Eggs & Dairy
Eggs are essential in any kitchen. They are very nutritious, high in protein, vitamins and minerals, and can be eaten in a variety of ways for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
An egg can be the hero of the dish, such as in a classic English Breakfast with bacon and tomato, or it is a necessary ingredient in many recipes ranging from soufflés, custard and ice cream to sauces such as Hollandaise, Béarnaise and mayonnaise.
Eggs range in size from about 45g to more than 70g. Small to medium eggs are less than 51g, large eggs are more than 51g, extra-large more than 59g and jumbo greater than 66g. Eggs used in recipes are usually large and it is a good idea to stay as close to this size as possible otherwise the dish may not turn out correctly. They should be stored in their original packaging so that they don't absorb any fridge odours and they will also stay fresher for longer.
You can test an egg's freshness by putting it in a glass of water. If it lies horizontally at the bottom of the glass it is fresh and if it floats vertically it is stale. The shell is porous so the little air pocket in the egg gets bigger over time ~ hence the older the egg, the more air it absorbs and the staler it becomes.
The white of a fresh egg is more gelatinous and tends to stay together so is good for poaching; eggs a few days old peel well when boiled because there is slightly more air in them and the membrane separates from the egg more easily; they are also good for making mousses and meringues as they separate more easily because the white is thinner and more runny. Eggs older than a week can be used as an ingredient in recipes rather than as the hero of the dish.
Like many refrigerated ingredients, eggs should be brought to room temperature before using. This will not only improve the flavour when poaching or scrambling but it will prevent the shell from cracking when boiling and the whites will whisk much better when making a meringue.