How to Tell One Egg From Another…
Two experts—a nutritionist and a chef—evaluate the staple for health and deliciousness.
An egg isn’t just an egg. Not when you have to parse the differences between free-range and cage-free, jumbo and extra-large, organic and omega-3 DHA. In an effort to demystify the egg-buying process, we grabbed four cartons from a Food Emporium and four from the Union Square Greenmarket and brought them to the authorities. Dr. Jeffery Morrison, a nutrition specialist, explained each egg’s health benefits. George Weld, the chef-owner of Egg in Williamsburg, scrambled them up. By Melissa Kirsch
the supermarket $2.99/dozen america’s choice jumbo eggs Like every jumbo egg, each of these contains 8 grams of protein (compared with 7 grams in an extra-large egg) and about 2 grams of saturated fat (versus 1.5 grams in an extra-large). The chickens are likely raised in crowded cages and, said Morrison, fed the cheapest grain feed available. They made for a pale-yellow, watery scramble. “This looks gross,” observed Weld. And the taste was equally uninspiring. $5.69/dozen horizon organic extra-large brown eggs Horizon’s organic eggs come from cage-free chickens whose feed is devoid of animal by-products, pesticides, antibiotics, and synthetic fertilizer. All good things, said Morrison, though organic feed doesn’t necessarily make for a nutritionally superior egg. (Plus they cost about 50 percent more than the America’s Choice jumbos.) Weld wasn’t blown away by the taste, calling them “bland.” $4.49/dozen eggland’s best large cage-free eggs A lot of chicken feed is corn-based, which provides the birds with calories but very little nutrition. Eggland’s Best supplements its feed with alfalfa and sea kelp, which makes for an egg higher in vitamin E and cardio-protective omega-3 fatty acids, and lower in saturated fat. They’re cheaper than the Horizons, but scramble on the runny side. Okay for omelettes, in a pinch. $5.99/dozen gold circle farms omega-3 dha eggs The best of the store-bought eggs. Weld praised their buttery flavor, Morrison their nutrition profile. The yolks are rich and dark, which indicates high levels of DHA (a type of omega-3 fatty acid), vitamin A, and other antioxidants. “The myth that egg yolks increase cholesterol has been debunked,” said Morrison. “Unless you have diabetes, one to two eggs a day should not present any health problems.”
the greenmarket $4-$7/dozen stone arch farms Stone Arch’s pastured chickens spend most of their time outdoors eating protein-heavy grasses, seeds, and bugs, in addition to the usual grain mix. “When chickens eat the food found where they’re living, it changes the nutrition and flavor of the yolk for the better,” said Morrison. Sure enough, the egg whites retain their shape when cracked, and the yolks are strong—perfect for poaching. Available Fridays and Saturdays. $6/dozen flying pigs farm Our Greenmarket winner. These pastured eggs carry all the nutritional benefits of the Stone Arch eggs, and they had the deepest, creamiest flavor of all those sampled. “They’re so rich that using them for scrambled eggs could be kind of overwhelming,” said Weld. “But if you’re doing something special, like scrambled eggs for dinner or cooking an egg in a salad, they’d be amazing.” Available Fridays and Saturdays. $10/dozen violet hill farm Though shell color has zero effect on taste or nutrition, these eggs earn points for sheer attractiveness. Violet Hill crossbreeds its pastured chickens to create eggs with russet, olive-green, and even speckled shells. They taste as good as they look: “This has the best mouthfeel of all the eggs,” said Weld. “It doesn’t have a super-deep flavor, but I’d definitely call it a standout.” Available Saturdays. $3.50-$4.25/dozen knoll krest farm Knoll Krest feeds its chickens a grain mix with occasional carrot and spinach pulp left over from juicing, all of which boosts vitamin content. The yolks hold their dome shape well when cracked—another sign of a healthful egg. Weld was impressed: “I feel like I could hit these yolks with the spatula and they wouldn’t break.” Plus they’re well priced for everyday frying. Available Wednesdays and Saturdays.
… And Pick a Nice Slice of Pig
Our resident porkologist, Grub Street’s Josh Ozersky, anoints the best breakfast meats on the market.
FOR THE OCCASIONAL FRYER
Oscar Mayer Hearty Thick Cut Bacon
$6.99 a pound at Food Emporium, 10 Union Sq., nr. 15th St.; 212-353-3840.
WHY IT’S GREAT: Of the standard brands, Oscar Mayer strikes the best balance of salty and sweet, and the ratio of fat to lean meat is exactly what most people like. The thick slices allow for more pork flavor than most tissue-thin supermarket bacons.
ALMOST AS GOOD: North Country Smokehouses’s applewood bacon, which is a little smokier ($8.49 a pound at Todaro Bros., 555 Second Ave., nr. 31st St.; 212-532-0633).
FOR THE DISCERNING BACONITE
Niman Ranch Dry-Cured Applewood-Smoked Bacon
$8.99 for a twelve-ounce package at Murray’s Cheese, 254 Bleecker St., nr. Cornelia St. 212-243-3289.
WHY IT’S GREAT: A subtler, porkier, all-natural bacon produced by actual dry curing, not the industrial-injection method used in supermarket bacons. You give up a little acridity, but the density and deep pork flavor make up for it.
ALMOST AS GOOD: The nicely smoky Nueske’s bacon ($8.29 at Fairway Market, 2127 Broadway, at 74th St.; 212-595-1888).
FOR THE BACON OBSESSIVE
The House Bacon at Rub BBQ
$7.95 an order (between eight and ten pieces) at Rub BBQ, 208 W. 23rd St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-524-4300.
WHY IT’S GREAT: Tennessee bacon guru Allan Benton advised on the cure, done in-house to Berkshire pork bellies before they go in for a cold smoke, a hot smoke in a hickory wood-fueled barbecue pit, and finally a browning bath in boiling lard. Reserve ahead, then fry it yourself at home.
ALMOST AS GOOD: The Grateful Palate’s online Bacon of the Month Club includes most of the country’s great slabs, like a hickory-smoked brown-sugar bacon from Gatton Farms (one-year membership from $295; gratefulpalate.com).
The Right Way to Cook Bacon
Don’t use a frying pan. Don’t even use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. No, bacon strips are long, and the center of a pan (where the heat is most intense) is small, so inevitably the middle crisps up while the ends are left limp. For an even, slow cook, lay the bacon out in a sheet pan in a 375-degree oven. Cook for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Remove when it’s brown and resistant to the tooth, but not crispy to the point of brittleness.