How To Pasteurize Eggs At Home

Sous vide eggs hard boiled or soft

How To Pasteurize Eggs At Home

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If you’ve ever wondered how to pasteurize eggs at home, look no further! There’s more than one way to go about it, but there’s a kitchen tool that’ll make your life easier and take the guesswork out of the process. In this article, I’ll explain what pasteurizing is, why we do it, and how to do it.

The French Connection

In the 1800s, a Frenchman by the name of Louis Pasteur made significant discoveries in the world of vaccines. Besides discovering modified-live vaccines, Pasteur also fathered the theory of pasteurizing.

What Is Pasteurizing?

Pasteurizing is a process of thermally treating foods to kill pathogens and spoilage bacteria. Unlike cooking, pasteurizing heats food enough to kill or deactivate these bacteria without significantly changing the quality of the product.

The Disclaimer

The USDA and FDA always recommend that you fully cook your eggs, and so do I. The following information is for your information, but be aware that even the FDA says that pasteurizing eggs is not 100% effective. Additionally, the system in the photos is the system I’ve bought for myself and is not a sponsor of this article.

Why We Pasteurize Eggs

There are two main reasons people want to know how to pasteurize eggs at home. Firstly, if you’re feeding children, elderly, or chronically ill individuals, pasteurization is a good safeguard against food-borne illness. Secondly, if you’re making food with raw egg, such as mayonnaise, Caesar dressing, or edible cookie dough, then pasteurizing your eggs is wise. If pasteurizing at home sounds like too much work, you can always buy eggs already pasteurized.

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A side-by-side comparison; a fresh egg to the left, a fresh pasteurized egg to the right. There was virtually no notable difference between the two.

Where to Buy Pasteurized Eggs

Pasteurizing eggs in the shell isn’t a universal practice in America. Still, you can find pasteurized eggs in many grocery stores. Look for packaging that indicates their eggs as pasteurized in your grocer’s refrigerated case.

Pasteurized Egg Products

Egg products (not whole eggs) in America such as packaged egg whites are pasteurized per the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA) of 1970 with rare exceptions. If you’re buying egg products directly from a farm or packaging plant, be sure to ask if they pasteurize their egg products. Purchasing directly from these sellers may fall under these rare exceptions.

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A sous vide system makes pasteurizing eggs at home as easy as point-and-click.

How to Pasteurize Eggs at Home

Pasteurizing eggs at home is simple, and all you need is a water bath. This water bath can be a pot on your stove, but holding an exact temperature can be challenging. To make this easier, I highly suggest a Sous Vide machine to regulate the water bath temperature.

What Is Sous Vide?

Sous vide is a French term meaning “under vacuum.” It’s a method of cooking that most notably includes a water bath, food in vacuum bags, and a circulator pump with a heater element. 

To pasteurize eggs in sous vide, we’ll be skipping the vacuum bags and placing the eggs directly into the bath. Alternatively, you can use something such as an egg basket to contain them in the water bath. A sous vide system makes pasteurizing eggs simple, and if you plan on pasteurizing eggs often, it is a must-have tool.

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Each sous vide system is slightly different, but most of them are user friendly and intuitive. On my system, the bottom number is my set point, and the top number is the actual bath temp.

Temp And Time

Once you have a sous vide system set up, there are two things you need to know; how hot and for how long. At 130 degrees F, spoilage bacteria and pathogens die or deactivate in the egg; however, at 140 degrees F, your eggs will start cooking. The FDA says eggs should be held at a minimum of 130 degrees F for 45 minutes to achieve 99.9% pasteurization.

Cooking experts and sous vide machine manufacturers advocate for temperatures of 135 degrees F, which is above the minimum temperature to pasteurize but still below the 140 degrees F cook point, giving users a buffer to work within. Most instructions found around the internet stretch the time out to one or two hours, of which the latter seems a bit overkill.

Pasteurize Eggs Sous Vide

Set your sous vide circulator into your water container, be it in a stockpot or a food-grade tub. Add water until you at least reach the minimum depth indicated on your circulator. Set your sous vide machine to the desired temperature and wait for the bath to reach that set point. Once there, gently set your eggs into the bath and set a timer for your desired time.

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Fragile shells will crack easily while they move in the current produced by the sous vide circulator. Pull these eggs out before they cause a big mess.

Eggs On The Move

Eggs will move with the current made by the circulator and may crack while migrating around the container. Pull out any cracked eggs before they gunk up your circulator and dispose of them. If you have a lot of eggs cracking in the bath, try using a small egg basket to corral them, or consider feeding your flock calcium supplements for chickens. If eggs float, they may not be inedible, but they will prove challenging. Read my article on how to tell if eggs are bad for more details on why they float.

Time to Chill

Once the timer is up, pull your eggs and set them in an ice bath to cool for at least 10 minutes, dry them and transfer to the refrigerator. Remember to mark your pasteurized eggs, so you know which eggs you pasteurized.

How to Pasteurize Egg Whites

If you prefer to use pasteurized egg whites, there are two ways you can go about this. One is; pasteurize your shell eggs, then separate them and use the whites immediately. However, if you want to use pasteurized whites later, you can separate your whites and bag them in a vacuum bag. This bag of whites can then be set in the water bath, pasteurized, and then stored until needed.

Cooking Eggs Sous Vide

Pasteurizing eggs is not the only thing you can use your Sous Vide system for when working with eggs. You can cook eggs to any number of specified doneness levels, including poached, soft-cooked, and hard-boiled. Since I hadn’t tried it myself yet, I did set four eggs in a bath of 194 degrees F for eight minutes, then chilled them in an ice bath for 10 minutes. I got hard-boiled eggs that were cooked perfectly and tasted great. Sadly, I forgot that I was using fresh eggs from my coop, so peeling them was a disaster as usual.

Have you ever pasteurized eggs at home? Have you tried cooking eggs sous vide before? Share your experiences below in the comments!

Originally published in the August/September 2020 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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