Reader Nicole writes, helpfully:
Congratulations on your new toy! Reading your description of the precise temperature control made me wonder – do you think you could use this to pasteurize whole eggs? If the eggs sit in 140 F water for long enough for the yolk to reach that temperature and stay there for 3 minutes, they should be raw but salmonella free, right?
Boy Nicole, this will be great ammo for the next time Mrs. Pastry starts making fun of me. Though it never occurred to me before you mentioned it, I can indeed use my new sous vide cooker to pasteurize eggs. I won’t be able to heat the eggs above 140, since that’s the temperature at which egg white proteins begin coagulating. The result would be cloudy, lightly cooked eggs.
However the beauty of pasteurization is that sustained applications of lower temperatures can be just as effective as shorter bursts of higher temperatures. So for example, if I wanted to quick-pasteurize a gallon of raw milk, I could bring it up to 161 degrees and hold it there for 15 seconds. I could do the same job heating the milk to 145 and leaving it at that temperature for 30 minutes.
That’s still too hot for eggs, however a 45-minute application of 130-degree heat will work every bit as well. I’ll kill off any bacteria while still leaving the eggs uncooked. Nicole, I owe you one — thanks!