Eggs are a popular choice for many households because they are both nutritious and can be cooked in a number of different ways. However, although they contain good amounts of protein and vitamins, eggs have been linked to a number of safety concerns, most notably salmonella and listeria. Largely for this reason, many people are very careful about the length of time that they keep eggs, sometimes throwing out perfectly good eggs long before they are spoiled. Others, however, keep them long past the time they should have been used. The following tips should help you to decide how long you should store eggs.
It may seem obvious, but many people forget that eggs bought in shops are probably already a few days old. It is therefore important to make a note of the use-by date, or the date on which the eggs were packed. In the US, the ‘Julian’ date stamped on the carton will tell consumers when the eggs were packed and, according to the Egg Safety Center, they are then safe to be consumed four to five weeks after that date, provided that the eggs have been stored at a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. If the eggs are straight from your back garden, you may be able to keep them a couple of days longer.
Refrigerated versus room temperature
There is some debate about whether eggs should be refrigerated or kept at room temperature. Some schools of thought believe that eggs should be kept at room temperature, because otherwise, when the egg looks cooked, it will still not be at a high enough temperature to ensure bacteria have been killed. However, the American Egg Board recommends that eggs are kept in the door of the refrigerator at a temperature of between 33 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The Board goes on to say that eggs accidentally left out at room temperature should be discarded after two hours, or just one if the weather is hot. As the Egg Safety Center explains: “A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria.”
How best to store eggs
Experts generally recommend keeping eggs upright, which means that the larger end is at the top. This apparently helps to slow down spoilage because the yolk is kept as far away from the air pocket, the area in which bacteria are most likely to multiply. As that is the way eggs are generally bought, at least when pre-packaged in a carton, it makes sense to just leave them as they are until consumption. As mentioned above, the eggs should be kept in the door of the refrigerator, and should remain in their carton, rather than placed in the fridge’s egg racks. Then you always have access to the Julian date on the carton.
How to check the freshness of eggs
If your eggs are straight from your own hens, or you removed them from the carton and don’t know the Julian date, you can still check for freshness by placing the eggs in question in a bowl of cold water. If they sink, they are still fresh. If they are lop-sided, you should probably save them for baking, or possibly scrambled and boiled eggs. If they float to the top, discard them immediately, because they will have gone off.
Follow the above tips and, if not satisfied that your eggs are fresh enough, put them in the trash. Although it is a shame to throw away eggs that are perhaps perfectly good, for the sake of hygiene, it is probably best to discard any eggs that you doubt are fresh enough for your family’s use.