From humble soft-boiled eggs to creamy homemade mayonnaise to decadent tiramisu—all of them have one ingredient in common: egg.
Unless you are a vegan, eggs are must have-items at home. They are nutritious, convenient, versatile, and easy to cook.
But, if you only eat eggs once in a while, it takes time to finish a carton. Can you use eggs past the expiration date?
Another time, you’re ready to cook scrambled eggs only to find that the eggs aren’t fresh. We’ve all been there. This raises the question: How can you tell that eggs have already gone bad?
If you can relate to either situation above, we got you covered! In this article, we walk you through the practical details of egg storage, shelf life, and how to tell if an egg is good or bad.
How To Store Eggs: From Raw Eggs To Cooked Eggs
According to the USDA, eggs are considered perishable. That means you need to refrigerate eggs to keep them safe for consumption.
Raw fresh eggs may contain Salmonella—harmful bacteria that make people sick. Even when the eggs look clean, undamaged, and unbroken, you’ll never know.
Therefore, to maintain food safety, you need to handle and cook eggs properly.
When it comes to storage, refrigeration is the safest place to keep your eggs supply.
No matter if it’s raw eggs in shells, raw egg white, and yolk, hard-boiled eggs, cooked dishes prepared with eggs, refrigerate them as soon as possible—no longer than 2 hours.
Contrary to popular belief, a refrigerator door is not the ideal spot for egg storage. Keep the eggs in their carton and store them in the coldest part of the fridge at 40 °F or below.
For cooked eggs and other dishes prepared with eggs, serve them immediately. Pack any leftovers in a shallow container to allow quick cooling and refrigerate.
In general, freezing raw eggs, cracked eggs, or hard-boiled eggs are not recommended. But, you can freeze egg white and egg yolk separately. Or, cook them up and freeze the dishes.
Why do you need to refrigerate raw eggs?
If you live in the US and Australia, it is common to see eggs in a refrigerated case at a grocery store. At home, raw fresh eggs should also be refrigerated until further use.
When you travel abroad, such as in Europe, you might be surprised to notice that eggs are not treated like those in the US. Eggs are placed in unrefrigerated racks.
At this point, you might be asking: is it safe to eat eggs that aren’t refrigerated?
The answer has to do with Salmonella. The US and Europe have different approaches to minimize Salmonella risks.
In the US, eggs have to be sanitized before reaching consumers. The cleaning process includes thorough washing, which also removes the natural coating on eggshells.
The eggshells become porous and more prone to microbial contamination. Therefore, refrigeration is necessary to prevent this risk.
In Europe and some other countries, the removal of Salmonella has a different approach. No extensive washing is required, and the natural coating remains undamaged. That’s why it is considered safe to store eggs at room temperature.
Either way, it is essential to note that once eggs are refrigerated, they need to stay that way. When chilled eggs are left at room temperatures, they will sweat and may facilitate the movement of bacteria into the eggs.
Tips for Buying Eggs
Safe consumption of eggs at home begins with purchasing safe, good quality eggs. Here are some considerations to take into account when buying eggs.
1. Buy from a reputable supplier or grocery store.
2. Pick up eggs from refrigerated shelves.
3. Pay attention to the sell-by date. Don’t buy eggs if they’re out of date.
4. Look for the USDA graded eggs. The USDA grade shield or mark is proof that eggs meet the quality and size.
How to Maintain the Safety of Home-Produced Eggs
If you prefer collecting and using eggs from your backyard chicken, you need to ensure their quality and safety.
Here are some tips for maintaining the safety of your backyard chicken eggs. (*)
1. Maintain the cleanliness of the shed area, such as by cleaning and disinfecting the shed regularly.
2. Collect the eggs often to prevent the eggs from becoming dirty or broken.
3. Wash your hands with soap after handling eggs or chicken.
4. Clean the eggs thoroughly. Use fine sandpaper or a brush to remove dirt and debris. If washing is necessary, make sure the water is at least 20 °F warmer than the eggs and use a mild detergent or unscented dishwashing liquid. Dry the eggs before further storage.
5. Refrigerate the eggs promptly after cleaning.
How to Handle and Cook Eggs Safely
1. As soon as you’re home, put the eggs back in the refrigerator no longer than 2 hours. No need to wash them before refrigeration.
2. Rotate your stock and use older eggs first.
3. Wash your hands, utensils, and other equipment after handling raw eggs to prevent the transfer of harmful bacteria from eggs to other foods or kitchen utensils.
4. Cook the eggs thoroughly until the white and yolk are firm. For baked dishes, make sure that the eggs are thoroughly cooked until the internal temperature reaches 160 °F.
5. Use pasteurized eggs for recipes that require no cooking or when the eggs are lightly cooked, such as mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, eggnog.
Pasteurization kills bacteria, making pasteurized eggs safe to eat without cooking,
6. Pay attention to the best-by date.
7. Inspect the eggs before using, particularly the old ones. If you’re unsure, don’t crack the egg directly into the batter or other ingredients. Instead, crack it open on a clean bowl.
8. Don’t use the same spoon or utensil to handle raw eggs and cooked dishes.
9. Refrigerate any dishes prepared with eggs within 2 hours after cooking.
How To Tell If Eggs Are Bad
Eggs quality starts to decline as they get older. At some point, eggs – raw or cooked – will go bad.
Here are 3 simple ways how to tell if eggs are good and still fresh or have already gone bad.
1. Check the expiration date
Read the ‘sell-by’ or ‘pack-date’ for the first hint. Of course, the ideal scenario is to consume the eggs before their expiration date.
If they are already past the date, don’t rush throwing the eggs right away. They might still be edible.
Conduct the methods below to check whether the egg is still fresh or not.
2. Do a float egg test
This trick is quite easy. Gently immerse an egg in cold water. If the egg sinks, it is fresh. If it’s in the middle or floating on top, the egg is old.
An old egg is not fresh, but it’s not necessarily bad either. Crack it open and check if it smells off or looks unusual. If that’s the case, discard the egg.
3. Check for the off-odor and unusual appearance
Spoiled eggs exhibit an unpleasant, sulfuric smell. You won’t miss the off-odors.
Next to that, don’t use an egg if the shell is cracked or looks slimy.
If you’re unsure about an egg that appears normal and undamaged, crack it into a clean bowl. Take a good sniff and a closer look at the egg white and yolk. If they look discolored, throw it out.
For hard-boiled eggs and egg-based dishes, simply use your common senses to judge. If anything seems off with the smell, look and taste, discard any leftovers.
How Long Do Eggs Last?
As mentioned above, an expiration date is an excellent indicator to estimate how long eggs last.
Raw eggs are best to use within 3 to 5 weeks after the date of purchase. When it comes to eggs from your backyard chicken, they are typically fresh for up to 3 weeks.
Unpeeled hard-boiled eggs can stay up to a week in the fridge. Freezing makes hard-boiled eggs hard and rubbery.
Meanwhile, various dishes prepared with eggs such as quiche, pies, or casseroles can be refrigerated for up to 3 to 4 days. For long term preservation, consider freezing them up to 2 to 3 months.
So, how long do eggs last in the fridge, freezer and room temperature? Check this table below for all details:
|Egg||Room Temperature||Refrigerator||Freezer (keep at 0ºF or below)|
|Raw egg (fresh, in a shell), store-bought||< 2 hours||3 to 5 weeks from purchase date||Freezing is not recommended.|
|Raw egg (fresh, in a shell), home-produced||< 2 hours||3 weeks||Freezing is not recommended.|
|Raw egg yolks||< 2 hours||2 to 4 days||12 months|
|Raw egg whites||< 2 hours||2 to 4 days||12 months|
|Hard-boiled egg (unpeeled)||< 2 hours||1 week||Freezing is not recommended.|
|Egg dishes, such as pie, quiche, casserole||< 2 hours||3 to 4 days||2 to 3 months (casseroles); 1 to 2 months (pie, quiche)|
|Eggnog||< 2 hours||3 to 5 days (store-bought); 2 to 4 days (homemade)||6 months|
|Pickled eggs (store-bought, unopened)||Best-by date||–||–|
|Pickled eggs (store-bought, opened)||–||7 days||–|
|Egg substitutes (liquid) – unopened||–||10 days||Freezing is not recommended.|
|Egg substitutes (liquid) – opened||–||3 days||Freezing is not recommended.|
Yes, eggs need to be thoroughly cooked to kill Salmonella and other microorganisms that may cause food poisoning. If you want to prepare something with uncooked eggs, such as mayonnaise or tiramisu, use pasteurized eggs.
Not necessarily. You will get sick from eating spoiled eggs—whether new or old.
If you happen to eat expired eggs, you’ll simply end up with an upset stomach. But beyond consuming an egg that has gone bad, eggs may also be contaminated by salmonella. Salmonella poisoning symptoms may include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. (*)
Fresh eggs should last around 1 month after the sell by date, and you should store them in your fridge.
With proper refrigeration, raw eggs can last for up to 3 to 5 weeks after purchase. As eggs get older, the quality decreases. But, they don’t necessarily go bad past the expiration date.
Inspect the eggs carefully to decide. If you’re unsure, crack it open in a clean bowl and check the smell and appearance.