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Cooking Basics

Most Americans crack eggs all wrong

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Most consumers do not thoroughly wash hands after cracking eggs. (iStock)

It looks like most Americans are cracking eggs all wrong. 

By now, it should be common kitchen wisdom that handling raw eggs can get you sick.

But a new study conducted by the independent research firm RTI International found that only 48 percent of adults wash their hands with soap and water after cracking eggs in the kitchen.

The report, recently published in the Journal of Food Protection, aims to bring awareness to the dangers of food poisoning from raw eggs.

“Numerous cases and outbreaks of salmonella infection are attributable to shell eggs each year in the United States,” says lead study author Katherine Kosa, food and nutrition policy researcher at RTI. “Improper handling and consumption of raw eggs can increase the risk of salmonellosis, a type of foodborne illness. Therefore, it is important for people to wash hands and surfaces often when handling raw eggs and that they cook eggs to the proper temperature.”

Of course, your egg cracking technique also impacts how much goo you have left on your hands.  For example, the one handed crack between the fingers and thumb requires precision and practice.  Others might go for striking the egg against an edge, digging your fingers inside the hole and separating the egg from there. However you break open an egg, science has proven that it takes a targeted strike at the specific point where the egg’s structure is weakest.  And for homecooks, if you're off on where that point may be, then you're likely to make a mess. 

In conjunction with Tennessee State University and Kansas State University, RTI wanted to see what people did after they broke an egg, in light of USDA recommendations to wash hands after handling raw eggs.  

They surveyed 1,500 adult grocery shoppers across the U.S. and the findings will be used to develop science-based consumer education materials that will ideally cut down on the spread of foodborne illness.

Also, while most consumers said they do not consume raw eggs or foods made with raw or undercooked eggs, over 25 percent of respondents said they had eaten raw, homemade cookie dough or cake batter in the past year. And while the USDA recommends cooking eggs until both whites and yolks are firm, over half of consumers surveyed said they poach or fry eggs just until the yolks are still soft or runny.

Kosa advises home cooks to follow guidelines set forth by the Safe Food Families campaign. When it comes to cracking eggs, remember to clean, separate, cook and chill.