Eggs Go Bad Sooner Than You Think—Here’s How To Tell if Yours Are Still Fresh

Photo: Stocksy/Lucas Ottone
Whether you’re whipping up a brain-healthy breakfast, baking a cake, or topping your avocado toast with some much-needed protein, eggs are a fundamental ingredient when it comes to cooking. They're a great source of vitamins, including choline and selenium; they're even one of the few food sources of vitamin D. And with a whopping six grams of protein per single egg, we'd certainly call this 'superfood' one of the most nutrient-rich pantry staples available.

But speaking of pantry staples—when you aren't serving up brunch for a crowd, your carton of eggs often ends up sitting untouched in the fridge way longer than it should (which is roughly three to five weeks). The use-by or sell-by expiration dates help, but they're neither consistently accurate nor legible. Here, we’ve gathered a few effective ways to conduct a fresh egg test to determine whether or not your eggs have spoiled. Plus, we're sharing the best ways to store them so they stay fresh for as long as possible.

The 3 best ways to conduct a fresh egg test

1. Check their freshness in a glass of water.

Before throwing away a perfectly usable egg just because the expiration date on the label said so, test its quality using the water test method. To do so, fill a clear bowl or cup with room temperature water, making sure it's filled high enough to submerge an egg completely. Next, carefully lower an egg into the bottom of the glass using a spoon and check to see which direction it floats, sinks, or stands.

A very fresh egg will sink to the bottom; meanwhile, an old egg will float to the top. Eggs that tilt upwards or to the side have started to age and should be used as soon as possible. As an egg gets older, tiny air pockets inside its shell grow larger as water escapes the shell and gets replaced by air. Thus, a spoiled egg will likely float to the top when tested in the water.

2. Shake them to test the internal firmness.

Though this method might require a little more guesswork, shaking an egg can help determine the internal firmness, which is an indication of whether it’s very fresh or not so much. By moving an egg back and forth to check the wateriness of the internal liquid, you can decipher whether or not an egg has started to age and air has penetrated the surface.

A sloshy egg indicates that several air pockets have formed, seeping through the exterior shell, and the aging has commenced. On the flip side, a firm egg will have minimal movement when agitated, indicating a fresher egg better suited to your cooking needs.

3. Check the smell of the eggs.

Another way of telling whether or not your eggs have spoiled is by giving them a good sniff. When cracked open, an egg should have a neutral smell or none at all. If an egg has a sulfuric scent or emits a pungent, foul odor, it is definitely time to let it go. However, consider adding it to your at-home compost system before chucking it in the trash, as eggs add nourishing benefits to decomposing soil.

Find out why a registered dietitian calls eggs 'nature's multivitamin' in this video:

How to store eggs for optimal freshness

1. Keep your eggs in their carton, and place them in the cooler parts of the refrigerator.

As mentioned, eggs stored in their original carton can last anywhere between three to five weeks in the refrigerator. Storing eggs inside of a container helps reduce moisture loss and flavor absorption from other more pungent ingredients nearby. (Read: do not be tempted to buy any decorative egg storage containers if you want to keep yours fresh for as long as possible.)

Additionally, keeping eggs in the colder parts of your fridge can help prolong their lifespan. Avoid placing the carton in the less cool compartments, such as the door shelves or humidity-prone crisper drawers.

2. You can freeze unused eggs before they spoil, BTW.

Reduce waste by freezing unused eggs before they have a chance to go bad. To freeze whole eggs, simply whisk an egg in a small bowl until thoroughly mixed, then transfer to a freezer-safe container, like a muffin tin, placing one individual egg per mold. Freeze until solid, then carefully remove and place in a freezer-safe resealable bag for later use. Make sure to label the bag with the date and keep it for up to one year. You can also perform the same method for freezing batches of egg whites.

According to the American Egg Board, egg yolks have a gelation property that causes them to become viscous when frozen. To counteract this undesirable side effect, they suggest beating in either 1/8 teaspoon salt (for savory egg dishes), 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, or corn syrup (for sweet egg dishes) per 1/4 cup of egg yolks (about 4 yolks). These added ingredients help prevent the yolks from forming a gel-like consistency. Finally, freeze batches of the yolk mixture as you would for the whole egg and egg white methods previously described.

When ready to consume, thaw the eggs in the refrigerator overnight, making sure to use them soon after they fully soften. For food safety purposes, cook them thoroughly to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.

3. Don’t leave eggs out on the counter for longer than two hours.

Eggs left out at room temperature are at higher risk for bacterial growth (like salmonella) and spoilage. Thus, refrigerated eggs should not be left out of the fridge for more than two hours. Unfortunately, if left on the counter for a long time, the eggs run the risk of going bad and should not be consumed after that.

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