Things You Didn't Know About the Humble Egg

I will never forget the look on my friend Cody's face when a punk from a rival high school leaning out of a moving car pelted him with a giant egg, in broad daylight, as we walked to the train station in sophomore year of high school on our way home. His brow compressed into folds of rage as he watched the car speed off in the opposite direction.

Remarkably, the egg hadn't broken on his face, leaving only a red mark on the point of impact on his forehead and a smeared yolk on the sidewalk. Cody was pissed, but his body was clean. As far as we were concerned, he was victorious.

Since that odd miracle of physics, I have never underestimated the power of the egg, including its seemingly endless applications in cooking and projectile warfare. Here are a few reasons it's one of the healthiest, most versatile foods you can eat (and do anything with).

How many calories are in an egg?

A single large egg, raw, contains about 72 calories. That number increases once you cook the egg, with a boiled egg clocking in at 78, and a fried egg at about 90. (Keep in mind that the calorie count of the egg will increase depending on the oil or butter you fry it in.)

They're pretty loaded with protein and nutrients

Each egg comes to the party packing about 6 grams of protein -- 3 in the yoke and 3 in the white -- with a full complement of all the amino acids your body needs. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, a single egg contains 12% of the recommended protein you need to go about your day; 11% of the vitamin D; 10% of the vitamin B-12; and 5% of vitamin A.

Eggs used to be considered "problematic" due to their cholesterol levels, but now that it's evident dietary cholesterol doesn't raise blood cholesterol levels, you're spared those egg-white omelets. We'd still advise moderation and consulting your doctor if you're worried.

barnyard hen
Flickr/Bernard Spragg

All shells are created equal

There is no appreciable nutritional difference between eating an egg from a brown shell versus one from a white shell. The color of the eggs actually corresponds to the the color of the chickens that laid them. Typically white-feathered hens lay white eggs, while their red-feathered counterparts lay the brown.

Eggs can last way longer than you think

As in, their "sell by" date is not the same as their expiration date. Eggs can last in a refrigerator for approximately 5 weeks after their packing date -- usually about 3 weeks after you purchase them. If you think your eggs have gone bad, crack one and see if it smells rotten. You can tell.

You should always just store eggs in the fridge

Don't bother with a nice table or counter presentation. Your eggs will last a lot longer in the fridge. The shelf life of an egg stored at room temperature is a fraction of one stored in the refrigerator, and it's also to minimize the risk of Salmonella, that nasty disease your mom always warned you about but neglected to mention comes from chicken shit.

Luckily, as of this writing, the smart folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are not so timid. "The egg exits the hen’s body through the same passageway as feces is excreted....Temperature fluctuation is critical to safety," so they sayeth. "A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the movement of bacteria into the egg and increasing the growth of bacteria."

(Eds. note: There may be some disagreement about refrigeration if you meet anyone from the United Kingdom. That's because our friends across the pond require their farmers to immunize their chickens against salmonella. Do not listen to them, as not only do we treat our eggs differently, but also because they are still the people that killed Nathan Hale and they can eat sweaty chicken doo-doo if they really want to, but that doesn't mean you have to.)

The best way to clean up an egg is with salt

Odds are if you're making eggs you've got some salt on hand anyway, so it stands to reason that if you drop one on the floor (we've all been there), you should put it to use. Quickly salting the egg on the floor before you pick it up will give your paper towels or other cleaning implement something to grab onto. It's a handy tip for most slippery messes that need a better grip.

Hens are pretty productive, all things considered

The entire egg-laying cycle -- from ovulation to expulsion -- takes about 25 hours. After a 30-minute recovery period, she'll start all over again. Throughout an average hen's egg-laying years, she'll lay about 276 eggs, according to the latest survey from the USDA.

Typically hens have two solid egg-laying years in their lifespans before they are either retired or the flocks culled, so in one lifetime a chicken might lay upwards of 550 eggs. The USDA placed the total monetary value of all chickens in the United States at $2.06 billion on December 1, 2015. That's more money than the GDP of Bhutan.

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A perfect omelet is "The Ultimate Chef Test"

Or at least that's what world-class chef Wolfgang Puck believes. He told me as much five years ago after appearing on the Top Chef episode of the same name, where he challenged the contestants, pro cooks all, to make him a perfect omelet. Several of them failed catastrophically. "It's perfect for every occasion," the chef explained then. "It should be cooked like a steak -- medium rare. The outside is cooked, but the inside is nice and creamy. You have to cook it fast."

Say what you will about Wolfgang Puck, but he was right. There are plenty of mistakes you can make while cooking eggs, as well as foolproof methods of cooking them. As my friend Cody learned that fateful day, eggs are fickle food, and they demand respect.

Eric Vilas-Boas is a writer and editor at Thrillist. Follow him on Twitter at @e_vb_.