The first time I went to buy eggs in an Italian supermarket, I couldn’t find them. At the time, I could also barely speak Italian. After walking around for half an hour, I summoned the courage to ask.
It turns out I asked where the grapes were. Facepalm moment. Uve is grapes, Uova is egg. So on my way to the grapes, I passed right by the eggs on the dry goods shelf. Twice. Thankfully the clerk, who could clearly tell I was out of my element, was watching me wander around for far too long. Eventually, she took pity on me and walked me squarely in front of the eggs. On the un-refrigerated shelf between the toilet paper and the diapers.
Why Eggs Are Not Refrigerated in Europe
Turns out, this applies all throughout Europe. At first, as an American, finding eggs and cream products on the dry goods shelves in European supermarkets seems… unsafe. Cultural bias is the first thing you have to leave behind when moving to a new country in favor of curiosity. So I flipped my “Huh” into a “Why?” and did a little research. Why are they allowed to keep eggs out of the refrigerator in Europe?
Do Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated?
In the United States and Canada, eggs are washed to strip the outer protective layer called the cuticle to prevent contamination of the shell. So yes, American and Canadian supermarket eggs need to be refrigerated because the natural protective barrier is gone. Salmonella becomes a risk with eggs without that protective layer or proper refrigeration.
While in Europe, it’s illegal to wash the eggs. In Europe, farms vaccinate chickens against salmonella. That means the cuticle is still intact when eggs are sold. Refrigerating eggs with the cuticle intact could actually cause mildew to grow. Which could cause… you guessed it salmonella contamination.
In my humble opinion, I prefer eggs that are not refrigerated. They are always ready for baking and getting the perfect sunny-side-up egg is far quicker. To me, they also taste fresher. Simply because those permeable shells haven’t been sitting right next to the Camembert in the fridge. Don’t take my word for it though! Check with local farmer’s markets. Eggs that come directly from the chicken to the consumer may not require refrigeration. It’s best to ask the farmer if they have unwashed eggs for sale, and always ask their recommendations for storage!
Budget-Friendly Uses of Eggs
Many a night, I turn to eggs to make meals more hearty and complete. It’s usually unplanned and last minute, but when the veggies are down and my Husband is hungry, it’s my crutch. I’ve been known to top just about anything with the perfect seven-minute egg. Over the long run, it’s been a helpful trick to cut down on meal budgets. Eggs, even the fancy organic, free-range, fancy boxes or farmer’s market finds are far less expensive per serving than most meat options. Here are a few of my favorite egg-driven recipes.
- Simple Carbonara
- Sheet Pan Vegetable Hash with Eggs
- Yotam Ottolenghi’s Shakshuka
- Steamed Asparagus with Poached Eggs
- Potato Frittata
- Spring Truffles & The Perfect Fried Egg
This last one is Paolo’s favorite! No truffles are not exactly budget savers but they certainly turn a humble egg into a decadent dish. Frittatas are frequent faves in our house. I started with the recipe above and then began tossing in any leftover veggies. Paolo’s running joke is “in the end everything ends up in a Frittata.”
What’s your favorite egg-driven recipe? Feel free to share a link in the comments below!
My First Farm Fresh Egg in Italy
The very first time I had farm fresh eggs, we were visiting Zia Emilia. After a visit, she sent us home with eggs and flowers. That was five years ago now. At the time, her husband Giacomo had recently passed. Emilia was left as the last resident of a neighborhood that was once home to 38 people. To this day Emilia still grows bold flowers in her windows, but sadly no longer has her chickens. I still love this story though, as this is the Italy tourists never see.