Egg Cooking Methods
Eggs are a very versatile food. They can be used as a main dish or as an ingredient in more complex dishes. Eggs provide a wide variety of attributes for the finished dish. In addition to adding color and flavor, eggs provide the following characteristics to dishes:
Thickening Eggs - thicken foods like custards puddings, sauces, and creamy fillings.
Leavening - Souffles, sponge & butter cakes, quick breads, and puffy omelets are leavened by eggs.
Coating - Meat dishes, breads, and cookies are some foods with egg components as the base ingredients for coatings.
Binding - Eggs bind other ingredients for making meat loaves, casseroles, and croquettes.
Emulsifying - Eggs prevent mixture separation in mayonnaise, salad dressing, and cream puff filling.
Clarifying - Tiny particles are coagulated in soups and coffee to create a clear solution.
Retarding Crystallization - Crystallization of sugar is slowed in cake icings and candies.
In general, slow cooking over moderate heat is the best method for cooking eggs. High temperatures and over-cooking causes protein in the eggs to shrink, thus making the albumen tough and the yolk mealy. Egg albumen is basically a solution of protein in water. It is more sensitive to high heat than the yolk. Albumen solidifies at 140-150°F. while yolks cook at 150-158°F. A properly cooked egg has a tender, moist albumen and a smooth, creamy yolk.
When recipes require beaten egg contents, it is recommended that they be warmed to room temperature before beating. Usually 30 minutes is enough time for eggs to warm up. If whites and yolks are beat separately, it is best to beat the whites first to save time or else beaters must be washed between beatings. Egg yolks on beaters will interfere with good beating of egg whites.
A slightly beaten egg is used to thicken or bind ingredients. One-half minute of brisk beating with a fork or egg whisk is adequate for the purpose. Test the results by lifting the fork with adhering egg. If the egg flows from the fork easily and contains only a few air bubbles, it is slightly beaten.
A well beaten egg is used for leavening is best performed using a rotary hand beater or electric mixer. Beat the egg until it is very frothy and changes to a white or light cream color. Egg yolk is thoroughly beaten when it becomes thick and has a uniform lemon color. A description of various egg beating stages as indicated in recipes are as follows.
A slightly beaten white is used to clarify, emulsify, and thicken solutions. When beat for one-half minute, the white is slightly foamy but is still transparent and flows easily.
A stiff foam white is used in meringues that require a shiny, glossy and moist albumen. When the beaters or whisk is withdrawn, the albumen follows to form rounded peaks.
A stiff white is used in hard meringues, cakes, cooked frostings, candies, and marshmallows. Properly beat stiff white is no longer foamy and does not stick to the bowl when tipped, but remains glossy, smooth and moist.
Source: Mississippi State University Extension Service: http://www.msstate.edu/dept/poultry/4heggs.htm