These days, a dozen eggs can easily cost more than a gallon of gas in some states — so the last thing you want to do is toss them in the trash. But you also don’t want to cook or bake with rotten eggs, as eating them could cause serious illness.
Fortunately, you can perform several egg tests to determine whether they are still fresh enough to consume safely. Knowing if an egg is still good and understanding the best ways to store and handle them can help ensure you and your family avoid food poisoning.
Check the Date
The pack date is the best indicator of an egg’s freshness, as it tells you when the eggs were laid and packed for sale. When checking the pack date, look for a three-digit code printed on the short side of the carton, often next to the carton’s “best by” date or expiration date.
This three-digit code indicates the date of packaging and can help determine freshness. The code is known as a pack-date calendar or Julian Date calendar, which ranges from 001 to 365. Each code corresponds to a day in the year, so 001 would be Jan. 1, and 365 would be Dec. 31 (in a leap year, 366 corresponds to Dec. 31). For example, if the code reads 014, then it means that the eggs were packed on Jan. 14.
You should always purchase eggs before the sell-by or expiration date on the carton, and after they reach home, they may be refrigerated for four to five weeks past that date as long as they are refrigerated. It’s also helpful to know that eggs can last up to five weeks after their packing date, so if you buy them close to that date, you should be able to use them for a while.
Perform the Floating Egg Test
The floating egg test is a simple and effective way to determine the freshness of an egg. All you need is a glass of water and the egg you want to test. To perform the test, fill a clear glass or similar container with warm water. Avoid using cold water, as it could cause the egg to contract and draw bacteria in from the shell. Then, gently drop the egg into the glass.
If the egg sinks to the bottom and stays there, it is very fresh. On the other hand, if it floats at an angle or stands on end, it may be older than expected. An egg that floats is older. However, the USDA states that when an egg is placed in water and floats, it’s a sign that its air cell has grown enough to make it buoyant. Although this indicates that the egg is no longer fresh, it may still be safe for use. Therefore, it’s a good idea to try a few more egg tests before you toss it out.
Give it a Shake
Another egg test you can use is to hold the egg close to your ear and shake it. If the egg is fresh, it won’t make a sound. However, if you hear a liquid sloshing sound, the yolk is old and has turned watery.
Use light but steady shakes to listen for a solid or liquid sound inside the egg for the best results.
Inspect Inside and Out
You can inspect an egg’s shell and yolk to determine its freshness. The first step is to look for any cracks or damage on the outside of the eggshell. If there are any visible signs of damage, the egg should be discarded as it may have been contaminated by bacteria or mold.
Another way to check for freshness is to crack open your egg and observe what the yolk and white do.
“A fresh egg should have a bright yellow or orange yolk that is more rounded than flat,” EatingWell’s senior digital food editor, Sean Kenniff, said in an article. “The yolk should sit high on the inner albumen (that’s the thicker part of the white directly surrounding the yolk), and the inner albumen itself should not spread too much from the yolk and be relatively thick. The thinner outer albumen should not spread too far from the inner albumen. And there should be no off smells or colors.”
However, if the white is runny and the yolk is flat and pale, it’s most likely a sign that the egg has aged and should be discarded.
Sniff the Contents
Even if it passes all of the other egg tests, you can tell a great deal by the odor of an egg. If the egg smells like sulfur or rotten eggs, it is likely bad and should be discarded. This odor comes from hydrogen sulfide gas that forms in the egg as it starts to go bad.
You may also be able to detect a sour or “off” odor from a rotten egg. If you notice any unpleasant smells, the egg is likely no longer safe to consume.
Egg Safety Tips
Eggs are a delicious and nutritious food but can also be a source of foodborne illness if not handled properly. To ensure the safety of eggs, it is crucial to follow some basic safety tips.
First and foremost, always buy clean eggs from a reliable source sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case. Check for any chips or cracks in the eggshell before purchasing them. It is also essential to store eggs in their original carton in the refrigerator. This will help keep them fresh and prevent cross-contamination with other foods.
When preparing eggs, wash your hands and all utensils, equipment and surfaces that come into contact with raw eggs. Cook eggs thoroughly until both the yolk and white are firm. Avoid eating raw or undercooked eggs, as this can increase your risk of foodborne illness.
Finally, discard any cracked or dirty eggs immediately, as they may contain bacteria that could cause food poisoning. If you have any questions about egg safety, contact your local health department for more information.
Following these simple tips, you can enjoy delicious and safe meals made with eggs.