Kathleen Purvis Q&A

Are eggs better refrigerated or on the counter?

kpurvis@charlotteobserver.comAugust 20, 2013 

Q: For years, I have read that eggs cook better at room temperature. But I just read this in a 1990 book: “An egg loses as much freshness in one hour sitting on the counter as it would in a day if kept cool.” Has current technology changed the thinking on this?

I don’t think current technology has changed anything. Room-temperature eggs will beat higher and the egg whites will get fluffier. But refrigerated eggs do keep longer than eggs kept at room temperature.

While there are many areas of the world where people don’t routinely refrigerate eggs, the eggs don’t keep as long as they do when refrigerated.

One tip for taking the chill off a refrigerated egg is to place it in a bowl of tap water for 10 or 15 minutes before using it, particularly if you’re doing something like whipping egg whites.

However, I would question such a sweeping generalization as “an hour on the counter.” How cold is the counter? How cool is “kept cool”? It would be difficult to prove something so vague.

Ways to freeze fresh herbs

Q: How can I freeze fresh herbs, particularly basil, oregano, mint, parsley and cilantro?

While some herbs, particularly oregano and thyme, hold their flavor well when dried, very tender herbs need to be handled differently. Basil, mint, parsley and cilantro are good examples.

Some herbs can be frozen as they are. Wash and dry them, spread them in a metal pan to freeze them, then store them in freezer bags. They’ll be limp when thawed, but you can use them in soups and sauces. That works for basil, chives and sage.

To keep the color bright, you also can chop herbs and cover them with a little water for freezing. Place them in plastic ice cube trays, add water to cover and then put the frozen cubes in resealable freezer bags. Drop the cubes in soups and stews.

A third method is chop herbs and cover with a little oil for freezing. The oil takes on the flavor of the herbs and can be used sauteing or in a winter vinaigrette. Either water or oil works well for cilantro, parsley, basil, thyme or oregano.

Finally, for mint or lavender, you can make a flavored syrup by steeping the leaves in a hot mixture of half water and half sugar. It won’t get hard, but you can store it in the freezer for several months.

Email questions about food and cooking to Kathleen Purvis at kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com.

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