5. When eggs have cooled, refrigerate promptly.
When stored in their shell, hard-cooked eggs can be refrigerated for up to one week.
Food safety for eggs
If, in cooking, an egg shell cracks, the egg should be eaten and not dyed. If a hard-cooked egg has been left unrefrigerated for two hours as a decoration or part of an egg hunt, it should be discarded.
When cooked foods are allowed to stand at room temperature for extended periods of time, potentially harmful bacteria might grow. Thousands of people are sickened by foodborne illness each year and some die unnecessarily.
The Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (www.fsis.usda.gov) recommends the following points to prevent foodborne illness:
· Wash hands before handling eggs at every step in preparation, including cooking, cooling, dyeing and hiding.
· Only use eggs that have been refrigerated; discard eggs that are cracked or dirty.
· Hard cook eggs before dyeing for an Easter egg hunt.
· Keep hard-cooked eggs refrigerated until just before the hunt. Keep them fully chilled by storing on a shelf inside the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator door.
· FSIS/USDA suggests having one set of eggs for decorating only and another set for eating.
If you are hiding eggs outside, hide them in places that are protected from dirt, pets, wild animals, birds, reptiles, insects, lawn chemicals and other potential sources of bacteria. To prevent bacterial growth, don't let eggs sit in hiding places for more than two hours. After the hunt, discard any eggs that were cracked, dirty or that children didn't find within two hours.
Lastly, don't forget to place the eggs back in the refrigerator until it's time to eat! When you are ready to eat the hard-cooked eggs, simplify the peeling process by tapping the hard-cooked egg lightly on the counter, then roll it between the hands to loosen the shell. Cooked eggs should be eaten within seven days.
When decorating, be sure to use food grade dyes. Handle eggs carefully to prevent cracking. Bacteria could enter the egg through cracks in the shell.
Food-based egg dyes
Commercial egg dyes are plentiful during the spring holiday season and many common household ingredients also can be used as coloring agents.
This list of color sources is provided by the American Egg Board (www.aeb.org), which recommends adding one tablespoon of white vinegar for each cup of water. The American Egg Board recommends using water warmer than the eggs in the dyeing process, returning newly colored eggs to an egg carton and refrigerating them promptly.
Foods that produce colors include:
Fresh beets, cranberries, radishes or frozen raspberries - pinkish red
Yellow onion skins - orange
Orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, celery seed or ground cumin - pale yellow
Ground tumeric - yellow
Spinach leaves - pale green
Yellow Delicious Apple peels - green-gold
Canned blueberries or red cabbage leaves - blue
Strong brewed coffee - beige to brown
Dill seeds - brown-gold
Chili powder - brown-orange
Purple or red grape juice or beet juice - gray
Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.