Everything You Need to Know About Eggs: Yolks, Whites, and More

Learn how to beat whites to soft or stiff peaks, beat eggs and egg yolks, separate eggs, use eggs safely, and use egg substitutes.

stirring egg
Slightly beaten eggs.

Use a fork to beat the whole egg until the yolk and white are combined and no streaks remain.

Soft Peaks

whipped cream
Egg whites beaten to soft peaks.
  • Any fat (egg yolk, butter, oil) will inhibit egg whites from whipping properly.
  • Clean all equipment with vinegar to neutralize any residual fat on their surfaces.
  • Place egg whites in glass or metal bowl (do not use plastic).
  • For the best results, separate your eggs while they're cold. Then let the whites sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed or with a rotary beater until they form peaks with tips that curl over when the beaters are lifted.

Stiff Peaks

stiff peaks
Egg whites beaten to stiff peaks.
  • Follow instructions for soft peaks, but beat egg whites on high until they form peaks with tips that stand straight when the beaters are lifted out.

Beating Egg Yolks

cake batter
Beaten egg yolks.
  • Beat yolks with an electric mixer on high speed for about five minutes.
  • Color should be light yellow.
  • Yolks should be thick and fall in a ribbon pattern when beaters are lifted out.
Separating eggs.
  • There are a variety of ways to separate the white from the yolk.
  • Using an egg separator, as pictured, is one of the safest ways.
  • Passing the yolk from shell to shell is not as safe; the outside of the shell may contain salmonella bacteria.
  • Separating the yolk by pouring the egg through a cupped, clean hand with slightly parted fingers is acceptable.
  • Eggs are most easily separated when they are cold from the refrigerator.

Using an Egg Separator

  • Place egg separator over a bowl and add egg to the separator.
  • White will drain away from yolk, into the bowl.

Select Clean, Fresh Eggs: Dirty, cracked, or leaking eggs may have become contaminated with harmful bacteria.

Storing Eggs

  • Refrigerate promptly.
  • Store large ends up.
  • Eggs absorb refrigerator odors easily—store in egg carton for least odor absorption.
  • Refrigerate eggs up to five weeks from packing date, approximately three weeks from date purchased from grocery.
  • Packing date is stamped on the carton from 1 to 365. One represents January 1 and 365 represents December 31.

Cracking Eggs

  • Avoid getting eggshell into raw egg. Bacteria may be present on outside of the shell.

Storing Raw Egg Whites

Storing Unbroken Egg Yolks

  • Yolks may be refrigerated in by covering them with water in a tightly covered container.
  • Yolks may be refrigerated up to two days.
  • Do not freeze yolks as they will become very viscous and difficult to mix.

Freezing Whole Eggs

  • Beat whites and yolks together.
  • Place in tightly covered container.
  • Freeze up to a year.

After Working with Eggs

Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces thoroughly.

For More Information

See the USDA Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov

What Are Egg Products?

  • Frozen or refrigerated products based on egg whites
  • Either contain less fat than whole eggs, or are fat-free
  • No cholesterol

How to Use

  • For most baked goods, substitute ¼ cup frozen or refrigerated egg product for each whole egg.
  • Do not use when recipe requires air being whipped into eggs to leaven it, such as a sponge cake.
  • To replace hard-cooked eggs, cook the egg product as you would an omelet and cut it up.

Salmonella can be contracted from raw or uncooked eggs.

Populations More Vulnerable to Salmonella

  • Elderly
  • Seriously ill
  • Pregnant women
  • Infants
  • Children

Pasteurized Eggs

  • Pasteurization destroys salmonella bacteria.
  • Commercial forms of egg products are safe because they are pasteurized.
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