While seemingly simple, eggs perform a pivotal role in making baked goods from scratch. Forget an egg or two and you’ll end up with hockey-puck muffins, dense cakes, runny custards, and dried-out cookies. So why is it that we use different sized eggs so interchangeably in recipes?
Indeed, using a different egg size than what’s called for in the recipe can affect everything from color to flavor. Baking is a science, after all, and eggs are one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. So, measuring your eggs is key. If there isn’t enough egg, your batter or dough may not be able to hold its structure or could end up overly dry or dense. On the other hand, if there is too much egg, your baked goods could lose their shape due to excess liquid, or have a rubbery (or even overly cakey) texture depending on the recipe. You also run the risk of making your baked goods taste too strongly of eggs when their flavor is meant to play more of a supporting role in your final product.
The point? You may have never thought about the importance of egg size while cooking, but the truth is, using the right (or wrong) egg size can potentially make or break your dessert. Read on to learn all you need to know to master your baking.
What contributes to an egg’s size?
The variation in egg sizes comes down to the hen’s age, breed, and the time of year. Younger hens usually lay smaller eggs, while older, more experienced hens are the ones that lay medium-large eggs. Different breeds of hens lay different sized eggs as well—naturally, some breeds lay smaller eggs and others larger. Lastly, the weather tends to influence the size of an egg, especially in colder climates. During the winter, a hen’s egg production generally slows down, and the eggs are smaller as a result.
The wrong egg size alters the liquid ratio in a recipe.
One large egg has just under ¼ cup of liquid egg, weighing 50 grams on average without the shell. An extra-large egg is slightly bigger and medium eggs are slightly smaller. Jumbo eggs will weigh about 63 grams each without their shells—which means nearly 30 percent more egg.
Egg size has the greatest impact on the taste and texture of baked goods in recipes that call for more than one egg. In these types of recipes, like cakes and cupcakes, the small differences between egg sizes are amplified. If you don’t have enough egg in your cake batter, you won’t be able to incorporate enough air into your baked goods, and this issue will be exacerbated by the fact that your batter will be thicker due to the lower ratio of liquid to dry ingredients. This will result in a dense, under-risen, sunken, or even crumbly texture depending on your particular recipe. Alternatively, if you have too much egg in your batter, you could have an overly spongy or even rubbery texture.
Which egg size is the best one to use for baking?
When in doubt, go with large eggs. The good news is that the vast majority of recipes use large eggs. In fact, most recipes don’t even bother to mention egg size, but the assumption is always that you’re using a large egg unless the recipe author has overtly noted otherwise.
How does egg size affects taste?
When it comes to taste, the higher quality the eggs you use, the more flavorful your baked goods will be. Look for Certified Humane free range eggs, where the hens spend most of their days foraging outdoors for bugs and tasty greens; hens [that] enjoy a healthy, varied diet produce more nutrient-rich and flavorful eggs. To ensure the taste of your high quality eggs shines through in the best way possible, make sure their flavor is balanced with all the other ingredients in your recipe, and the best way to do that is to use the right size eggs.
Egg size substitutions and swaps
What’s a baker to do if they can’t find or don’t have large eggs on hand? There are a number of conversions you can use to make sure you have the correct liquid to dry ratio. The most accurate conversion involves whisking a few eggs together to blend the whites and yolks evenly (one more than called for in your recipe if you’re using a smaller size, or the same amount called for if you’re using a larger size). Then, use a kitchen scale to measure 50 grams of whisked egg to substitute for each large egg. If you don’t have a scale, you can also measure the whisked eggs in a measuring cup, using ¼ cup of the blended liquid eggs to replace each large egg in your recipe.