Four great tips for cooking with backyard eggs

It's that time of year---the autumnual equinox is upon us! If you started chicks early this spring, you may just now be seeing your flock's first backyard eggs, since most breeds begin laying when hens reach around 6 months old. 

We celebrate this time of year at our house in a variety of ways, but most often with cooking and baking. LOTS of cooking and baking. (It also helps that by the time the fall equinox comes around, the weather is finally cooling down enough that we can bear to turn on the oven again.)

Just about the time our older girls start molting and stop or slow down laying for the year, our youngest begin to lay their beautiful backyard eggs. It's so exciting! But if you're new to keeping chickens, it can also take some time to get used to how different your fresh, backyard eggs are from store bought factory farmed eggs.

You doubtless know about the nutritional differences: your eggs will be far better. And it won't be difficult to get used to the improved taste, either (although one of the secret dangers of keeping chickens is that you won't want to eat factory eggs EVER again). The color can be pretty surprising: the yolks are a nice, rich, golden orange color as opposed to the pale yellow in factory eggs. But there are some things that you may not immediately be prepared for.Cooking with your new eggs is not a problem (if you cook, hahaha!). After all, when you're making scrambled eggs---or stirring eggs into fried rice, or making egg drop soup---it really won't matter that much if you use four medium rather than four large eggs.

It's baking where you may have some problems, because your backyard eggs may be many different sizes. In baking, the quantity of everything matters a lot more than it does in cooking. Too much moisture in your cake batter (from too much egg) can cause it to fall or not bake through... or it might finish with an eggier flavor than you wanted. Not enough egg can cause your product to be dry or dense, or even just not rich enough. When it comes to baking, you don't want too many ounces of deviance.

"Many ounces of deviance."  I think I'm the first one to have ever put those words together, at least in print...

That also sounds like a great name for a band. You're welcome... and please send tickets when you hit it big! 😉

Returning to backyard eggs, though, you'll want to be aware of egg size classifications if you bake a lot. Here are commercial egg size classifications in the US:

  • 1 peewee/bantam egg - 1.25 ounces
  • 1 small egg - 1.50 ounces
  • 1 medium egg - 1.75 ounces
  • 1 large egg - 2 ounces
  • 1 extra-large egg - 2.25 ounces
  • 1 jumbo egg - 2.50 ounces or greater

Remember,  these are the commercial size classifications for eggs in the US, but your backyard eggs can vary even from those classifications. For instance, bantam seramas may lay eggs that only weigh 3/4 of an ounce or so!

So, how to manage? Here are four great tips for cooking with backyard eggs:

1.) Don't worry! You probably won't have to change the way you cook most of the time. You may have to fix two over-easy bantam eggs rather than one over easy jumbo egg, but how easy is that? EASY. So, to appropriate some wise advice from a wise man, "Relax, don't worry, and have a backyard egg."

2.) If you bake, get an egg or kitchen scale. I love my vintage egg scale, but there are some really cute new egg scales available, too (and they may be more accurate than an old, rusty scale!)

A regular kitchen scale will work nicely, of course, presuming you have a way to keep the egg from rolling off. 🙂  Remember, too, that when a young pullet first begins to lay, her first backyard eggs will be smaller for a while. It takes some time for the eggs to attain the full size that the breed lays in maturity, so your egg size will probably grow in the first year or two. Don't get it in your head that your flock always lays medium eggs just because that's what they laid when they first started!

3.) Be aware that the right number of eggs to use in your recipe isn't always the number of eggs listed in the recipe. I know that's weird. But the reason is that unless otherwise specified, published recipes in the US refer to large eggs. That means that if your pound cake recipe calls for 8 eggs and your flock lays peewee/bantam sized eggs, you'll have to use 13 of your backyard eggs to equal the number of eggs the recipe is calling for. You can do the math easily enough, but here is a table of approximate conversions that could help, too:

Approximate conversions:

Eggs called for in recipe: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Bantam or Peewee 2 3 5 6 8 10 11 13
Small 1 3 4 5 7 8 9 11
Medium 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 9
Extra Large 1 2 3 4 4 5 6 7
Jumbo 1 2 2 3 4 5 6 6

4.) Vive la difference! Enjoy the size differences in your flock's backyard eggs.

Sometimes bantam eggs are awesome. There is nothing cuter than tiny deviled eggs, tiny pickled eggs, or tiny hard boiled eggs. (Okay, there may be something cuter in the world, but you get the idea.)  If you're making anything served up as individual eggs, using bantam eggs can really be darling. On the other hand, serving up a fist-sized scotch egg, or making a three egg omelet with ONLY ONE egg can be fun, too. 

Do you have any cooking tips for backyard eggs? Please share your advice in the comments!


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10 years ago

We have five ducks(two drakes and three females) to keep the slugs down, along with our flock of 18 hens. Our Pekin is our best layer by far, thank goodness duck eggs are perfect for baking! Using a duck egg is like adding extra butter, they're rich. Duck eggs are also great for friends who have gluten-free diets as well, they add extra richness to gluten-free food, and people with egg allergies can sometime have duck eggs as an alternative. Eating duck eggs by themselves is a little much for me, though. Mix them in with your chicken eggs and you won't know the difference.

10 years ago

One of my Comets gave me a Super-Jumbo this week: 3.125 oz! The 2 yolks inside looked like normal large egg yolks.

Carrie B
10 years ago

We are new chicken owners and just last week they started laying. I am finding that the whites are a bit rubbery when cooked over easy. Is this normal? Maybe I am using too much heat. They are still pretty small but it is so much fun to collect eggs and thank the girls!

10 years ago
Reply to  Carrie B

Whites can get rubbery if over-cooked. I don't know if this is what's going on with your eggs, but you might check your preheating technique. When you think the oil is preheated enough, put a little drip of water in. If it sizzles, it should be hot enough. If it skips, it might be a little too hot. Some people also like to cook their eggs and then keep them warming in the oven---or sitting in a hot pan---until everything else is done, and this can cause them to overcook and get rubbery, too. I usually cook my eggs last thing. Since your birds just started laying, I'd guess it probably has more to do with the size of your egg. You might be used to cooking LARGE size eggs from the grocery store. Since the eggs of new young pullets will rarely be that big, you may want to turn the heat down a tad and/or cook them not quite as long. Good luck... and congratulations on getting your first eggs! 🙂

helen chavis
10 years ago

thank you 🙂 for the conversion table Im planning a Halloween party for next month and was wondering how the baking part was gonna turn out. and i never knew you could eat duck eggs do you have to have a male for the female to lay or are they like chickens. Ive been wanting to add a couple of ducks to my flock anyways

Cynthia Brown
9 years ago

I have been raising backyard chickens for about 6 years. The most requested egg dish I make is stuffed eggs. The problem is peeling the shells off without wrecking the egg. I've consulted Julia Childs on "boiling eggs of very young hens"; I've tried adding salt, vinegar, or soda; I've tried starting in cold water, boiling, then plunging them into an ice bath; I've tried letting them age. I finally realized that with very fresh eggs, I must cook them thoroughly; at least 20 min., depending on size. I love boiled eggs French style, with the yolk moist in the center, to put on salads. But for getting the shell off they have to cook longer. I'm going back to the "bring them to a boil and turn off the heat" method, but if I'm using large to xlarge eggs they still don't cook enough to peel easily. So now I'm experimenting on the amount of time to actively boil the eggs before turning off the heat. I don't like it when the outer edge of the yellow turns green so I don't want to over boil them. Part of my problem has been that I don't sort the eggs by size and I think that will help with the consistency of results. I'll keep on trying to perfect my method. By the way, Julia was perplexed also.

My favorite stuffed egg mixture uses chipotle mustard, white vinegar, roasted garlic mayo, fresh basil minced, lemon juice, juice from sweet pickles, minced shallots or green onions, capers, and New Orleans style Olive Salad. If you don't have access to the more exotic ingredients, just use regular mayo and stone ground mustard, then add sliced green olives with pimentos, white vinegar, minced garlic, onion, dried basil, and little sweet pickle relish. Sprinkle top with paprika. Be careful how much liquid you use until you are sure of the consistency. I always add a couple of extra yolks so there is ample stuffing. I pack the egg white halves in a baggie and put the stuffing mixture in another zip lock baggie. When I get where I am serving, I snip one corner off the stuffing baggie and squirt the filling into the egg white halves. Very fast and easy this way!

9 years ago
Reply to  Cynthia Brown

Yes, hard boiling fresh eggs is easy, but peeling them isn't! YOu may not have noticed it, but a link to our advice for cooking hard boiled eggs was in the text. Here is that link again. What works for me is simply using my oldest eggs. For instance, if I'm planning to entertain and make deviled eggs, I'll save a dozen in the back of the refrigerator for two or three weeks. (Even at two or three weeks old, they're generally fresher than store bought.) Personally, I can't stand the rubbery whites and green yolks you get from overcooking, but if you've tried other methods and have decided that boiling them for 20 minutes is what you prefer---and what your guests like---then why should anyone urge you differently?

You can see our suggestions for deviled eggs in an earlier blog post. (I linked that above, too.) As you see, I also use the zipper bag method. That makes them much easier to transport if I'm bringing them to a picnic at a friend's house! Our upcoming book has lots of egg recipes, including my personal recipe for deviled eggs. Your recipe sounds divine! You might like to try making your own homemade mayo for use in your recipe some time. You might be surprised by how much more delicious it is! There's a recipe for homemade mayo from fresh eggs in our book, too.

[…] lunch—and it’s an especially yummy and nutritious way to do it if you have your own backyard eggs.  Check […]

6 years ago

I have been buying my neibors backyard eggs for some time now. Have discovered it's tough to make an omelette and when making soft boiled eggs I have tried the '3 minutes in boiling water'. '4 minutes in boiling water'. They always have a very watery layer. Any suggestions please. BTW. Omelettes just don't set.

6 years ago
Reply to  Magdalen

For soft boiled eggs that sounds like a LONG time--I'm surprised they'd have a layer that wasn't set. Martha Stewart recommends just 1.5 minutes. However the time can vary based on how cold your egg is to start and what altitude you're at. Here's a handy soft boiled egg cooking time calculator. As for omelets it could be that you're adding too much milk, or you're cooking them over too high a flame, so the top doesn't set before the bottom burns. Did you know some chefs think that one of the hardest things to cook correctly is an egg? 🙂

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