A Good Egg
Taste-testing eggs, from organic to store brand.
All three of these products are 99 percent egg whites, which are, basically, tasteless. All three also contain color and vegetable gums (for texture). But only Egg Beaters goes all out to put back the taste they've taken out, by adding natural flavor, spices, salt, and yes, onion powder. So you can imagine why the tasters doubted themselves. Was it really buttery? Was that really onion? It was like Willy Wonka's famous gum that tastes like a three-course meal: tomato soup, roast beef, and blueberry pie. All those flavors out of a little piece of gum (or in this case, gum and egg whites).
The consistency of raw Egg Beaters is also very different from that of the other two substitutes. Nulaid and Best of the Egg were pale yellow and rather thin, close to the normal consistency of raw egg about to be scrambled. The Egg Beaters was brighter yellow, much more viscous, and exhibited strange chemical properties in the pan—specifically, it didn't want to cook. I'd guess that it took twice as long to scramble as the other eggs. Egg Beaters does cook, in the end, but not before giving you the sense that it's slightly mutant.
As for that "indistinguishable from real" comment: I threw Egg Beaters in with the other scrambled eggs to see how it measured up. Again, it wasn't a true blind test, because scrambled Egg Beaters looks completely different from scrambled egg. While a scrambled egg has a mottled yellow color with veins of white, and an irregular consistency, scrambled Egg Beaters are a uniform bright yellow and full of tiny air bubbles like yellow Styrofoam. One taster claimed that she didn't notice the difference until she ate it and recorded: "This is both bland AND tasteless. Wait. It's bland yet onion-y. Miraculous." She and one other taster both ranked it behind all the real scrambled eggs. The third recognized it as an impostor and ranked it ahead of two to the real eggs. I determined that, if I ever start to worry about cholesterol, I would rather make an egg-white omelet with my own salt and onions than face off again with this yellow goo.
What We Learned
Fresh eggs scored the highest. The Safeway eggs took a real beating. Some of this was no doubt the flavor of the yolk, but it may also have been that the yolk was smaller than that of the other eggs, which made for a less satisfying hardboiled egg and a pale, bland scramble. "Honey, you bleached the egg!" was one taster's response.
Yolk-wise, the duck egg was in a class all its own. When it was hardboiled, one taster complained that the white was rubbery, but the yolk was huge and rich. Fresh eggs are the best, if you can get them, and we found organic eggs significantly better than the supermarket kind. Their price, though, may be harder to swallow: Organic eggs cost almost four times as much as the generic kind ($4.99 as opposed to $1.29 for a dozen).
For less than that, you could rent Cool Hand Luke, and the egg-eating scene would probably quell your appetite for a while. If you're wondering whether a person could actually eat 50 eggs, this Web site on "Hollywood Science" says it's unlikely. Besides your stomach being too small, you'd run out of saliva, and you'd produce a terrifying amount of gas. There are probably better ways to make friends.
Kate Taylor is the arts reporter at the New York Sun and the editor of an anthology of essays about anorexia, Going Hungry, which will be published next spring.
Illustrations by Nina Frenkel.