Elizabeth S. Reames | 4/2/2009 9:00:03 PM
Although dyed Easter eggs may look like decorations, they are a food, and they are perishable. In fact, hard-cooked eggs spoil faster than fresh eggs because their protective coating is washed away in the cooking process, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
“Without their coating, the eggs’ bare pores allow harmful bacteria to enter and contaminate the eggs,” Reames says. She advises refrigerating hard-cooked eggs within two hours of cooking and eating them within a week.
The nutritionist offers additional Easter egg safe-buying and preparation tips:
– Buy clean, uncracked eggs from the refrigerated display case at the grocery. Look for a date printed on the carton. This is the "pull" date, which is the last day the eggs can be sold.
– Store the eggs in their carton in the refrigerator with their large ends up to help maintain quality. Keep them covered to eliminate the absorption of odors from other foods.
Fresh, uncooked eggs in their shells can be kept refrigerated in their cartons for three to five weeks beyond the “sell-by” date, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.
– Wash your hands thoroughly before you handle eggs at every step, including cooking, cooling and dyeing.
– To hard-cook eggs properly, never boil them. Place them in single layer in a saucepan and add enough tap water to cover them by at least 1 inch. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to allow better dye coverage after cooking.
Cover the pan, and quickly bring the water just to a boil. Turn off the heat immediately or remove the pan from the burner and let the eggs stand, covered, in the hot water for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes are up, immediately run cold water over the eggs or place them in ice water until they are completely cooled.
– Return the hard-cooked eggs to their cartons and refrigerate them if you won’t be coloring them right away.
– If you plan to eat your dyed eggs, use food coloring or specially made food-grade egg dyes dissolved in water that is warmer than the eggs. Color only uncracked eggs. If any eggs crack during dyeing, discard them.
– Return dyed eggs to the refrigerator until you’re ready to hide or display them.
– Consider hiding places carefully. Avoid areas where the eggs might come into contact with dirt, pets, wild animals, birds, reptiles, insects or lawn chemicals.
– Never leave eggs in the sun during an Easter egg hunt. Hide them in the shade, and keep the hunt short if the eggs are to be eaten. The total time involved in hiding and hunting eggs – the time the eggs are out of the refrigerator – should be no more than two hours. Discard any eggs that become cracked during the hunt.
Reames says eggs supply high-quality protein, are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins and contain only 80 calories. Although they are high in cholesterol, with 213 milligrams in one large egg, they are low in saturated fat.
The nutritionist suggests a more healthful than traditional way to enjoy your Easter eggs is to make an egg salad using mostly the whites – three whites to one yolk – instead of one yolk per one white. Add plenty of diced celery or green pepper, and use fat-free or reduced-fat mayonnaise.
“Some people enjoy pickling their leftover eggs in vinegar and pickling spices, spicy cider or juice from pickles or pickled beets,” Reames says, but cautions against home-canning these pickled eggs. A safer plan is simply to keep them refrigerated and use within seven days.
Editor: Mark Claesgens