Are coddled eggs safe to eat?

Next week I’m going to share my Caesar salad recipe, but I thought I better put out an advance health advisory: it has raw egg in it. Well, not absolutely raw but as close I can get while observing minimal food safety standards: heated through to 140 degrees in a sous vide bath, at which point the white is developing the slightest milky-ness but is still entirely liquid and capable of being emulsified with other ingredients.

Is this safe? There is a lot of contradictory information on the web, some of it within the USDA itself. Have you ever wonder why they advise you to cook some foods to an internal temperature of 145 degrees and others to 160? Which is it? You’re trying to kill salmonella and either you do it or you don’t.

The bottom line (and this is a consensus of my casual research, not an actual fact) seems to be that salmonella dies at about 136 degrees and eggs don’t start to change their composition significantly till around 142 degrees. So if you thoroughly heat your egg to 140 degrees throughout, you should be golden, right?


Here’s what an egg looks like after sous vide… still plenty soft for beating.

I used to “coddle” my eggs in order to coddle my nervous eaters: I’d briefly dip an egg into boiling water, then into ice water, then crack it into the bowl where I planned to prepare the salad. This definitely has a food safety benefit because it kills any bad stuff on the shell, but I’m sure the yolk doesn’t change at all. Now that I’ve got my SideKIC sous vide cooker I can heat it to 140 all the way through and, in an imperfect world, that’s about as good as it gets.

(If you’re curious about the changes an egg goes through as it cooks, here is a fabulous demonstration in pictures.)

If you eat raw sushi, you’re already rolling the dice on food safety. For me, the egg in a Caesar salad is equally fundamental to my quality of life. And I think the best way to be sure your eggs are safe (beyond the 140 degree bath) is to buy them right from the farmer who has to look customers in the eye every day. The eggs are likely to taste a lot better, too.

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