How can you kill bacteria in eggs without cooking them?

Is there a practical way to kill egg bacteria without cooking/solidfying it? I know the Egg Beaters people have some sort of pastuerization process I think…could it be done at home, with heating or microwaving or something?

It’s already done for you when you buy eggs. The process is called Pasteurization (after Louis Pasteur, the man who discovered that bacteria cause certain illnesses). Basically, the egg is heated to about 160 F, which is hot enough to kill most bacteria, but not hot enough to denature the proteins.

I have often wondered about this; I suppose it must involve heating the egg mixture up to a precise temperature sufficiently high to inhibit bacteria, but low enough not to denature the egg proteins. I wouldn’t have thought this possible though.

Gamma irradiation would be another way to do it (also sometimes called ‘cold pasteurisation’, largely for marketing reasons). Not particularly practical for the home though.

Is this the case with all eggs sold in your locality? I’ve never even heard of it being done here for anything other than packaged ‘raw’ egg products (such as ‘ready egg’ - in a bottle). I can certainly buy eggs here that are more or less straight from the hen’s arse.

I hear plutonium works well.

Far as I know, it is. At least the ones sold in supermarkets and such. I don’t know if it’s an FDA requirement, though. I suspect that it is.

I never heard of eggs being pastuerized in the shell? :confused: it says on the carton that it might contain bacteria.
Would a brief microwave zap kill the bacteria? what about freezing and thawing?

I’m pretty sure if they’re pasteurized, it will explicitly say so on the package - otherwise, assume salmonella may be present. (AFAIK, there are no laws requiring pasteurization of eggs.)

You can also tell the difference once you crack an egg - pasteurized eggs are slightly cloudy.

I believe the key to pasteurizing without coagulating the protein is raisng the temperature very slowly and only to the lowest effective level. I doubt the home kitchen is capable of the fine control necessary for this.

Unless a carton claims to be pasteurized, it ain’t.

I think Egg beaters are. Some eggs sold in supermarkets are, but they are few and hard to find (at least in MA.).

You don’t have to bring temperatures to 160 F to kill bacteria. 160 F is the “instant kill” temp. Any buggers floating around that hit 160 F die*. The process may be hot enough to affect the consistency of the eggs. The pasteurized eggs sold in this country are done so through radiation. I don’t know the kind.

There are other ways to kill the bacteria without cooking through to 160. If you cook to lower temps, and hold for different lengths of time, you can accomplish the same effect. For instance, if you hold the eggs at 140 F for 3.5 minutes, you will acheive pasteurization. Companies don’t do this because of costs (is my understanding).

(IANA food scientist; I have to thank Alton Brown and Shirley O. Corriher )

  • Any of the buggers commonly found in eggs that could harm you, that is.

This certainly isn’t true of all eggs, and I would guess it isn’t true of even a majority of those sold in the U.S. From the USDA’s website:

The eggs I buy from my corner grocer here in Chicago, for example, have this warning on them.

Also of note for the OP (bolding mine):

Salmonella Spikes in 2005
More Than 450 Sickened in North Carolina; Could It Happen in Your State?
Use Pasteurized Eggs to Prevent Egg-Related Salmonella Poisoning

You have to look hard to find eggs that are pasteurized in the shell. The equipment needed to heat eggs to pasteurization temperature, 160°F, and then cool it fast enough so it doesn’t cook has ony been around for a decade or so. Egg products (eggs that have been removed from their shells for processing) have all been pasteurized since the passage of the 1970 Egg Products Inspection Act.

I think I’ve only seen pasteurized eggs once or twice in the supermarket. Most eggs are certainly not sold pasteurized.

Guess I’m lucky. The eggs I’ve bought at least in the last few years - and I don’t buy them often - have been pasteurized. I just checked the ones I have here. Then again, I don’t read the carton EVERY time I buy them, so it’s sure possible that some of them haven’t been. I’ll have to do a little survey of the local stores here, now that my curiosity is piqued.

That’s ridculous. You don’t need any special equipment to pasteurise eggs, you just need to get the internal temperature up to the kill zone (which as an earlier poster said, is different at different temperatures). To pasteurise eggs, get a insulated vessel such as a ceramic mug and fill it with boiling water, let it stand for 10 minutes and then empty the cup. Then fill the cup with equal parts boiling water and tap water and stir. Drop in the eggs and monitor the temperature with a digital thermometer, whenever it goes below 135F, top it off with a bit more boiling water until it hits 145F. Leave in there for 1/2 an hour and the eggs are pasteurised.

Granted, it’s probably more effort than most people are willing to go to in order to get pasteurised eggs but it’s certainly not impossible.

what about microwaveing , or freezing and then thawing the eggs?

Microwaving likely wouldn’t work well. Because of the nature of microwave ovens, they tend to heat very unevenly, and create hot spots in the food. Very watery foods will heat the outside much faster than the inside,a nd you’d have to allow standing periods to let the heat dissipate through the item, otherwise, you’ll wind up cooking the outside and leaving the inside still cold. The results probably wouldn’t be very satisfactory.

Uh, there’s at least one other reason you shouldn’t microwave eggs. Try it sometime and find out!

(Hint: Boom. Splat. <curse words>)

Pasteurized eggs are unavailable in my local supermarket. A bummer, too, since I’d like to make a real ceasar salad again sometime. The ones you get in restaurants are awful since everybody got paranoid about raw eggs.

(I’m maybe using “paranoid” a little loosely, but the national incidence of salmonella in 2004 was 1.48 people out of 10,000, for a disease which often is little worse than the flu. Still not worth the risk, I suppose.)

Hey, on further reading, and in the interests of public safety, I’d like to retract my statistic from the previous post.

That number (14.8 per hundred thousand people infection rates of salmonella) came from here , but those numbers are laboratory confirmed cases, which, because the disease does look a lot like the flu, probably underreport considerably.

The USDA reports a rate almost 20 times higher, here. That same page has more information than you’d ever want about the Salmonella.

Based on this new information, I still want pasteurized eggs!

Freezing doesn’t kill most pathogenic food-borne bacteria.