Eggs as Food: A Complete Guide to History, Varieties, and Nutrition

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 2, 2022

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Eggs are a great food to eat, but what are they exactly?

They’re a complete protein and contain essential amino acids, which are needed by the body to function properly.

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about eggs as a food.

What are eggs

Why Eggs are an Essential Ingredient in Many Dishes

Eggs are a highly versatile food that can be prepared in a range of ways. They are commonly eaten boiled, fried, or scrambled, and are used in a wide range of dishes. Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids that the body needs to function properly. They are a particularly good source of protein for people who do not eat meat.

The Importance of the Yolk and White

Eggs are made up of two main parts: the yolk and the white. The yolk contains most of the egg’s fat and cholesterol, as well as many of its vitamins and minerals. The white, on the other hand, is mostly protein. Both parts of the egg are important and can be used in a range of dishes.

Size and Shape Matter

Eggs come in a range of sizes, from small to large. The size of the egg can affect the cooking time and the amount of ingredients needed in a recipe. The shape of the egg can also affect how it is used in cooking. For example, rounder eggs are better for frying, while thinner eggs are better for making omelets.

Production and Quality

The quality of an egg depends on a number of factors, including the age of the egg, the diet of the hen that produced it, and how it was stored. Fresh eggs are generally of higher quality than older eggs, and eggs that are carefully stored will last longer. The production of eggs can also affect their quality. Eggs that are produced in a country with high standards for animal welfare and food safety are generally of higher quality than those produced in countries with lower standards.

Substitutes and Alternatives

For people who cannot or choose not to eat eggs, there are a number of substitutes and alternatives available. These include soy products, such as tofu and tempeh, as well as partial egg substitutes made from ground flaxseed or chia seeds. However, it is important to note that these substitutes may not deliver the same properties as eggs and may affect the resulting dish.

Consumption and Health

Eggs are a commonly consumed food around the world and are used in a wide range of dishes. They are a significant source of protein and other essential nutrients, but they also contain cholesterol and other compounds that can affect health. The consumption of eggs depends on a range of factors, including age, sex, and overall health. In general, eggs can be a healthy part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation.

The Egg-citing History of Eggs as Food

  • Humans have been eating eggs for approximately 6 million years.
  • Originally, eggs were consumed raw from the nests of wild birds.
  • Jungle birds were domesticated for egg production in India by 3200 BC.
  • Ancient Egypt and Ancient China were the first societies to domesticate hens for egg production.

The Role of Eggs in Ancient Societies

  • Eggs were a valuable foodstuff in ancient societies and were often used as offerings in religious ceremonies.
  • Depictions of eggs can be found in Egyptian tomb paintings dating back to the 14th century BC.
  • Ancient Greeks and Romans crushed eggshells and added them to meals for added calcium.
  • The Chinese bred chickens for laying eggs and depicted them in clay bowls and baskets as early as 500 BC.

The Transformation of Egg Production

  • Egg production started to become more widespread in the rest of the world in recent centuries.
  • Chickens are the primary bird used for egg production, but quail (use these wood types for smoking it), fowl, ostrich, and other birds also lay eggs.
  • Eggs are typically sold in cartons, but in some cultures, they are still carried in baskets or other containers.
  • Eggs can be dried and lent for long periods of time, making them a popular food in native cultures of tropical and subtropical Southeast Asia.

Types of Eggs and How to Cook Them

Boiled eggs are a popular breakfast dish and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Here are some examples:

  • Soft-boiled: Cooked for 4-6 minutes, the yolk is runny and the white is slightly set.
  • Hard-boiled: Cooked for 8-10 minutes, the yolk is firm and the white is fully set.
  • Pickled: Boiled in a mixture of vinegar, water, sugar, and spices, then stored in the fridge for a few days to absorb the flavors.

Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs are a popular breakfast dish and can be cooked in different ways:

  • Plain: Cooked in a pan with a little butter or oil and stirred until set.
  • Folded: Cooked in a pan with a little butter or oil, then folded over itself to create a flatter, thicker dish.
  • French-style: Cooked in a bowl over simmering water, stirring constantly until the desired thickness is reached.

Poached Eggs

Poached eggs are a popular breakfast dish and can be cooked using this method:

  • Carefully crack a fresh egg into a small bowl.
  • Bring a pot of water to a gentle simmer.
  • Add a splash of vinegar to the water.
  • Gently slide the egg into the water and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel to drain.


Omelettes are a versatile dish that can be filled with a variety of ingredients. Here’s how to make a basic omelette:

  • Beat 2-3 eggs in a bowl with a fork.
  • Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add a little butter or oil to the pan.
  • Pour the eggs into the pan and let them cook for a few seconds.
  • Use a spatula to gently lift the edges of the omelette and let the uncooked egg flow underneath.
  • When the eggs are mostly set, add your desired fillings to one side of the omelette.
  • Use the spatula to fold the other side of the omelette over the fillings.
  • Cook for another minute or so until the fillings are heated through.

Special Uses

Eggs can be used in a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory:

  • Baked goods: Eggs are commonly used in cakes, cookies, and breads to add moisture and structure.
  • Freezing: Eggs can be frozen for later use by cracking them into a container and whisking them together.
  • Thickening: Eggs can be used to thicken sauces and custards by whisking them into the hot liquid.
  • Coating: Eggs can be used to coat foods before frying or baking to help them brown and crisp up.
  • Store-bought: Many store-bought products use eggs as an ingredient, such as mayonnaise, pasta, and ice cream.

The Perfect Boiled Egg: A Foolproof Method

  • Eggs (large, jumbo, or small depending on your preference)
  • Pot with a lid
  • Water
  • Stove

Producing the Perfect Boiled Egg

  • For soft-boiled eggs, the whites should be set, and the yolks should be runny.
  • For medium-boiled eggs, the whites and yolks should be set, but the yolks should still be slightly soft.
  • For hard-boiled eggs, both the whites and yolks should be fully cooked and firm.

Avoiding Overcooking and the Dreaded Green Ring

  • Overcooking can cause the sulfur in the whites and yolks to interact with the hydrogen in the water, producing a green ring around the yolk.
  • To avoid overcooking, make sure to follow the guidelines for the desired doneness and allow the eggs to stand in the hot water for the appropriate amount of time.
  • If you’re cooking a large crowd, consider using a smaller pot and boiling the eggs in batches to ensure even cooking.

Serving and Enjoying Your Boiled Eggs

  • Once the eggs are cooked, remove them from the pot and place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
  • Let the eggs cool for a few minutes before peeling them.
  • To serve, cut the eggs in half lengthwise and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Boiled eggs are a great addition to salads, sandwiches, or as a snack on their own.

How to Fry an Egg: Tips and Tricks for Nailing the Perfect Sunny-Side Up

Step-by-Step Tutorial

Now that we have everything we need, let’s get started on frying the perfect egg:

1. Heat the pan: Place the frying pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Let it warm up for a minute or two.

2. Add fat: Add a little bit of fat to the pan. You can use butter, oil, or cooking spray. Make sure the fat is evenly distributed across the surface of the pan.

3. Crack the egg: Crack the egg into a small ramekin or cup. This will make it easier to transfer the egg to the pan without breaking the yolk or getting any unwanted shell pieces in the egg.

4. Transfer the egg: Gently transfer the egg from the ramekin to the pan. Be careful not to crack the yolk or disturb the white too much.

5. Cook the egg: Let the egg cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the white is set and the edges are slightly crispy. If you prefer a runny yolk, cook the egg for a shorter amount of time.

6. Check for doneness: To check if the egg is done, gently touch the yolk with your fingertips. If it feels firm, the egg is cooked through. If it feels soft and runny, the egg needs more time.

7. Season and serve: Once the egg is cooked to your liking, season it with salt and pepper (if desired) and serve immediately.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a flat surface: Make sure the surface you’re cracking the egg on is flat and even. This will prevent the egg from cracking unevenly and creating a mess.
  • Push the shell in: When cracking the egg, push the shell inwards instead of outwards. This will prevent any shell pieces from falling into the egg.
  • Use a spatula: Use a spatula to gently transfer the egg from the pan to the plate. This will help keep the yolk intact.
  • Cut the whites: If you’re having trouble with the whites sticking to the pan, use a small knife to cut around the edges of the egg whites. This will help release them from the pan.
  • Practice makes perfect: Frying the perfect egg takes practice. Don’t get discouraged if your first few attempts don’t turn out perfectly. Keep trying and you’ll eventually achieve the perfect sunny-side up egg.
  • Read up on technique: There are many different techniques for frying an egg, from basting the egg with hot fat to flipping the egg over. Do some research and find the technique that works best for you.
  • Watch the time: Keep an eye on the time when frying an egg. It only takes a few minutes to cook, so make sure you don’t overcook it.
  • Use high-quality eggs: High-quality eggs contain more protein and fewer carbs than lower-quality eggs. Look for eggs from free-range or vegetarian-fed chickens for the best flavor and nutrition.
  • Get creative with toppings: Once you’ve mastered the basic technique for frying an egg, try experimenting with different toppings and serving options. Some popular options include serving the egg on top of toast, adding cheese or avocado, or cutting the egg into small pieces and adding it to a salad.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve the egg on top of toast for a classic breakfast meal.
  • Cut the egg into small pieces and add it to a salad for a protein-packed lunch.
  • Serve the egg alongside bacon, sausage, or other breakfast meats for a hearty meal.
  • Top the egg with cheese, avocado, or hot sauce for added flavor.

Now that you’ve read this tutorial, you’re ready to fry the perfect egg! Don’t forget to share your stunning creations with the hashtags #EggHow, #EggJessica, #GavinApril, and #RecipePin. Happy frying!

The Egg Production Process: From Hatching to Laying

The egg production process involves several stages, from hatching to laying. Here are the main steps involved:

1. Hatching: Eggs are hatched in a hatchery, where they are kept under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity. The eggs are incubated for around 21 days, after which they hatch into chicks.

2. Growing: The chicks are reared in a specialized system designed for growing chickens. This system provides the chicks with the required heat, light, and feed to ensure their growth and development.

3. Laying: When the hens reach maturity, they start laying eggs. The laying period lasts for around 72 weeks, during which the hens lay eggs almost every day. The eggs are collected and sold to companies that process and sell them as food items.

The Different Methods of Egg Production

There are different methods of egg production, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some common methods:

  • Battery cages: This is a system where hens are kept in cages that are stacked on top of each other. This method is efficient in terms of space and allows for easy collection of eggs. However, it has been criticized for its impact on animal welfare.
  • Free-range: This is a system where hens are allowed to roam freely in an open area. This method is considered more humane but is less efficient in terms of space and requires more resources.
  • Organic: This is a system where hens are reared on organic feed and are not given antibiotics or hormones. This method is considered healthier and more natural but is more expensive.

The Anatomy and Characteristics of Eggs

When you crack open an egg, you’ll notice that it consists of three main parts: the shell, the white, and the yolk. Let’s take a closer look at each of these components:

  • The Shell: The shell is the hard, protective outer layer of the egg. It’s made up of calcium carbonate and serves to protect the egg from bacteria and other harmful elements. The color of the shell can vary depending on the breed of the chicken that laid the egg, but it doesn’t affect the quality or flavor of the egg.
  • The White: The white, also known as the albumen, is the clear, viscous liquid that surrounds the yolk. It’s made up of approximately 90% water and 10% protein, making it an excellent source of hydration and energy. The white is also the main form of protein found in eggs.
  • The Yolk: The yolk is the round, yellow center of the egg. It’s made up of fatty substances, protein, and a little bit of carbohydrate. The yolk supplies the egg with the energy and nutrients needed to develop into a chick if the egg is fertilized.

The Size and Appearance of Eggs

Eggs come in different sizes, ranging from small to jumbo. The size of an egg is determined by its weight, with small eggs weighing approximately 1.5 ounces and jumbo eggs weighing approximately 2.5 ounces. The size of the egg doesn’t affect its quality or nutritional value, but it can affect cooking times and the amount of ingredients needed in recipes.

The appearance of an egg can also vary depending on the breed of the chicken that laid it. Some eggs have a thin, almost transparent white, while others have a thicker, more opaque white. The yolk can range in color from pale yellow to deep orange, depending on the chicken’s diet. Contrary to popular belief, the color of the yolk doesn’t indicate the egg’s quality or nutritional value.

The Role of Eggs in Cooking and Food Preparation

Eggs play a prominent role in cooking and food preparation, thanks to their unique properties. Here are a few ways that eggs are commonly used in the kitchen:

  • As a binder: The protein in eggs helps to bind ingredients together, making them a common ingredient in meatloaf (here’s the best wood to smoke it), meatballs, and other dishes.
  • To create structure: Eggs can help create structure in baked goods like cakes and breads, helping them rise and maintain their shape.
  • To add moisture: The water content of eggs makes them an excellent source of moisture in dishes like quiches and custards.
  • To increase richness: The fat in eggs can add richness and flavor to dishes like mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce.

Proper Storage and Consumption of Eggs

To maintain the quality and safety of eggs, it’s important to store them properly. Here are a few tips:

  • Store eggs in their original carton in the refrigerator, not in the door where temperatures can fluctuate.
  • Use eggs within three weeks of purchase for best quality.
  • Always check eggs for cracks or other damage before using them.
  • When preparing eggs, make sure to cook them thoroughly to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Despite the link between eggs and cholesterol, research has shown that consuming eggs in moderation as part of a healthy diet is unlikely to cause any harm. In fact, eggs are a highly nutritious and versatile food that can be enjoyed in a variety of different dishes.

The Nutritional Benefits of Eating Eggs

  • Eggs are a complete protein food, containing all the essential amino acids that our body needs to function properly.
  • One large egg contains about 6 grams of high-quality protein, making it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
  • Protein is important for building and repairing tissues in the body, and it also helps to keep us feeling full and satisfied after a meal.

Healthy Fats: Not All Fats Are Created Equal

  • While eggs do contain some fat, the majority of the fat is found in the yolk.
  • The fat contained in eggs is mostly unsaturated, with a small amount of saturated fat.
  • The yolk also contains important fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, which supports healthy bones and cell growth.
  • The fat in eggs can also help with the absorption of other important nutrients found in the egg, such as vitamin A and minerals like iron.

Carbohydrates: Tiny but Important

  • While eggs are not a significant source of carbohydrates, they do contain a small amount of carbs, about 0.6 grams per egg.
  • Carbohydrates are important for providing the body with energy, and the small amount found in eggs can help to support the body’s energy needs.

Vitamins and Minerals: A Nutrient Powerhouse

  • Eggs are a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and minerals like iron and selenium.
  • The yolk contains most of the vitamins and minerals found in the egg, while the whites contain mostly protein.
  • Eggs are also a good source of choline, a nutrient that is important for brain health and memory.

Preparing and Cooking Eggs

  • While eggs are a healthy food choice, the way they are prepared and cooked can impact their nutritional value.
  • Frying eggs in butter or other fats can add extra calories and saturated fat to the dish.
  • Combining eggs with other healthy foods like vegetables can provide a balanced meal that supports overall health and weight management.
  • The USDA recommends cooking eggs until both the yolk and whites are firm to help prevent foodborne illness.

Why Eggs are a Perfect Addition to Your Balanced Diet

  • The protein and healthy fats found in eggs can help improve brain function and enhance mood, as they are required for the production of neurotransmitters that influence our mental state.
  • The choline found in eggs is a key molecule required for the creation of cell membranes and has been linked to improved brain function and memory.
  • Eggs are also a great source of water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin B12 and folate, which are essential for maintaining a healthy nervous system.
  • The balanced supply of nutrients found in eggs makes them an excellent food for supplying the body with the energy required for daily activities.
  • The impressive nutrient profile of eggs also makes them highly beneficial for maintaining normal bodily functions, such as producing red blood cells and maintaining healthy bones.

The Role of Eggs in a Healthy Diet

  • Eggs are an affordable and easy-to-find food that can be prepared in numerous ways, making them a perfect addition to any diet.
  • Boiled, fried, or scrambled, eggs are a versatile food that can be enjoyed any time of day.
  • While the exact number of eggs that should be consumed varies from person to person, research has found that consuming up to one egg per day is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
  • When choosing eggs, it’s important to consider the source, as eggs from pasture-raised chickens are often higher in nutrients compared to those from factory-farmed chickens.
  • Overall, eggs are an excellent food to add to your diet, providing numerous health benefits and a perfect balance of nutrients to help maintain a healthy mind and body.


So, that’s what eggs are- a food that’s been around for a long time and is a great source of protein, especially for vegetarians. 

You can eat them boiled, fried, or scrambled, or use them as an ingredient in many dishes. Plus, they’re delicious! So don’t be afraid to eat eggs every day!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.