Egg basics for cooking, dying, safe handling and peeling.

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Q: How should you safely handle eggs? What’s the best way to hard-cook them? How can you naturally dye eggs? Why are they hard to peel?

A: These are all eggs-cellent questions (I couldn’t resist) and always come up this time of year.

Handling: Keep eggs refrigerated, in their cartons, until ready to use. If you bought extra cartons on sale this week, no worries; they’ll keep three to five weeks, according to the USDA. As eggs age, however, they lose moisture through their shells. If you can’t remember how long you’ve had them, place the eggs in water; older eggs float, fresher ones sink.

Cooking: The best way to hard-cook eggs is to place them in a single layer in a saucepan large enough to hold them without crowding. Add cold water to cover the eggs by at least an inch. Bring the water to a boil, then remove from the heat and put a lid on the saucepan. Let eggs stand 15-17 minutes (set a timer and don’t peek), then gently run under cold water to stop the cooking.

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Store hard-cooked eggs in a sealable bag or airtight container (eggshells are porous and can absorb odors) and use them within a week.

Eggs left out at room temperature more than two hours, or that have been used outdoors for Easter egg hunts or have cracked shells, should be tossed.

Dyeing: You can use fruits, vegetables and ground spices to dye eggs naturally. Place eggs in water to cover by at least an inch. Add ingredients for color (see below) and bring to a boil. Cook about 15 minutes or until desired color is reached.

Yellow: 3 tablespoons ground turmeric.

Orange: boiled yellow onion skins, cooked carrots, chili powder, paprika.

Pink: cooked beets, whole cranberries or juice, red grape juice.

Red: boiled red onion skins, canned cherries with juice, pomegranate juice, raspberries.

Peeling: The fresher the eggs, the harder they are to peel. In general, buy eggs that you plan to hard-cook a week in advance. If you can’t wait, rolling the cooked eggs on a clean surface and peeling them under running water helps get the shell off.

More safety tips:

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