Cooking is my passion, cooking is my life; so when I discovered a problem with a common ingredient I felt compelled to alert the public. For years in both commercial and home cooking I have used pasteurized egg products ( you know, the egg mixture that comes in a milk carton); but recently I purchased and used pasteurized whole eggs, for an outrageously rich rice pudding I was preparing for a Food History class, in Morrisville, NC. The pudding is cooked, and the egg whites are whipped and folded into the luscious mounds of whiteness to add richness and fluffiness. The problem was the pasteurized egg whites would not whip or stiffen to a peak no matter how long I beat them. I was left with something that looked like watery translucent mucus. I had to discover why, so I did a bit of research.
R. A. Knight, K. Mears, T. L. Parkinson and J. Robb wrote an article entitled The baking properties of pasteurized whole egg in 1967 in the International Journal of Food and Science and Technology and discovered the secret to my dilemma. “A comparison was made of raw and pasteurized egg from twenty-eight processing plants. The average composition of the raw egg agreed closely with published data on commercial shell egg but the pasteurized samples contained slightly less fat and total solids.” Pasteurizing the egg every so slightly, lead to a loss in baking quality causing the performance to be slightly inferior to that of none pasteurized raw egg.
According to the Federal Drug Administration pasteurized shell eggs are actually heated in warm water baths using controlled time and temperature, to destroy any bacteria that might be present, but the process does not cook the eggs. It does however affect the egg white, since egg white is sensitive to high temperatures. Therefore it was safe to assume that egg white proteins are susceptible to heat damage which may adversely affect their properties. The Federal Drug Administration suggested the addition of whipping agents such as sodium lauryl sulfate and triethyl citrate to restore foaming properties. I had neither of these artificial foaming agents on hand so I did the next best thing and used good old fashioned none pasteurized egg whites.
The next time you reach for pasteurized eggs thinking you are purchasing a product void of contaminants, which may in fact be true, do so with a grain of salt particularly if you need the egg whites to enhance that hollandaise, soufflé, or Rice Singapore, a gift from the late-great Chef Dione Lucas’ classic cookbook, Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook: Classic Recipes, Menus and Methods as Taught in the Classes of the Gourmet Cooking School. It is truly the most decadent rice pudding known to mankind.