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Storing eggs

looking down on a box of eggs all colours

Yesterday I was browsing a site, helping out by answering questions on topics I’ve been training on. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon an interesting question about eggs that caught my attention. Here’s what the subscriber asked:

β€œI put an egg on the counter to come to room temp so that I could try making the mayo. However, it was a few hours later before I could get around to actually making the mayo. By a few hours, I mean 9 hours. πŸ™ These are your average grocery store eggs… is that too long, should I toss the egg? Thanks!”

One response went like this:

Purchase by the 18th December for Xmas delivery

β€œI would not eat it. Just use another egg and let it sit for about 30 min.”

As I read on, I saw more people advising her to toss the egg, saying it wouldn’t be safe and that’s what they’d do in her situation. This made me cringe a little, and I couldn’t help but wonder: how many people are missing out on some simple egg facts?

I’m not trying to be a smarty pants, I’ve owned chickens, and as a chef/pastry chef, I work with eggs nearly every day and have been trained on their ins and outs and storage. That’s why I know more about these humble, protein-packed orbs than the lady who asked the question. Regardless, I felt compelled to share some egg wisdom with her and everyone else in the dark.

What I know about eggs

Let’s start with the carton

eggs in an egg carton
A few eggs in a carton

Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s delve deeper into some fascinating egg facts that may change how you handle them. Did you know the humble egg carton serves more purposes than just protecting during transportation? Sure, the carton’s primary job is to keep the eggs safe, but there’s more to the story.

Egg cartons are also designed to minimize water loss from the eggs and prevent cross-contamination of unwanted flavours from other foods lurking in your fridge. No wonder the industry has long stuck with this classic carton design! Although you might come across foamy cartons or plastic trays holding larger eggs, they don’t do the job either. So, you’ll likely continue to reach for those standard old-style cartons when you shop for eggs.

Speaking of shopping, have you ever wondered how to store eggs once you bring them home? When you purchase eggs from the supermarket, they are almost always refrigerated. If they’re not, it’s probably winter, and the eggs should be cool. Before arriving at the store, eggs are kept in cold storage, which can sometimes cause problems.

Here’s the deal: If an egg has been refrigerated and you take it out, allowing it to come to room temperature, you shouldn’t put it back in the fridge. Use it up instead. Constantly moving eggs in and out of the fridge can cause them to “sweat,” which may lead to freshness issues.

How to store eggs at home

So, what’s the best practice for storing supermarket eggs? If they were in the fridge at the store, keep them refrigerated at home. If they were on a shelf at the store, leave them out at home (unless your kitchen is particularly warm) and use them more quickly. In a nutshell, it’s best to store supermarket eggs in the fridge once you get home, just to be safe.

And just in case you’re interested, here are some fun things you can do with excess egg cartons.

eggs in a cardboard packing tray
Eggs sold by the tray

What exactly is a fresh egg?

So, now that we’ve covered proper storage let’s talk about freshness. What exactly constitutes a fresh egg? Fresh eggs can be kept refrigerated, in their carton, for up to 6 weeks – pretty much from the day they were laid. If you’re buying them from the supermarket, keep in mind that many of these eggs will have been in cold storage for up to 4 weeks before they even make it to the deli cabinet. Store them in the fridge and use the “best before date” as a guide to ensure freshness.

But what if you prefer to store your eggs on the kitchen counter? That’s fine, as long as you use them more quickly and ensure your kitchen remains cool. I keep eggs on the counter during winter at the cooking school where I teach. When purchasing between 120 and 150 eggs at a time, cramming them into the fridge is unnecessary, as they’d take up valuable space.

However, I store my eggs in the fridge during summer to maintain their freshness. I also used to get free-range eggs delivered to my door, which have been laid within the week. My students, who have been taking these eggs home, absolutely love them.

7 eggs in an enameled bowl
Eggs in a bowl (breakfast, anyone?)

Now let’s talk about the eggshell and the significance of its natural coating. When you buy eggs from the store, they’ve likely been washed or wiped with a damp cloth or brush, and some producers even use a mild bleach solution. Since we don’t know which eggs have undergone this treatment, treating them all the same, is best.

Here’s an interesting fact: eggs are laid with a protective natural coating called a “bloom.” Nature truly is amazing. Keeping their nesting boxes clean is essential if you have your own chickens, and you won’t have to worry about cleaning the eggshells. If you happen to find a dirty egg, wash it and use it first.

When you buy eggs from a farmer’s market, it’s hard to tell if they’ve been washed or not. Eggs with their bloom intact will last much longer than washed ones. Once the bloom is removed, storing the eggs in a cold place is best – I recommend the egg carton and the fridge, especially during warmer weather.

How to tell if an egg is fresh

Some of you might remember this little science experiment from high school home economics class. If you’re unsure about the freshness of an egg, half-fill a large glass or bowl with cold tap water. Gently lower the egg into the water; if it floats, discard it. If it sinks to the bottom, it’s still good to use. Here’s the science behind this test: as an egg ages, its insides shrink due to water loss (remember the egg carton’s role in minimizing this?), creating an air pocket. When the air pocket is large enough to make the egg float, it’s no longer safe to eat. How cool is it that eggs come with their own built-in test kit?

When handling eggs, always exercise caution. If I pick up an egg with a visible crack and signs of leakage, I toss it. If it has a fine hairline crack, I’ll either perform the glass test or discard it. I don’t take any unnecessary risks in my kitchen. Remember the adage: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

Hopefully, I’ve been able to help you understand a bit more about egg storage, freshness, and safety so you can confidently use eggs in your kitchen; after all, they are a kitchen staple.

Now surely you need a recipe or two?

And for those of you that need some help with egg replacements. Here check our Free eBook out.

8 Comments

  1. The WA Egg Board used to promote eggs with information. One piece was storing an egg out of the fridge is equivalent to a week in the fridge.

  2. Thanks Bec – I buy off the shelf & leave in the carton on the bench once home (but do refrigerate in summer as I’m in Qld). However when travelling in our RV I have to store in the fridge for safety

  3. I have never seen eggs in a refrigerated section of a supermarket, they are always in the same aisle as the flour/sugar baking aisle. I keep chickens and store most of the eggs in the fridge but do have some out on bench for baking

    1. Hi Sue, I suppose it depends on where you live. Here in Melbourne a few years back a rule must have been passed to keep them in a refrigerated area at the major supermarkets. That seems to be where they’re always found at least where I live. I do know they’re also kept in cold storage before they get to the supermarket so that might be another reason. Sweating etc.

      Where do you live?

      Regards Bec

      1. Hi Bec, I live in Gympie Queensland. I have never understood why they aren’t kept refrigerated in Queensland. Perhaps the laws/regulations are different here. One would think in our climate they would be refrigerated though.

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