Remember to bake your holiday cookie dough

Eating raw or uncooked cookie dough can change your plans for the holiday.

When making holiday cookies, cakes and pies, there are countless choices of ingredients to use. When it comes to eggs, why would someone use eggs that are pasteurized or egg products instead of a real egg? What is egg pasteurization? Is there a way to use fresh eggs in things like meringue for a pie? These are all good questions for bakers during the holiday.

Simply put, pasteurization is a process to treat eggs for potential salmonella, a foodborne pathogen. Pasteurizing eggs or egg products is actually a good thing as salmonella is estimated to affect 79,000 people a year. It is also estimated that salmonella causes 30 deaths a year. We can all use caution when using eggs to keep salmonella from taking us away from the holiday table.

To protect consumers, some shell eggs and egg products are pasteurized. Eggs are heat treated and held at that temperature for a certain amount of time to kill the salmonella bacteria. This does not change the color, flavor, appearance or nutritional value of the egg. A dried egg product is processed in the same way but in the dried form. The process of drying eggs has been commercially done since 1880s, so this is not new.

When purchasing eggs, buy them out of the cooler or refrigerated shelving and make sure the eggs are properly labeled. The packaging should indicate whether they are pasteurized or not. The Food and Drug Administration has very specific labeling laws. Egg products come in various forms: frozen, liquid and dried. They can be used in place of shell eggs to keep everyone safe. When making meringue, you can use powdered egg whites; if you are serving people with lowered immune systems, you can use whipped cream instead of meringue.

Eating raw cookie dough when using unpasteurized shell eggs can put people at risk of a foodborne illness, so bake the cookie dough before eating it. There are ways to adapt eggs to make them safe by cooking them slowly and maintaining a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. FoodSafety.gov has a fact sheet that can help with adaptations of recipes. 

Whatever egg or egg product you choose, Michigan State University Extension suggests baking your cookie dough so that it is safe to eat. For more information on food safety resources and programs in your area, contact your local MSU Extension office.


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