Why Do Eggs Turn Green in Aluminum Pans?

Imagine cracking a bunch of eggs into a pan to have a healthy breakfast, only to see them turn a weird shade of green as you cook them. Under these circumstances, you would not be at fault if you lose your appetite.

But the real question is why does this happen in the first place? Is it normal for eggs to turn green in the pan? Let’s find out!

Eggs Turn Green Due to Chemical Change in Aluminum Pan

The change in egg color is principally due to a specific chemical change in the eggs. It is brought on by a combination of heat and the chemicals that are present in both the eggs as well as the pans. It usually occurs when eggs are left to cook slowly at high temperatures for extended periods of time.

This is particularly true for eggs that are cooked in aluminum frying pans. However, keep in mind that this is not a very common phenomenon.

In fact, it usually occurs when the pans in which they are being cooked contain certain chemicals that react with the eggs. In this case, sometimes, a large batch of scrambled or fried eggs (sunny side up) may turn green.

While the eggs turning green may not look very pretty, the change is quite harmless

Here, it is pertinent to note that aluminum pans are not the only culprits when it comes to turning scrambled eggs a bright green in color. It can also happen if eggs are cooked in a cast-iron skillet or pan.

And just like aluminum pans, it is more likely to happen if you hold the eggs over direct heat for an overly long period of time, that is, even after they have been cooked to perfection.

Chicken Diet and Egg Yolks

Frying pans are not the only culprits behind the changing color of eggs (both the yolk and the white part). In fact, the color of the yolk is also dependent on the egg-laying chicken’s diet as well.

According to the experts, should the hen get to eat plenty of yellow and orange-colored plant pigments, then the coloring will eventually be deposited in the egg yolk itself. This is due in large part to certain chemicals called xanthophylls that are found in such plant matter.

Chickens that are fed different types of mashes that contain yellow corn or even alfalfa meal usually lay eggs that have yolks of medium yellow coloring. On the other hand, poultry farms that feed their hens wheat or barley end up with eggs that yield lighter-tinged yellow yolks.

On the other hand, a colorless diet comprising white cornmeal for instance usually produces an almost colorless pale yellow yolk. In order to increase coloring so that scrambled eggs look fresh and bright yellow, many farmers add certain natural yellow and orange substances.

For instance, marigold petals might be added to certain light-colored chicken feeds in order to enhance the color of the yolk. The more vivid the yellow color of the yolk, the lesser the chance of it changing color to green when it is cooked in an aluminum pan.

Artificial color additives do exist, but they are not permitted to be used since they are considered unfit for human consumption. As a general rule, most buyers in this country usually tend to prefer either light golden or even lemon-colored yolks.

One of the best things about such vivid yellow coloring is that pigments are quite stable. This means that they don’t easily lose their natural coloring or pigmentation even when they are cooked in aluminum pans.

Green Rings and Egg Yolks

A green-tinted ring all around hard-boiled egg yolk does not mean that the egg has gone bad and it should be thrown away. It is the result of iron compounds and sulfur. These chemicals react with the yellow surface of egg yolk and change its color.

The greenish color might be more prominent when you use aluminum pans to cook the egg. This is even truer when the eggs are left to cook for far too long.

In case you overcook the eggs, they will be exposed to a very high amount of iron and other elements and chemicals when they are being cooked. This will lead to oxidization and the discoloration of the egg yolk.

Although the greenish tint or color just might seem visually unappealing, eggs with green rings are nonetheless every bit as nutritious and wholesome and also have a perfectly normal flavor.

Here, the best possible way to avoid discolored and greenish egg yolk in your hard-boiled eggs is to refrain from over-cooking them. You should take care to maintain the proper temperature and once they are done, you should also rapidly cool them as well.

These elementary precautions will ensure that when you break your hard-boiled egg, it will retain its natural yellow color even if it’s been boiled in an aluminum pan.

Aged Eggs vs. Fresh Eggs

Let us be straight about one thing here. Eggs are not like wine and don’t get better with age. Generally speaking, the older the egg the more alkaline it will be.

And even though it might still be perfectly safe to consume, the increased alkaline levels are more than likely to cause it to appear green when it is cooked. This is in many ways quite similar to the green ring that develops around over boiled egg yolk when they are cooked in aluminum pans.

This tint of green is every bit as harmless as all the other green colorings discussed earlier. Moreover, it is pretty much inevitable in old and stale chicken eggs.

But this is not the only reason for this tint. If you cook too fast over very high heat, it might lead to a rapid chemical reaction that will turn the egg yolk green instead of yellow.

To ensure that your eggs aren’t green and unappealing, you should probably consider cooking slowly and at a low flame. This usually helps a lot and your scrambled eggs will revert to their usual yellow color.

The key here is to use hot instead of boiling hot water. It will take a longer time to cook the eggs, but you can rest assured that when you crack them open, they will be bright yellow in color.

Of course, aluminum also plays a role. It does not matter if it’s an aluminum serving dish or a saucepan. The chemicals present in the aluminum will react with the egg and change its color if it is exposed to these chemicals for too long.

Preventing the Eggs from Changing Color during the Cooking Process

If you don’t want to put lemon in your scrambled eggs, no need to worry. Just crack the eggs in a large bowl and beat them with a whisk or egg beater until they are uniform in color. Take care not to overbeat them.

After that, you should add a tablespoon of butter to a large size nonstick aluminum or cast-iron skillet or saucepan. Now place the pan over either medium or low heat only. Once all the butter has completely melted, you should turn the heat to its lowest setting.

While the butter is slowly melting away in the pan, you should add one tablespoon of milk per egg to the egg mixture in the bowl. Continue to whisk quite vigorously until the whole mixture becomes slightly frothy.

Whisking the milk and egg together will add air to the soon to be scrambled eggs. This will, in turn, make them considerably fluffier. It will save both time and effort if you use an electric mixer to do the needful.

Now that the egg mixture is ready for cooking, you should slowly drop it into the saucepan. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. This will allow the liquid egg at the bottom of the pan to set properly.

Once this is done you should use a heat-resistant spatula or a flat wooden spoon to stir the milky egg concoction from side to side. While you are stirring it, use your other hand to tilt the pan so that all the uncooked liquid makes contact with the hot surface of the pan.

Continue to pull, stir and tilt the pan till the scrambled eggs are evenly cooked as per your own liking and taste. Once they are done, you should add salt and pepper as per your own requirements.

You might add finely chopped mushrooms, or grated cheese, tomatoes meat, herbs and spices for seasoning. Finally, you should flip the scrambled eggs and turn off the heat and place them in the serving dish. If you do this fast enough, they won’t even have the time to turn green!

In case it is a really large batch of scrambled eggs, you should pour in a mixture containing around about eight scrambled eggs at a time. This will allow for more even cooking and at the same time, it will also prevent the eggs from turning green.

If you are really interested in preventing this somewhat unusual occurrence, you might consider using cast iron frying pans or even using stainless steel equipment. And if you only have aluminum pans on standby, then try to scramble the eggs using very low cooking temperature settings.

Apart from that, cooking in multiple small size batches, and serving them as soon as possible, from the pan to the plate can also greatly help in this regard. If you leave them in the aluminum pan even after cooking, then the eggs might react and start changing their color.

However, should it be absolutely necessary to hold your scrambled eggs even for a short time in the pan before serving, you should switch the heat off. You can reheat them in your microwave or electric oven.

Alternately, if you don’t want to do that, you might place the pan full of eggs in hot water. It will form a sort of buffer between the aluminum pan containing the eggs and the heat source.

Scrambled Eggs and Cast Iron Skillets

Cast iron also plays a role in causing egg discoloration, even if you don’t cook in it. You might have to place them in a heated plate in a serving line or the hot plate of a buffet. After all, aluminum is not the only alloy that reacts with eggs.

The chemical process that typically occurs between iron and sulfur also does the same and thereby produces pretty much the same results.

As with its aluminum counterparts, the cast iron skillet can also lend a strange greenish hue to your lightly scrambled eggs.

Here, the color change might prove singularly unappealing to the average breakfast eater, but rest assured that it is entirely harmless, according to the experts in this field.

However, if you really like your eggs a nice yellow color, then you can take a few precautions to ensure that it does not happen—especially when you have decided to cook for the whole family:

  • You can try and use only fresh grade AA or even grade A eggs when you start cooking a meal. These eggs are somewhat less likely to turn a vivid green color as per the American Egg Board.
  • You should consider using a 1/4 tsp or so of freshly squeezed lemon juice for every 18 extra-large eggs. It should, however, be remembered that this only applies when you are cooking them in aluminum or iron pans.
  • Just whisk the juice in with the eggs to get pale yellow and fluffy scrambled eggs. The little dash of lemon juice will act to prevent the greening effect from taking over and discoloring the eggs.
  • Try and use stainless steel equipment and other utensils (skillets, saucepans, etc.) when cooking.
  • You should hold the chicken eggs over low-flame heat only. That is, they should be slow-cooked at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and above. This is even more important if you have to serve them on a steam table.
  • Please bear in mind that as per the Professional Chef’s Association (PCA) as well as the and the American Egg Board (AEB), chicken eggs should never be held over high or even low flame heat for more than an hour at most.

Conclusion

Faster cooking times, fresh grade AA eggs and low heat can all help to ensure that your eggs don’t turn green in an aluminum pan.

If you still aren’t getting the desired yellow color in your scrambled eggs, consider switching to stainless steel frying pans for the best results.

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