Pasteurizing Whole Eggs at Home
When I was a kid, it seemed like foodborne illness didn’t exist. Of course it was still around, but there wasn’t as much concern that everything you ate could be hazardous if raw or undercooked. And that definitely had its perks. For one, I could lick the batter from a spatula every time my grandmother made a cake or brownies. And I never had to think twice about there being raw egg in it. Now, everyone seems to be afraid of salmonella or any other possible threats that may be lurking in raw eggs – and that has led to some changes in our culinary world. For one, most people don’t use raw egg when making mousse anymore. If you ask me, that’s just a shame. So let’s bring eggs back into the spotlight with my favorite at-home pasteurization technique.
Before we get started, let’s discuss a few facts:
- Eggs are delicious. Don’t deny it.
- Not all raw eggs are contaminated with salmonella. In fact, only about 1 out of every 30,000 eggs contains the type of salmonella responsible for making people sick. Moreover, the chance that you will get sick from eating that infected egg is less than .002% for any healthy person over the age of 5, which is actually only about double your likelyhood of being infected by the salmonella found in contaminated fruits and vegetables. Basically, the point is that your odds of getting sick from eating a raw egg are very low and, given the direction produce handling seems to be going these days, I’m guessing it’ll only take a few years for fruit and veggies to be more dangerous than eggs.
- According to the CDC, about 40,000 cases of salmonellosis occur in the US every year. These are not all caused by eggs. In fact, other causes include (but are not limited to) consuming raw or undercooked chicken, turkey, dressing (stuffing), handling lizards, iguanas, turtles, coming in contact with someone who is infected, or just plain having a weakened immune system. Let’s also remember there’s 311.5 million people in the US.
- Pasteurized egg products, including whole pasteurized eggs, can be purchased in most grocery stores and are safe to be consumed raw (if the package says so).
- The most common time for people to fall ill with salmonellosis is between July and October. No coincidence, as those are the hottest months of the year in the United States. Any food that sits out on a hot day risks falling prey to harmful bacteria. Raw eggs are no exception, but they’re also not the only culprit.
So now that you’re armed with a whole bunch of knowledge about, basically, why raw eggs aren’t even bad for you (in my humble opinion, at least) let’s talk about how you can make them a little safer.
Pasteurizing a Whole Egg:
- Get yourself a digital thermometer and a saucepan filled with water.
- Begin with the pan on high heat until the water just starts to boil, reduce heat and allow it to maintain a constant 140°F (this is where your thermometer comes in handy).
- Once the pan has reached and maintains that temperature, slowly and gently lower the eggs into the pan. If the water reduces in temperature, allow it to come back up to 140, and then let the eggs sit for 3 minutes. Extra large or jumbo eggs need an additional 2 minutes.
- Remove the eggs from the pan, wash in cold water, and refrigerate or use right away.
Always use the freshest eggs possible. The older the egg, the greater its chance of infection. And for my own safety I have to add the obligatory statement that I cannot guarantee your eggs will be completely safe after following the instructions contained herein and, as with everything else, there is still a risk involved. Albeit a very, very small one.