Instant Expert: Get Cracking

egg carton
Photo: Antonis Achilleos
Brush up on your favorite breakfast food with these egg facts. For more instant experts, visit

All you need to know about the world's simplest breakfast food.

Check the carton: Never buy if any of the eggs are cracked or have soiled shells — the shell is the only barrier to bacteria.

Stay cool: Only buy eggs from refrigerated cases (unless at a farmer's market.) Leave them in the carton — it keeps the eggs from absorbing other foods' odors. Store them on an inside shelf of your fridge, not in the egg slots in the door, which is a few degrees warmer.

Test freshness: Want to know if your egg has long passed its expiration date? Drop it into cold, salted water. If the egg sinks, it's extra-fresh. If it stays suspended in the water, it's about two weeks old, so crack it soon. And if it floats to the top, toss the sucker.

Be safe: Don't leave raw eggs out of the fridge for very long or bacteria can multiply. Refrigerate egg dishes if you're making them more than two hours ahead of eating time. And always wash your hands, utensils and any work surfaces with hot, soapy water after contact with raw eggs.

Separation anxiety?: To separate an egg, crack it open over an empty bowl rather than into a pan or batter, so you can catch shells or yolk drips. Plus, you'll be able to see if the egg is fresh. An egg with a prominent chalaza (the small white lump or hailstone near the yolk) is a fresh one.

Terms to Know:

Cage-free: The hens aren't confined to cages, though that doesn't necessarily mean they see the light of day.

Free-range: In addition to being cage-free, this typically means the hens have access to outdoors, but there's no regulation of how much or when. These eggs have deep yellow yolks and richer flavor.

Organic: In addition to being cage-free and free-range, to get this classification hens eat only organic vegetarian feed that lacks any antibiotics or hormones. They may cost more, but are healthier.

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