Eating raw eggs may put people at risk for food poisoning from salmonella, particularly very young, very old, or immunocompromised individuals.
If you do happen to consume a raw unpasteurized egg, you won’t immediately die — indeed, there’s a good chance you’ll be fine. (I’ve tasted cookie dough many, many times and haven’t yet gotten food poisoning.) However, it is very easy to find safe alternatives. If you’d like to enjoy a retro chiffon pie, real eggnog, homemade mayonnaise, or any of many other recipes that call for raw or undercooked eggs, you don’t necessarily need to avoid them entirely. Here are a few options:
- Pasteurized Eggs are heated while still in the shell, enough to kill any salmonella but not enough to cook the egg protein. I tend to prefer these, because I use both yolks and whites in various recipes — mayonnaise, chiffon pies, and so on. They aren’t extremely common, but can generally be found in grocery stores (we get them at our local Publix).
- Boxed Egg Whites are also pasteurized before they are put into little containers and sent to your local grocery store. The most significant downside is that there are no yolks (although so few people make mayo at home anymore it hardly matters). It is rather nice to not worry about getting bits of shell into your food, though.
- Try an egg substitute — designed for vegan recipes, but also available to the omnivorous consumer.
- You can, in theory, pasteurize your own eggs at home. I don’t recommend this unless you are a fairly skilled chef, have good tools, and do not have a weaker than average immune system. If you’re feeling adventurous, Google for more information.
Finally: I’ve had friends tell me they wouldn’t eat a raw egg under any circumstances, pasteurized or not. That’s totally fine! Everybody has their own tolerance for risk. My family falls somewhere in the middle, and as a result we enjoy some very delicious foods, plus peace of mind, thanks to pasteurized eggs.