You probably know by now that eggs should be refrigerated at 40F or below. And we can all agree that it's common sense to wash your hands before and after handling raw eggs. You've also heard time and time again that cooking eggs until the yolks are firm is recommended. But there's more to egg safety and handling than you may think. What do those numbers and letters on egg cartons mean? How do you know when an egg is still good? How do you spot a rotten egg? What happens if you leave your eggs out overnight? Have no fear: Nellie's has the answers to all your questions and egg safety conundrums.
How to tell if eggs are safe to eat
The most accurate way to tell if your Nellie's Free Range Eggs are safe to eat is to look for the date, which is printed on either end of our cartons. Our dates are considered "use by" or "best by" dates, which designate the day the eggs expire. In other words, we recommend consuming the eggs on or before the date printed on the carton; we never recommend eating the eggs once the date has passed. No date? The water test can help you determine whether dateless eggs are still fresh.
In addition to the use by date, you might see some other letters and numbers printed on our cartons. These codes help us keep track of the farms and batches that the eggs came from, as well as where and when they were packaged before arriving at your local grocery store.
How to tell if eggs have gone bad
Spoiled eggs are no fun, but luckily, they're easy to spot. When it comes to handling and storage, eggs are very temperamental: whether they're stored at the wrong temperature or suffer a fall, they can be compromised pretty quickly. When an egg goes bad before its use by date, it typically means that the egg was stored incorrectly or cracked at some point in its journey. When it doubt, look for these signs that an egg has gone bad:
Got a whiff of sulphur when you opened up the fridge this morning? That's a sure sign of rotten eggs. In some cases, you won't notice the smell until you crack open the egg, but it's typically hard to miss. Be aware that overcooked eggs also develop a sulphurous smell, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're spoiled. If you've ever hard-boiled an egg a bit too long and noticed a grey layer around the yolk, you're probably familiar with this smell.
If you ever open up your carton and spot a cracked or dented egg, throw it out. Cracked eggs are never safe to eat because they present an opportunity for bacteria to enter inside the egg, which can cause it to spoil in a matter of days. Hairline cracks are just as unsafe, but can be harder to detect. If you notice that an egg doesn't want to come out of the carton, it's possible that a hairline crack has allowed a little bit of egg white to leak out of the egg and adhere the shell to the carton. It's best to discard any "stuck" eggs, especially if you suspect a hairline crack.
As eggs age, the whites and yolks lose some of their firmness and structure. It's not uncommon for expired or nearly expired eggs to seem somewhat watery when you crack them open, but if the egg is well within its best by date, wateriness can be a sign of spoilage. If you're unsure, look for yolks that break extremely easily and whites that spread rapidly across your pan rather than staying put.
Eggs with dark spots
It's completely normal to see brown or red spots floating in the egg white or on the yolk; these are known as blood spots. Dark spots that appear directly on the underside of the egg shell, however, are a sign of mold. If you suspect that a dark spot is mold, discard the egg.
How to handle and store eggs safely
Like meat or dairy, eggs are not shelf stable and therefore must be refrigerated. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recommends keeping eggs at 40F or below, which is outside of the danger zone for bacterial growth. Seems pretty straightforward, no? If you still have questions, check out our answers below:
I left my eggs out. Are they still safe to eat?
Better safe than sorry. We recommend discarding eggs that were left out longer than 2 hours at normal room temperature or more than 1 hour at 85F or above. If you forgot your eggs in the car or the garage overnight, it's best to toss them; you never know how much the temperature fluctuated during that time period.
How long do leftover eggs last?
The FDA recommends consuming refrigerated dishes containing eggs within 3-4 days of making them. Hard-boiled eggs should be consumed within 7 days, shell or no shell. Things like scrambled eggs and omelettes can technically be refrigerated, but these simpler dishes tend to develop an unappetizing texture when cooled and reheated. You're better off eating your breakfast fresh from the stovetop.
Can eggs be frozen?
Yes, eggs can be frozen! If you find yourself with more eggs than you know what to do with or a dozen that you don't think you'll finish before they expire, use these tips to safely freeze them without compromising texture or flavor.
Why do some countries not refrigerate eggs?
The USDA requires all commercial egg producers to wash their eggs before packaging them. At Nellie's Free Range, we use a light soap and mild chlorine solution to sanitize our egg shells. Unfortunately, this process removes the natural outer layer of the egg shell called the cuticle, which renders the egg shell porous and therefore susceptible to bacteria. Regulations look very different in many European countries, where eggs are not washed before arriving at grocery stores. Since these unwashed eggs still have the protective cuticle intact, it's common practice to store them on the counter rather than in the refrigerator.