Eggs, a carton with 17 eggs in it, there's one missing

Pasteurized Eggs vs Unpasteurized: What’s the Difference?

Pasteurized eggs is a term used widely, but what are they actually and what’s the difference with all the other sorts of eggs? I’ve already researched sour cream vs crème fraîche, now  I’ve looked for answers on pasteurized vs unpasteurized eggs.

What Are Pasteurized Eggs

These eggs are heated in their shells, so that the bacteria are killed, but the egg isn’t cooked. This is to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses, such as salmonellosis.

How Are Eggs Pasteurized Without Cooking Them

Eggs are heated to a point (140 degrees Fahrenheit for 3.5 minutes) on which the (dangerous) bacteria are killed, but the egg itself isn’t cooked. The eggs look like regular eggs, still with the shell on.

Why Is Pasteurizing Necessary

Unpasteurized eggs can cause foodborne illnesses, of which salmonellosis is the most common one. The salmonella bacteria is one of the most common causes for food poisoning in the United States. Most people recover from salmonellosis without medical treatment. Salmonella bacteria are especially dangerous for young kids, the elderly, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system.

There’s only a small portion of the eggs that’s infected with salmonella. If you cook the egg before eating it, you reduce the risk immensely. However lots of eggs are eaten uncooked or partially cooked, since that’s what the recipe calls for, each day. Eggs are not the only food that can transfer salmonella (poultry, meat, milk, juice, raw fruits, raw vegetables, cheese, spices and nuts are the others).

When you ask yourself are most eggs pasteurized, the answer is no. They make up a very small percentage, less than 1%, of the total eggs being sold in the USA and the Netherlands.

Pros and Cons

Pasteurized eggs vs regular eggs has its pros and cons.

A carton with eggs, closed carton
A carton with eggs

Let’s start with naming the pros:

  • They’re the safest option for the elderly, young kids and pregnant women. Since they reduce the chance on a foodborne illness.
  • They’re a safe option when a recipe uses raw eggs or undercooked eggs. Think about dishes such as eggnog, poached eggs, Caesar salad dressing, eggs sunny-side up and spaghetti carbonara.
  • Reduces the chance of cross contamination. A little drop if uncooked egg on your hands or the cutting board can be transferred onto something else, with pasteurized eggs this can’t make someone sick.
  • You can pasteurize eggs yourself, for example in a microwave.

Then here are the cons:

  • They’re hard to find. It’s not mandatory to pasteurize them, so you’ll have to read the packaging.
  • Some people find that the eggs lose some of their flavor. They taste less eggy.
  • The eggs are less firm, you could even call them mushy.
  • It’s harder to whip the pasteurized egg white into stiff peaks. The pasteurization process affects the proteins in the eggs, and they are less firm.

When to Use Them

If you can find them and are worried about the risk, then use the pasteurized eggs in preparing recipes with raw eggs, such as Kruidnoten Tiramisu, or with partially cooked eggs.

Uitsmijter, served with salad on the side on a white plate

In recipes in which you cook the eggs fully, such as Stuffed Scrambled Eggs, you don’t necessarily need to use them. However if you’re cooking for people in the risk group. To eliminate the chance of cross contamination.

Deviled Eggs served on awhite plate, 6 of them
Deviled Eggs

Other Types of Eggs

Pastured and Pasteurized sound almost the same, but are completely different. Pasteurized we’ve explained above.

Pastured eggs, also called grass-fed eggs, are eggs from chickens that are raised on a green pasture. They’re free to roam the field and to choose which bugs and grass they eat. Most people find these eggs richer in color and flavor. Studies show they have the most vitamins, the most fatty acids, the least saturated fat and cholesterol.

Then there’s a whole range of other types of eggs. Let’s name and explain them all shortly.

Conventional eggs: The eggs come from chickens that are caged up with no room to move either in individual cages of crowded together. They either get antibiotics and/or hormones so they don’t get sick and to boost their egg production.

Cage-free eggs: The chickens are not in cages, but are however in crowded hen houses.

Free range eggs: The chickens are in (crowded) hen houses with a (tiny) door or ramp that gives access to the outdoors.

Organic eggs: The chickens are fed food that is free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics. This however doesn’t mean they have room to roam or see the daylight.

Vegetarian eggs: The chickens live on a vegetarian diet, and are kept inside. They get fed soybeans, corn and grain. So not they’re usual omnivorous diet.

Omega-3-enhanced eggs: The chickens are fed on a diet from flaxseed and/or fish oils. This way they have almost 12 times as much omega-3 fatty acids. They’re mostly kept inside.

Darker yolks doesn’t necessarily mean a “better” egg, since egg producers will add things to the feed of chickens so that the eggs have darker yolks.

A brown of white egg says nothing about the freshness of the egg, only about the breed of the chicken.

So That’s All About Pasteurized Eggs

You now know the difference, how they’re made, when to use them and the other types of eggs.

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