthy memory, intelligence, and mood. Protein is obviously crucial for many of the functions of living organisms… it’s more than just for putting on muscle. Proteins catabolize metabolic reactions, provide structure, code for genes, regulate hormonal responses, and more. All the more reason to eat eggs! But…

“Eww. What’s that smell?”

If you’re a lover of eggs, as I am, you hear that question posed by others far too often. Peculiarly enough, it’s only when we hard-boil these little oval delights that the question comes to be. It may be met with embarrassment, or dogged acceptance that yes, I do like my smelly hard-boiled eggs thank you VERY much.

But… why?

The smell from all those sources come from chemical reactions that occur after sulfur is subjected to heat or pressure. When you boil an egg, you can smell the gas in quantities as small as one part per billion. By slow-boiling the egg, you get a yellower yoke and cut down on the stench.

The white of an egg is approximately 11 percent protein and 88 percent water. The primary protein in an egg white is known as albumin, or ovalbumin. Within all of the 3,000 atoms in ovalbumin, a mere three are sulfur. These three pesky atoms produce hydrogen sulfide gas when heated. In its solid state, sulfur is odorless—it is only when it forms a gas that it begins to smell. An egg may often start to smell if it is allowed to age, too, but heating it speeds up the production of hydrogen sulfide. By boiling an egg, the reaction occurs 200 times as fast.

So, how can you reduce the odor? Decrease the heat. Submerge your hardboiled egg in a pot of cold water. Take a separate pot and heat it on the stove. Once this pot reaches a boil, take it off the stove and transfer the egg to it. Allow it to sit in this hot water for 10 minutes. The egg will not only cook as it would using the standard egg-boiling procedure, but less smelly hydrogen sulfide gas will be produced. Bonus: that pesky dark-gray ring that you sometimes see will be diminished!

Ok, what about actually peeling the shell off of the egg without getting rid of most of the white along with it? There are a few tricks of the trade. The first is to put salt in the water you cook the egg in.

The second tip is to put vinegar in the water you boil the egg in.

The third tip is not so scientific but it’s something we do in my house all of the time. Immediately after the timer for your eggs goes off, drain the water and shake the eggs around the pot really vigorously. The shells, like magic, will separate apart from the egg and sometimes fall right off!

Did you know that you can also bake eggs in the oven, hard cooking them just like you would with a pot of water on the stove? Look here!

With Easter just around the corner, perhaps you might find one of these cooking methods of good use! And then you can use this natural egg dye recipe…!


More facts about eggs:

  • The taste of an egg can vary greatly depending on not only the animal who laid it (as you could imagine, roe tastes much different from a quail egg.) but their diet as well. For example, some chickens that feed off of canola or soy meals will lay eggs that smell like fish. This is because the microorganisms that live in their gut will metabolize the food into a chemical compound triethylamine (responsible for the odor of smelly fish), and will end up in the egg (source).
  • How do you preserve an egg? With salt. Salt draws the water out of bacteria and molds, which prevents their growth (source).
  • Egg yolks are one of the few foods that contain Vitamin D.
  • An egg shell’s color has nothing to do with the quality, nutrients or flavor. It simply tells us the feather and ear lobe color of the chicken who laid it!
  • Spinning an egg can tell you what type of egg is underneath the shell. If the egg wobbles, it is a raw egg. If it spins easy, it is cooked. Fresh eggs will sink in water but a stale egg will float (source).
  • Century Eggs, a Chinese delicacy, have not been sitting around in someone’s fridge for a century. Rather, they “are made by storing raw eggs for a few months in a mixture of wood ash, salt, lime, and maybe tea with rice straw or clay” (source).
  • There are so many ways to eat and prepare an egg! Just look at this free Google Book, Eggs, and How to Use Them!


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