What is the best way to separate eggs into the whites and yolks?--Janet
There are three ways to separate whites from yolks. The first way is using a commercially available egg separator. These devices have a cup supported by rigid spokes in the middle of a ring. You crack the egg and let the contents drop into the center of the separator. If you do it right, the yolk will stay unbroken in the cup while the whites flow through the open spaces into a bowl underneath.
The next way is to crack open the egg and gently pour the yolk back and forth between the two halves of the shell. As you do this, tip the shell halves somewhat so that the white is allowed to flow over the edge and into the bowl below.
The third technique is to start with very clean hands and simply crack the egg and empty the contents into the cupped fingers of one hand which is held over a bowl. The whites are allowed to flow between your fingers into the bowl.
To crack an egg, gently but firmly rap the mid-point of the egg, between the pointed and blunt ends, against the rim of a bowl. With practice you will learn just how hard to hit the egg so that the shell is opened a bit and cracked a bit of the way around its equator. Now, hold the egg bu the shell either side of the crack and gently pull and bend it away from the crack so that the shell splits. Try not to dig your thumbs into the crack for leverage, as this may push bits of shell into the egg white or break the yolk. With some practice, you can even learn to split the cracked shell open with one hand, which is useful for the third method, above.
There is a current pretense in cooking nowadays to tell people they should crack the egg on the counter top, as this supposedly reduces the chance of bits of shell getting into the food. Since I have never had a big problem using the method described above, I fail to see why the counter method would work better. In either case you are cracking the shell so the risk of fragments will always be there. With fresh eggs, where the membrane under the shell is still adhering firmly to it, bits of shell are held by the membrane and don't usually end up in the food. Still, it is good to give one final check before using the egg whites or yolks and remove any pieces of shell that might have slipped by.
If you are planning to beat the egg whites, it is a good idea to break your eggs one at a time, using three bowls: a small one to catch the white as each egg is broken; a second one that the whites are put into one at a time; and a third for the yolks. After each egg is separated, make sure that the yolk remained intact. If it broke, inspect the white to make sure there is no yolk in it. If there is, you can frequently dab the yolk out with the corner of a paper towel, provided there isn't too much. Otherwise, discard the white, wipe out the catch bowl and crack another egg in its place. Even the tiniest bit of yolk can cause problems in beating egg whites.
Finally, the proverbial question of what to do with the chalaza, that white rubbery material that is attached to the yolk. The chalaza is like a twisted elastic band that holds the yolk roughly in the center of the egg. Generally, you can leave it attached to the yolks. If they are being used to make a custard or other smooth sauce, a final straining will remove any lumps of chalaza from the mixture.