If you want to feel confident enjoying recipes made with raw eggs, using pasteurized eggs is the way to go.
Here’s how you can pasteurize eggs at home on the stove or in a sous vide circulator.
Why Pasteurize Eggs?
You may be wondering: why pasteurize eggs at all? The reason is salmonella.
We largely associate salmonella with chicken meat, but raw and partially-cooked chicken eggs can carry salmonella bacteria, too. And lots of absolutely fabulous recipes—mayonnaise, royal icing, hollandaise—call for raw or partially cooked eggs.
How big of a risk is salmonella infection via eggs? Billions of eggs are produced commercially in the U.S. every year, and while the American Egg Board reports that only one in 20,000 commercially produced eggs may contain salmonella bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates79,000 cases of food-borne illness and 30 deaths annually can be traced to eating eggs contaminated with Salmonella.
This is why the CDC recommends pregnant women, adults older than 65, infants, young children, and people with compromised immune systems avoid eating raw (or undercooked) eggs.
What if your eggs are farm fresh? Aren’t eggs supposed to be totally protected from bacteria as long as they’re still in the shell? Well, no. Salmonella is usually found on the outer eggshell and spreads to the egg once the shell is broken. In some cases, salmonella can be found in the egg white and yolk of a totally intact egg. You can’t count on freshly cracked eggs being safe.
So, do you have to swear off chocolate mousse and Caesar salad for life? Gladly, no. If you don't want to take any chances, pasteurized eggs are the answer! Pasteurizing brings eggs to a temperature that kills dangerous pathogens.
How Long to Pasteurize Eggs on the Stove
If you compare how-tos for pasteurizing in-shell eggs on the web, most methods state to submerge eggs in a 140°F water bath—any higher than that and you risk cooking the eggs.
Where recommendations begin to diverge is when it comes to how long to keep the eggs in the water bath. Why is that?
- Reason #1: The starting temperature of the eggs. Eggs straight from the fridge take longer to pasteurize than ones at room temperature.
- Reason #2: There’s no way to take the temperature of the inside of in-shell eggs. The outer whites may be pasteurized, but what about the inner yolks? Too long in the water bath and you compromise the usability of the eggs. Not long enough and you can’t be sure the eggs are pasteurized.
To be cautious and considering all factors, to pasteurize eggs we recommend 3.5 minutes in a 140°F water bath, starting with large eggs at room temperature.
What About Milky Egg Whites?
Pasteurizing eggs can change the appearance of egg whites, giving them solid milky-white spots, but it shouldn’t change their performance in recipes.
One exception is whipping the egg whites; it can take longer to whip pasteurized egg whites to stiff peaks, although baking authority Rose Levy Beranbaum notes that once they do, pasteurized egg whites make a notably stable meringue.
Can You Buy Pasteurized Eggs?
Some grocery stores sell refrigerated in-shell pasteurized eggs, though not all stores carry them. Look for them next to the regular eggs. Pasteurized liquid whole eggs sold in cartons are another option, but only for recipes calling for whole eggs.
How to Pasteurize In-Shell Eggs on the Stove
Note: You’ll need a small saucepan and an instant-read or candy thermometer.
Start with room temperature eggs:
Starting with eggs that aren’t cold ensures you pasteurize the entire egg, rather than just the parts closest to the shell. Use fresh eggs with no cracks and let them come to room temperature.
Cover the eggs with 1 inch of water:
Fill a small saucepan with cool water and gently put the eggs in the pan. Make sure they are covered by 1 inch of water.
Heat the water slowly to 140° F and hold for 3.5 minutes:
Put the pan on medium heat. Let the water slowly come to 140° F. Check the temperature of the water with an instant-read or candy thermometer. Hold that 140° temperature for 3.5 minutes for large eggs or 5 minutes for extra-large eggs (eggs between 64 and 70 grams).
Keep an eye on the temperature this whole time, adjusting the burner or moving the pan as needed to maintain the correct temperature.
Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool:
Use a slotted spoon and gently transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool them down. Your eggs are now pasteurized!
Mark and refrigerate:
Use a permanent marker to mark your eggs so you know they’re pasteurized. Use them right away or refrigerate for up to 1 week.
How to Pasteurize Just Egg Whites or Yolks
Bring water to a boil and separate the eggs:
Bring a large pan saucepan of water to a boil. While you wait, crack as many room-temperature eggs as you need into a heatproof bowl. If you only need to pasteurize egg yolks, you can do just the yolks. Conversely, if you only need to do the whites, just do the whites.
Add water to the bowl of eggs:
Add 2 tablespoons of tap water for each whole egg used, or for each single yolk or egg white.
For example, if you used egg whites from two eggs, add four tablespoons of water to the bowl of egg whites. If your recipe calls for liquid such as milk, stock, or lemon juice, you may use that instead of water.
Set the bowl over the pot of simmering water and scrape for 2-3 minutes:
Set the bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water and turn off the heat. Use a silicone spatula to constantly scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Don’t beat in air; this constant motion is to keep the eggs from scrambling and to maintain a constant temperature.
Do this for 2-3 minutes, or until the water in the pan has cooled to lukewarm.
How to Pasteurize Eggs Sous Vide
Heat water to 135°F (57°C):
Using a sous vide circulator, heat a bowl of water to 135°F (57°C).
Add eggs to the water bath and keep them in there for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The lower temperature accounts for the longer time in the water bath. The circulating water may cause the eggs to bump up against each other; remove and discard any cracked eggs.
Cool and mark:
Cool the eggs in an ice bath, then mark them so you know they’re pasteurized. Use them right away or refrigerate for up to 1 week.