Is It Time to Switch to Pasteurized Eggs?

EggsThis past summer’s massive recall of half a billion shell eggs no doubt encouraged many consumers to think about making the big switch to pasteurized eggs. According to Davidson’s Safest Choice Pasteurized Shell Eggs, using pasteurized eggs will  “eliminate the risk of foodborne illness and cross-contamination of your kitchen.” Pasteurized eggs are heated to a high enough temperature to kill pathogens but not high enough to cook the eggs. Davidson’s Safest Choice Pasteurized Shell Eggs describe the company’s pasteurization method as a combination of time and temperature; the eggs are moved around in a giant warm bath for almost an hour, thereby killing any bacteria and viruses that are present. 


So should you switch to pasteurized eggs? Let’s consider the advantages and disadvantages as well as another important question—will pasteurized eggs spoil the taste of your favorite breakfast and brunch entrées?


Do Pasteurized Eggs Taste Good?


To find out, your ShelfLifeAdvice guru Ethel (along with her research partner/spouse)  decided to conduct their own highly unscientific experiment.  Putting the website’s needs ahead of cholesterol concerns, we consumed a dozen shell eggs plus one cup of liquid eggs (the equivalent of 4 more) within three days.  We ate them hard-boiled, soft-boiled, fried, sunny-side up, and scrambled (with American cheese). Our conclusion: if you don’t have the taste buds of a connoisseur, you’ll find little or no difference between pasteurized and unpasteurized eggs. Even some who claim they can tell one type from the other admit that pasteurized shell eggs taste no worse, just slightly different, from their more traditional, natural relatives. According to the vice-president of National Pasteurized Eggs, pasteurized eggs taste better because the bacteria that cause flavors to deteriorate have been killed. Therefore, we say, try  the pasteurized ones; you may like them. Or, to put it as Dr. Seuss did in Green Eggs and Ham,  “You may like them. You will see. You may like them in a tree.”   (We advise substituting  “kitchen” for “tree.”)


What about the liquid whole, scrambled, pasteurized eggs we consumed?  They got a tie vote.  My husband thought they were fine, no different from shell scrambled eggs.  I found them edible but less tasty.  I think they’d be an indistinguishable substitute for shell eggs in a recipe that  included more ingredients.


Advantages of Pasteurized Eggs


As you probably know, unpasteurized eggs, if properly cooked (to 160ºF or until not runny), are safe to eat. Salmonella (which is in about 1 out of every 10,000-20,000 eggs)  is killed by the heat, so there’s no danger unless you’ve been messy,  dripped raw egg on your counter  and then forgotten to disinfect, and/or you’ve forgotten to put everything the raw egg touched into the dishwasher.  Cook and clean properly, and unpasteurized eggs  are extremely unlikely to make you sick. However, if you like  runny poached, sunny-side-up, or soft-boiled eggs, switching to pasteurized would be a good precautionary measure.


Here are other situations in which pasteurized eggs are a good choice:  if you have recipes that call for raw eggs (that will still be raw when consumed), pasteurized eggs are your easiest, safest bet.  Recipes for these foods may call for raw eggs: Caesar salad dressing, Hollandaise sauce, eggnog, mayonnaise, ice cream, and meringue topping.


Disadvantages of Pasteurized Eggs


Cost: When we recently purchased a one-dozen carton of pasteurized eggs, they cost $3.79, compared to $1.99 for the unpasteurized.  The liquid pasteurized eggs—a small carton holding the equivalent of 7 large eggs—was $2.89. (By  the way, natural eggs—those laid by chickens that eat only vegetarian feed and are given no antibiotics—cost $2.89.)


No doubt the next question you want answered is “Can I pasteurize eggs myself at home?” According to a USDA fact sheet, “The equipment to pasteurize shell eggs isn’t available for home use, and it is not possible to pasteurize shell eggs at home without cooking the contents of the egg.”  Ah, but what if you remove the eggs from the shell?  The Clemson University site listed below says the following: “Egg mixtures are safe if they reach 160ºF, so homemade ice cream and eggnog can be made safely from a cooked  [egg and milk] base.”  But then you're using cooked eggs.  The Culinary Review says, when you pasteurize eggs at home, you should bring them up to about 140-150ºF for 3-5 minutes depending on the age and the size of the eggs.  If the temperature goes any higher, you start to cook the egg. Pasteurizing at home sounds tricky to us. Perhaps, if you really want to use pasteurized eggs, the safest, easiest course of action is to buy them despite the price.  


Limited availability: There are not enough facilities in the U.S. to pasteurize all the eggs in the country’s food supply, nor would everyone want their eggs pasteurized.  Despite this summer’s egg scare, not all stores even carry pasteurized eggs.  You may have to shop around to find them.  However, more stores may begin to carry them if customers make that request.  Davidson’s Safest Choice Pasteurized Shell Eggs actually has, on its website, a product request form that consumers can download, fill out, and submit to local grocery store dairy managers.


No choice of size: Furthermore, in retail stores, pasteurized eggs are now available in one size only—large. Ordinary  eggs, of course, are generally sold retail in five sizes, ranging from small to jumbo.  This size limitation on the pasteurized ones shouldn’t be considered a major disadvantage since egg farmers say the best-tasting eggs are not the extra large and jumbo but the large, medium, or small ones laid by younger birds.




Whipping problem: Egg whites that have been pasteurized do not whip up as well as the whites of unpasteurized eggs.  To deal with this problem, the Davidson site recommends that you add an extra egg white or a teaspoon of cream of tartar and use stainless steel mixing bowls and a whisk attachment on home mixers.


Final thought: Whether you need pasteurized eggs or not depends in part on what you’re planning to use the eggs for and whom you’re cooking for.  If you’re cooking for young children, an elderly person, or someone with a weakened immune system  from cancer therapy, HIV, or some other cause, pasteurized eggs add a level of safety that may make everyone more comfortable.


For more information about eggs on this site, click on these links:




Davidson’s Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs   “Eggs: Frequently Asked Questions about Eggs”


Clemson Cooperative Extension (Clemson University) “Safe Handling of Eggs” “Shell Eggs from Farm to Table”


The Culinary Review  “How To Make Pasteurized Eggs (Cooking  With Raw Eggs)”

Chicago Tribune  "Pasteurized eggs put to test" Section 5, Sept. 8, 2010




Davidson’s Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs   “Eggs: Frequently Asked Questions about Eggs”


Clemson Cooperative Extension (Clemson University) “Safe Handling of Eggs”


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