Using Eggs in Kosher Baking

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Eggs are a common ingredient in kosher baking. They are parve, except when found inside the bird after kosher slaughtering. Such eggs are always considered meat. Once considered a delicacy, they are very rare in today’s marketplace.

All kosher baking requires kosher eggs. Today, nearly all eggs sold in the United States and many other countries come from kosher birds. The vast majority are chicken eggs. Eggs from non-kosher (trefah) birds, such as ostriches, are not kosher and cannot be used.

Fresh, whole eggs do not require a hekhsher. Some egg producers are under rabbinic supervision. The supervising rabbi or agency’s hekhsher will be printed on their packaging or, in some cases, each egg will be marked. Processed eggs, which may be pasteurized, produced on equipment used for other purposes, and/or contain other ingredients, require a hekhsher. For parve baking, these products (including egg substitutes, as well as frozen, dried, and powdered eggs and whites), must also be parve.

Eggs that are removed from the shell for baking need to be examined for blood spots. Blood spots, which are typically found on the yolk, come from two sources. In fertilized eggs, they can indicate a developing chick. This renders the entire egg not kosher. In both unfertilized and fertilized eggs, a small amount of blood from the hen may have entered the egg as it was being formed. In practice, all eggs that are found to have blood spots are discarded.

Blood spots are relatively common in organic and natural eggs, but rare in most commercially produced eggs. Industrial egg farming practices control fertility through hormone treatments and/or preventing contact between roosters and hens. A process known as candling, in which individual eggs are examined under very bright light, identifies blood spots and other “blemishes.” Sub-standard eggs are removed prior to packaging. Candling is more effective on white eggs than those with brown shells.

To check an egg for a blood spot, crack it into a small glass bowl or container and examine it from all sides. A blood spot will be red and round in shape. Once you’ve determined that the egg is blood-free, it can be added to a bowl containing other ingredients. For recipes that use more than one egg, repeat this procedure with each egg individually. When egg whites and yolks need to be separated, use two glass bowls or containers. Pour the white into one and the yolk into the other directly from the shell. Check both before adding them to other ingredients, including other whites or yolks. If a blood spot is discovered on the yolk after the egg has been separated, discard the yolk. The white may be used.

Protein spots, which may appear as pink or reddish-brown specks surrounded by cloudy fluid in the white or, less often, on the yolk, are more common than blood spots. They also occur more frequently in brown than white eggs. Protein spots pose no halakhic problems. The entire egg may be used.

These guidelines are for educational purposes. As in all matters of kashrut, follow your rabbi’s guidance.

8 Responses to “Using Eggs in Kosher Baking”

  1. Brenda Berry
    June 26th, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    How do we handle the discrepancy between wanting to eat healthy eggs from organic pasture raised chicken and the large number of blood spots in those eggs? It seems like a lot of eggs to discard.
    Your thoughts?

  2. Rebecca Joseph
    June 27th, 2008 at 7:50 am

    There’s no perfect solution. I use eggs primarily for baking and have adjusted my expectations to accept some loss. Running out of eggs while in the middle of preparing a batter because too many are unusable happens occasionally. It’s frustrating.

    I’ve tried organic eggs from a number of regional farms. My experience has been that anywhere between 1-8 eggs per dozen contain blood spots with most at the very low end. I’ve also found that there are differences between farms. Avoiding fertilized eggs is key, though it doesn’t completely eliminate the problem because some blood spots aren’t the result of a growing embryo, it’s impossible to differentiate simply by looking at the egg, and in practice we discard all eggs with blood spots in them. When buying eggs at a farmer’s market (or farm stand), I explain my concern to the sellers who can be very helpful. I’ve given up on at least one farm because of the high number of eggs per carton that regularly had to be discarded.

  3. Bobby
    January 13th, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    I am very new kosher cooking/eating, and I am curious about if bird can be eaten with milk? Seeing as birds do not have milk, I can’t see how it conflicts with G-ds command to not cook a youngling in its mothers milk. Can you direct me to a passage?

  4. Rebecca Joseph
    January 14th, 2009 at 3:22 am

    Good question! There’s a large body of Jewish law from antiquity to the present that deals with the subject of meat and milk (basar v’chalav). Here’s a fairly brief explanation of how birds are treated and the practical application for kosher cooking and eating.

    The biblical basis for separating milk and meat is “Do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”(Ex. 23:19, Ex. 34:26, Deut. 14:21) Rabbinic Jews and their religiously observant descendants (that’s us) don’t practice according to the biblical commandments alone, but follow Jewish law as it has developed over many centuries. The Mishnah, a foundational source of rabbinic law, interprets the biblical usage of “kid” in this commandment broadly. It prohibits cooking all meat with milk except for the flesh of fish and locusts (BT Chullin 113b). Later authorities disagree about whether this applies to non-kosher as well as kosher animals.

    So what about birds? The Talmud records a debate between two early rabbinic Sages (BT Chullin 116b): Rabbi Yose ha-Galili permitted eating chicken and milk mixtures. Rabbi Yonatan argued that chicken and milk are included in the biblical prohibition. Jewish law follows a third opinion, that of Rabbi Akiva, who held that chicken and milk together are rabbinically prohibited. This is still a very strong prohibition.

    You might ask why the law is stricter rather than more lenient since some Jews in the ancient world considered birds to be parve. There are at least two reasons that are as relevant today as they were centuries ago. Both derive from problems arising from the similarities between the flesh of mammals and birds in various cooked and raw states. Classifying both as meat avoids confusion between them in the kitchen or at the table that would result in prohibited mixtures and related problems. It also avoids the problem of mar’it ayin, that is doing something that appears to be prohibited, such as mixing meat and milk. Mar’it ayin is applied to many things where a person’s behavior may be misinterpreted by others.

    In kosher practice, birds are considered meat and not cooked or eaten with dairy. Fish is parve, but that’s another discussion.

  5. a real jew
    June 17th, 2009 at 11:39 am

    so its complete nonsense dreamed up by rabbis before the wisdom of science to make life difficult for people. i can tell by look, feel, taste and smell teh difference between chicken and beef. fish and chicken is much harder.
    out of interest, its not ok to eat milk and chicken but its ok to smother chicken with egg when you make shnitzel – bible good, rabbinical nonsense, they should get a job and stop dreaming things up through boredom.

  6. Rebecca Joseph
    June 18th, 2009 at 1:54 am

    One person’s “nonsense” with regard to religious belief and practice is another’s cherished wisdom. Judaism attaches so much value to understanding diverse points of view that both the Written and Oral Law record the predominant and dissenting opinions on subjects ranging from food preparation to the nature and causes of human suffering. Hostility towards rabbinic authority, past and present, won’t change that. Thank God.

  7. David R.
    January 12th, 2011 at 11:05 am

    I have quail birds as their eggs are very tasty. I was always worried though about eating their eggs as I heard that they were very high in cholesterol, however recently I found out that fertile eggs are very low in cholesterol, while unfertile eggs are high in cholesterol. If you boil the egg within the hour of it being layed is that kosher?

  8. Rebecca Joseph
    January 31st, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve shared your question, one of the more interesting posted on The Parve Baker, with several kashrut authorities, including Rabbi Noach Vogel of the Orthodox Union’s West Coast Kashruth Division. Quail are kosher birds making their boiled, unfertilized eggs kosher, as well. Eggs known or likely to be fertile are not permitted, even when boiled. If you’re concerned about kashrut and heart health, how about considering the unfertilized quails a treat to enjoy in moderation?

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