Cooking School Day 4: Eggs
- Today’s Lesson: Eggs
- The Goal: 20 lessons, 20 days to become a better cook at home
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Eggs are everywhere in the kitchen: they’re a quick breakfast (and often dinner), they’re key players in a batch of meatballs, they’re in the mayonnaise on your sandwich, they’re your best friend when a cake-craving hits. You can scramble them, poach them, fry them, or hard-boil them. You can even shake them into a cocktail.
What I’m saying, here, is that eggs are essential material for home cooks like us. Which is why today is devoted to this most incredible of edibles: the egg.
Day 4 Lesson: Eggs
Basic Egg Anatomy: Eggs have three main parts. In the center is the bright golden yolk — this is where all the nutrients and fat reside. The clear, gel-like white surrounds the yolk, keeping it suspended and protected. The whites are essentially protein. Surrounding the whites and yolks, keeping everything held together in a neat little package, we have the shell — the only part of the egg we don’t typically eat. In addition to these three parts, there is a thin membrane between the shell and the white (the bane of any deviled egg-peeling endeavor), as well as a stringy bit called the chalaza, which anchors the yolk to the white.
Watch the video below to see how to crack an egg with one hand!
How Eggs Cook: A raw egg is a big jumble of coiled proteins. As the egg starts to cook, those proteins relax and lengthen out in a more orderly fashion. Continue cooking a little longer and the proteins start to bond with each other in a tight network — coagulation. Cook the eggs for too long and the proteins tighten to the point where all the liquid is forced out, resulting in rubbery, dry, over-cooked eggs.
Time and Temperature: These are the two biggest influences on how eggs cook. The longer you cook eggs, the more those proteins will coagulate. The hotter you cook eggs, the more quickly they will coagulate. Other ingredients also affect cooking — eggs being scrambled on the stovetop will coagulate much more quickly than the eggs in a quiche or a batch of brownies, for instance. In general, I recommend cooking eggs or baking dishes with eggs at low temperatures to lengthen the cooking time and decreasing the risk of over-coagulation.
Eggs in Cooking: Eggs can be eaten as a food all on their own, of course. We need look no further than a plate of creamy scrambled eggs or a wedge of frittata for that. Eggs can also be used to bind ingredients together, as when making meatloaf or whisking up a batch of mayonnaise. In baking, eggs are also often added for leavening or for richness. The whole egg can be used, or the yolk and white can be separated and used independently. Eggs have a fairly long shelf-life, making them a good pantry staple.
Eggs in a Recipe: Size matters here, so take note when your recipe calls for a large egg or a jumbo egg and buy the right size. As you read over the recipe, take note if eggs need to be whisked or separated before you start. Also, don’t forget the effect on time and temperature when cooking eggs — pay attention to these instructions in your recipe.
Eggs are easiest to separate when they’re still cold, as the whites are thicker and hold together better. Even if your recipe calls for the separated eggs to be at room temperature, do the separation first and then let the two parts come to room temperature while you measure and prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Every lesson has three homework options. Maybe you’ve already got one down, or you just have time for a quick study session. So pick one, and show us by tagging it with #kitchnschool on Instagram or Twitter.
Study: Read about the difference between medium, large, and jumbo-sized eggs.
Improve: Make a souffle! This is taking your egg cookery up a notch — you’ll need to separate the eggs and beat the whites into stiff peaks. And lucky you, you’ll have a fantastic dinner at the end. Here’s what to do: How To Make a Soufflé.
The Kitchn Cookbook & Eggs
The Cooking School was inspired by our new book, The Kitchn Cookbook — and there’s plenty in the book to help your Cooking School experience.
Today’s tip: See page 125 for a guide to all the stages of whipping egg whites.
5 Recipes to Practice Your Egg Skills
The Kitchn’s Cooking School
The Kitchn’s Cooking School is 20 days, 20 lessons to become a better cook at home. Every day we’ll tackle an essential cooking topic and explain what you should know. Each lesson has three different homework options, so you can choose the one that teaches you what you need. Whether you want to refresh your skills or start from scratch, come to school with us!