All About Duck Eggs

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Duck eggs are highly prized by bakers and gourmet chefs alike, but how are duck eggs different than your standard chicken egg?

For starters, duck eggs are big.  Different breeds of both chickens & ducks lay different size eggs, but generally speaking, ducks eggs are about 50% larger than “medium” grade chicken eggs.  In the above picture, you see the duck egg at the bottom against the standard USDA weight categories for chicken eggs.  Pee Wee eggs (laid by my little bantam Mille Fleur D’Uccle) weigh in at just 1.10 ounces.  Small eggs weigh 1.55 ounces.  Medium are 1.70 ounces.  Large eggs are around 2 ounces (this is the size egg called for in most recipes).  Extra large eggs weigh in around 2.3 ounces and Jumbos at around 2.5 ounces.   The duck egg in the picture weighed in at 3.4 ounces, but I have had some weighing in at close to 4 ounces!  Just like chicken eggs, duck egg shells can come in a range of colors varying from white, brown, cream, blue, grey and even black!

When you crack open a duck egg, the first thing you will notice is that the shell is significantly thicker than a chicken egg.  The white of a duck egg is nearly transparent where chicken eggs usually have a light yellowish hue.  The duck egg white is firmer with more structure than a chicken egg white.  This firm white is part of the reason chefs love cooking with duck eggs.   The egg white (or albumen) helps baked goods, like cakes, rise higher with a light, fluffy texture. Cookies turn out moist & chewy. The firmer albumen can help bind ingredients & improve texture in gluten free recipes. The other reasons chefs love duck eggs lies in the yolk.  Much larger than a chicken yolk, they also have a much higher fat content which lends a rich taste to dishes.  Duck eggs are divine in homemade ice cream and stellar in custard fillings for pastries.

How do they differ nutritionally?

Duck eggs & chicken eggs have very similar nutritional profiles and many of the differences are simply due to the larger size of the duck egg.  Duck eggs are notably higher in both fat & cholesterol compared to chicken eggs.  This is partly due to the difference in the bird’s diets.  Ducks tend to favor eating high protein bugs, snails, and slugs over plant matter.  Each duck egg has about 600 milligrams of cholesterol which is about twice the recommended daily intake level, so duck eggs should not be an everyday indulgence, especially for those who struggle with their cholesterol levels.  The fat content of duck eggs is much higher, but that isn’t necessary a bad thing.  The fat is monounsaturated & polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats) and contains a much higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids (72 mg vs 37 mg in chicken eggs), an essential cellular building block that many people struggle to get enough of in their diets.
Duck egg are significantly higher in:
protein (9 g. vs 5 g. for chicken eggs)
iron (2.7 mg. vs 0.9 mg. for chicken eggs)
vitamin A (472 IU vs 244 IU for chicken eggs)
folate (56 mcg. vs 23 mcg. for chicken eggs)
choline (184 mg. vs 126 mg. in chicken eggs)

Another really interesting duck egg nutrition fact is that because duck egg whites contain a different type of protein than chicken eggs, often times people that are allergic to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs with no problems (as always run this by your doctor before experimenting though).

How do they taste?

Duck eggs and chicken eggs taste pretty much the same.  If you scramble them up mixed together you certainly won’t notice a difference.  If you were to scramble them up side by side and taste each separately……you will still find they taste similar.  The duck egg has a slightly stronger “egg” flavor thanks to it’s larger yolk vs white ratio, and also because of the duck’s higher protein diet (assuming the ducks were allowed to free range and eat bugs).  Duck eggs also have a creamier, richer texture due to the higher fat content.

How to cook with duck eggs

Cooking with duck eggs is a little bit different than cooking with chicken eggs.  Scrambling them up is going to be the same, and they are great when added to a frittata or omelet. But if you are frying or hard boiling them, a little extra care is needed.  Duck eggs have a lower water content than chicken eggs so overcooking them can give them a rubbery texture.

For great hard boiled duck eggs, place the eggs in a pot of cold, salted water.  Bring to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, remove the pot from the heat and let sit for 12 minutes.  Carefully remove the eggs & place in a bowl of ice water until cool.

Baking with duck eggs might also require a little playing around with the recipe.  I usually just sub out one chicken egg for one duck egg, but every recipe is different.  If your recipe calls for multiple eggs, an easy substitution is to use 2 duck eggs for every 3 chicken eggs.  If you have an extra sensitive recipe, you can also measure out the whites & yolks.  A standard large egg would be the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of yolk and 2 tablespoons of white.

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