The most common egg used for food today is the hen’s egg, though those from other fowl-including duck, goose and quail-are sold in many areas. Most hens’ eggs on the market today have been classified according to quality and size under USDA standards. In descending order, egg grades are AA, A and B, the classification being determined by both exterior and interior quality. The factors determining exterior quality include the soundness, cleanliness, shape and texture of the shell. Interior quality is judged by candling,’ so named because in days gone by an egg was held up in front of a candle to see inside. Today, candling is more likely to be accomplished electrically, with the eggs moving and rotating on rollers over high-intensity lights. The interior quality is determined by the size of the air cell (the empty space between the white and shell at the large end of the egg-smaller in high-quality eggs), the proportion and density of the white, and whether or not the yolk is firm and free of defects. In high-quality eggs, both the white and yolk stand higher, and the white spreads less than in lower-grade eggs. Eggs come in the following sizes based on their minimum weight per dozen: jumbo (30 oz. per dozen), extra large (27 oz.), large (24 oz.), medium (21 oz.), small (18 oz.) and peewee (15 oz.). Large eggs are those on which most recipes are based. An eggshell’s color-white or brown is determined by the breed of hen that laid it and has nothing to do with either taste or nutritive value. The egg white is an excellent source of protein and riboflavin. Egg yolks contain all of the fat in an egg and are a good source of protein, iron, vitamins A and D, choline and phosphorus. Storing eggs: Eggs must always be refrigerated. When stored at room temperature, they lose more quality in 1 day than in a week in the refrigerator. Eggs should be stored in the carton in which they came; transferring them to the egg container in the refrigerator door exposes them to odors and damage. They should always be stored large-endup and should never be placed near odoriferous foods (such as onions) because they easily absorb odors. The best flavor and cooking quality will be realized in eggs used within a week. They can, however, be refrigerated up to a month, providing the shells are intact. The multitalented egg is delicious not only as a food in its own right but has numerous other uses as a Leavener in cakes, breads and souffles; a base for dressings such as mayonnaise; a thickener in sauces and custards; a clarifying agent for stocks; and a coating for breaded or battered foods.
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