Taste Test: Who Has the Best Eggs at the Union Square Greenmarket?
#1: Wild Hive Farm
#2: Stone Arch Farm
#3: Michisk's Farm
My dad hates eggs. Always has, probably always will. The sight of a hard boiled eggs makes him gag. Fried eggs with runny yolks? Get'em away. He'll occasionally indulge in an omelet, provided it's packed with cheese and bacon—enough that he can't taste the egg. My former chef Ken Oringer of Clio in Boston also hates eggs. Hates the sight, smell, and taste of them. He was a hardass about tasting every single dish that left his kitchen before it got to a customer, with the notable exception of any egg-based dishes.
As a result, when I finally started living and cooking on my own, I went through a phase of egg eating the likes of which the average apartment kitchen will never see. Fried is my favorite, though poached comes in a close second, and I won't say no to a soft or hard boiled egg (provided it's done correctly!). I generally buy my eggs at the greenmarket, because I simply like being able to walk around and pick the ones I think look best, knowing full well that until I crack them open, there's absolutely no way to judge which will be good and which will be sub-par.
And indeed, more than once I've brought home a dozen eggs from the greenmarket only to find that they sported pale, diminutive yolks or that they were lacking the freshness that farm-to-market eggs should have. At those times I feel pretty put out. Why should I bother spending extra money and talking directly with farmers about their eggs if they can't even consistently deliver a quality product to me?
In the interest of helping out those of you who've got the same issues in the past, we took a trip to the Union Square greenmarket to see if we couldn't figure out a few trends to help pinpoint which eggs are gonna be the best before you get'em home.
We went to the greenmarket and picked up eggs from every available stand. Bear in mind that this is not a completely comprehensive list as the vendors selling eggs vary day to day based on availability.
- Brand 1: Stone Arch Farms
- Brand 2: Tello's Green Farm
- Brand 3: Millport Dairy Farm
- Brand 4: Wild Hive Farm Farm
- Brand 5: Michisk's Farm
To ensure that all eggs were cooked exactly the same way, we labeled each shell with a permanent marker, then submerged the eggs in a water bath held at precisely 155°F for two hours. At this point, every egg was 155° all the way from edge to center. The eggs were peeled, allowed to cool to room temperature, then mashed with salt. Salt was carefully weighed to 1% of the weight of the eggs to ensure even seasoning.
At 155°F, an egg should be firm but not rubbery. It should have a pronounced egginess, but no sulphurous aromas. The yolk should be bright and flavorful, and the white should be tender. When the raw eggs are cracked into a bowl, the should have clearly defined edges around the whites and yolks that stand tall. This is an indication of freshness, and if you can't get fresh eggs straight from the farmer, then what's the point?
Right off the bat as I was setting up the taste test, I noticed that there were some pretty significant differences in the eggs. The eggs from Wild Hive Farm were a completely different shape than the rest—longer and more ovoid than the more traditional shapes the other eggs took. They also seemed to have thicker shells. The shells from Tello's eggs, on the other hand, were thinner and more fragile.
There was a big difference in size and color of yolk as well. A while back, I held a blind tasting of several varieties of eggs and found that as long as the relative freshness and size of yolk is about the same (which is the case for 99% of supermarket eggs), that the overriding factor in determining people's preferences for one egg over the other comes down to color. The deeper the yolk, the better it was perceived to taste.
Scrambled eggs dyed orange with a few drops of food coloring taste better to people than the identical eggs left their original color. Take two batches of eggs that people swear taste different, dry them both green, and suddenly those differences go away.
What that test didn't take into account, on the other hand, was eggs from heritage breed chickens. What difference would that make? Different breeds of chickens produce eggs with variations in yolk size and very minor (pretty much undetectable unless you taste'em straight up side by side) variations in flavor.
Just like with my original egg tasting, tasters almost unanimously picked the Wild Hive Farm eggs with super orange yolks as their favorite. But this time, even when tasters re-tasted eggs 100% blindfolded (see Carey above), they ranked their eggs in the same order.
It largely came down to two factors: freshness of the eggs (eggs with tighter whites and taller standing yolks were preferred over thinner, runnier whites), and the relative size of the yolk. Read on for the results.
#1: Wild Hive Farm ($5.50)
Location: Hudson Valley NY
Chicken Type: Light Brahmas and Black Jersey Giants
Both Brahmas and Jersey Giants are an uncommon breed known for their large size (Jersey Giants are the worlds largest breed, weighing in at around 10 pounds). Neither one is a prolific egg layer and both take a long time to mature, making them a second tier choice for egg farms. But what they lack in production and ease of rearing, their eggs make up for with extra large yolks and thick, robust shells. The higher price is indicative of their lower yield and higher egg production costs as well.
On top of that, these were the freshest eggs we found, with tight whites and tall yolks. When mashed and tasted, richness was the overwhelming consensus. Tons of good yolky flavor combined with a smooth, tender, creamy texture put these guys at a clear winning advantage. They cost a buck or two more than the competitors, but I think it's worth it. With most of the other eggs we tasted, you might as well be getting them at a supermarket.
#2: Stone Arch Farms ($3.50/dozen)
Location:, Valois NY
Chicken Type: unknown
We weren't able to get a clear answer from the farm about what type of chickens they use, but what we did know is that they were yolky, tender, and tasty.
Some tasters complained of a slight wateriness, perhaps due to their not-quite-so-freshness, but overall, these are still eggs worth clucking about.
#3: Michisk's Farm ($4.00/dozen)
Location:, Flemington NJ
Chicken Type: Rhode Island Red
Egg color varies from breed to breed, and while much of the country is partial to the white eggs produced by such popular breeds as Leghorns, in the NorthEast, brown eggs are the norm, and Rhode Island Reds are the most popular birds. Prolific egg layers, they are known for their rich, medium-sized eggs.
If you buy brown eggs in the supermarket, chances are pretty good that you're getting eggs either from Buff Orpingtons, Plymouth Rock, or Rhode Island Reds. All three produce similar eggs, and we found these eggs from the greenmarket to be quite similar to the brown eggs you'd find in a supermarket—decent sized yolk, mildly rich, nothing particularly special,
#4: Tello's Green Farm ($4.50/dozen)
Location:, Dutchess County, NY
Chicken Type: Araucana (supposedly)
Though their website indicates that they use Araucana chickens—known for their pale green eggs—were brown and definitely not from this breed. Our intelligence reports indicate that they do in fact carry green eggs from time to time, but because of lack of predictability, it seems fair to judge them based on their brown eggs. A phone call to the farm to inquire on the breed of their brown egg-laying chickens produced no information other than an "I don't know."
Our tasting notes were quite similar to those for Michisk's Farm; that is, we saw no immediate advantage over regular old supermarket eggs. They were not particularly fresh, nor were they strikingly flavorful.
#5:Millport Dairy Farm ($4.00/dozen)
Location:, Lancaster PA
Chicken Type: Red sex-link (Rhode Island Red and White Rock cross)
Tiny yolks with almost no definition to the whites, not only were these eggs not very tasty, they were also not even remotely fresh. When cooked, they had a distinct wateriness and a tougher, rubbery texture than any of the other eggs, due to the age of the whites and their inability to hang on to moisture efficiently.
Small yolks also meant not much richness and little flavor when combined with the whites.
The overall rule? Unless you can get something truly special (such as the eggs from the Brahmas and Jersey Giants at Wild Hive Farms), or would simply like to support your local farms, quality-wise, there's no need to spend big bucks buying your eggs at the greenmarket.
Our Tasting Methodology: All taste tests are conducted completely blind and without discussion. Tasters taste samples in random order. For example, taster A may taste sample 1 first, while taster B will taste sample 6 first. This is to prevent palate fatigue from unfairly giving any one sample an advantage. Tasters are asked to fill out tasting sheets ranking the samples for various criteria that vary from sample to sample. All data is tabulated and results are calculated with no editorial input in order to give us the most impartial representation of actual results possible.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.