Different types of eggs

The ultimate guide to eggs

We explain the difference between types of eggs, plus the perfect way to cook and store them...

Every year, we eat around 11.5 billion eggs in the UK. They’re a fabulous convenience food, and a natural source of nutrients and protein, as well as rich in vitamin B2, B12 and D. We explain the different varieties, the best way to cook them, and how to store them safely. 

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Quail egg

Quail egg

Time to boil: Soft boil – 30 secs. Hard boil – 1 min.

Taste: Very similar to hen’s eggs, but slightly richer due to the high yolk to white ratio.

Uses: A good size for canapés. Simply boil and dip in celery salt. Also ideal for mini Scotch eggs, or poached to garnish soups.

Hen egg

Two hen eggs

Time to boil: Medium Soft boil: 2½-3 mins, hard boil: 6-7 mins. Large Soft boil: 3½-4 mins, hard boil: 9-10 mins.

Taste: Varies according to bird variety, diet, method of rearing and how the eggs are stored. Shell colour is no indication of flavour or quality.

Uses: Fry, scramble, boil, poach, bake or coddle for your breakfast, or use in soufflés, meringues, puddings, cakes and sauces.

Duck egg

Pile of duck eggs

Time to boil: Soft boil – 3½-4 mins, hard boil – 9-10 mins.

Taste:  The larger yolk gives these eggs a creamier taste than hen’s eggs.

Uses: Delicious fried or boiled for a special breakfast, or use to make richer custards. Steeped in tea, they are an aromatic delicacy in China.

Turkey egg

Turkey eggs in wicker basket

Time to boil: Soft boil – 4-5 mins, hard boil – 10-11 mins.

Taste: Very high yolk to white ratio. Also much creamier than hen’s eggs.

Uses: Delicious fried, poached or boiled.

Goose egg

Goose egg on white background

Time to boil: Soft boil – 9-10 mins, hard boil – 13 mins.

Taste: Rich and creamy, these are roughly the equivalent of two hen’s eggs.

Uses: Perfect size for an omelette but also tasty scrambled. Or serve soft-boiled with asparagus for dunking.

Ostrich egg

Person holding ostrich egg

Time to boil: Soft boil – 50 mins, hard boil – 1½-2 hrs.

Taste: Similar to hen’s eggs in taste and texture, although some find the taste a bit more gamey.

Uses: Roughly the equivalent to 24 hen’s eggs, and a great novelty at Easter. Boil and serve with soldiers, letting everyone get stuck in.

Top tips for storing and using eggs

Carton of eggs

• When baking cakes, it’s important to use eggs at room temperature. This will help to prevent the mixture from splitting, which can result in a heavier cake.

• To bring fridge-cold eggs to room temperature quickly, immerse in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for a few minutes.

• Slightly older eggs are better for meringues. They’re also easier to separate, and easier to peel when hard-boiled.

• If you’re not sure how old your egg is, lower it into a glass of water. A fresh egg will sink to the bottom, whereas the older an egg is, the higher it will float. 

• Store eggs at a constant temperature below 20C to maintain freshness. In most domestic kitchens, the fridge is the best place – however, take them out of the fridge half an hour before cooking. For baking, take them out of the fridge the night before. 

• Eggs are extremely porous and will absorb any smells around them, so store away from strong-smelling food.

More egg know-how

How to buy eggs
Egg glossary 
Egg recipe collection
How to poach an egg
The health benefits of eggs 
Bill Granger’s guide to cooking eggs

Get perfect poached eggs everytime with our ‘how to’ video.

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Do you have any egg recipes or tips to share? We’d love to hear your ideas…