How can you tell a bad -- that is, rotten -- egg? A quick photo reference that will keep you from stinking up the kitchen!

A Bad Egg

Do you know how to tell if an egg is rotten? There are two ways that I know of:

  • crack it open and see if it reeks of sulphur — a rotten egg really does smell awful.
  • put it in water and see if it floats — the decidedly less stinky alternative.

I admit, all too often I just assume that all my eggs will be good. If it occurs to me that I have some old eggs, then I test them.

Last weekend I was making potato salad. I didn’t really think about how fresh — or not — my eggs were as I put them in the pan and covered them with water. As I started to put the lid on the pan, it hit me: two of the eggs were floating with their tops out of the water.

When eggs float, they are rotten. Throw them away!

I pushed them underwater just to be sure. Yep, they were floating.

I took one and put it in a glass of water — just to get a better view. Very obviously floating.

Floating eggs are bad eggs. As in rotten eggs.

It hit me that when I’m already putting eggs into a pan with water to boil them, it was an automatic way to check if they were still good. I just had to remember to look at them!

I carefully packed the bad eggs into cans in the trash, using some paper scraps to pad them. I really, really didn’t want them to crack on the way to the trash!

I discovered a couple more bad eggs in the carton and it finally hit me to look at the date on the carton. The “use by” date was six weeks ago. Hmm. But 5 of the 9 eggs in the carton still passed the float test and I used them, proving that eggs aren’t always bad just because they’re past their “use by” date.

Boiled eggs

How can you tell a bad -- that is, rotten -- egg? A quick photo reference that will keep you from stinking up the kitchen!

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  • Paul Schroder
    Posted at 05 April 2017 Reply

    Just curious< were you using refrigerated eggs?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 05 April 2017 Reply

      Yes, but they were pretty old — about 6 weeks past their “best by” date!

  • Brian Kepner
    Posted at 05 April 2017 Reply

    I wonder if sailors ever get fertilized eggs and end up having them hatch?

  • Max
    Posted at 06 April 2017 Reply

    Non-refrigerated eggs have lasted as many as three months for me. I just turn them every day or so to keep the sunny side up so to speak. non-refrigerated and unwashed work best for this trick, they’re just kept in a cool, non-refrigerated dry place out of direct sun where I’ll remember to turn them. I’ll buy them from the local farmers market when available. Nature is miraculous and takes care of it’s own.

    Can’t do this with store bought eggs for nearly as long, but as you’ve discovered you can purchase “aging inventory” at a discount and still rely upon a degree of freshness. Rule of thumb is once ‘fridged, always ‘fridged. I like the float test as I’ve taken to opening eggs into a separate container instead of directly into the mix. You’ll save me a bit of worry knowing that if they float they’ll stink up the boat.



    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 06 April 2017 Reply

      Yep! And I do know several people who don’t refrigerate eggs that were refrigerated in the store. Yes, it’s riskier but I’ve done it when there wasn’t another option. Turning daily helps as it keeps the inner membrane moist, which in turn keeps bacteria out.

  • Barbara Campbell
    Posted at 06 April 2017 Reply

    My Mom taught me to NEVER crack an egg in to a recipe. She taught us to crack it into a cup or bowl. first. Then. take a look and a smell, and if it seems OK, THEN add it to your recipe. Then, go on and do the same for each egg used in the recipe. This way, if you get a ‘bad egg’ you haven’t spoiled the recipe, by adding it. This is for adding raw eggs. The ‘Floaters’ test is the best for in-the-shell eggs.
    We also used a permanent marker to make a mark (an ‘X’ or a short line) on the shells of older eggs, when adding newer ones. This way, the older eggs were easily found and used up first.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 06 April 2017 Reply

      I’ve written before about cracking eggs into a small cup or bowl. Good idea on putting Xs on older ones!

  • Tom Johnson
    Posted at 11 April 2017 Reply

    One reason eggs from a farmers market may last longer is they haven’t been washed. Washing eggs is illegal in Europe for the same reason. There is a thin membrane outside the shell which protects the egg. That way, a hen can lay eggs until she has a good clutch and then sit on them to hatch all at the same time. With care, some eggs can be stored up to 9 months using some “old fashioned” techniques.

  • Brian Ross
    Posted at 11 April 2017 Reply

    Carolyn, Great article. Have been using farm fresh eggs for years, and thought I would pass along a little info on the US egg industry. Most eggs when they first hit the store are a month old due to the “manufacturing” process used by commercial egg farmers. They are also washed which takes off the protective covering that seals the eggs when laid and prevents them from spoiling. The use by date is set to 2 weeks. If they are not sold by then, they are returned to a DC center, float tested for spoilage and if they pass, they are repackaged and sent back to the grocery store with a 2 week use by date. This process continues until they are sold or the eggs go bad.

    One thing you can do to help eggs last longer is wipe the shell with mineral oil. We do that with our farm eggs which are usually a week or so old when we pick them up. This helps to seal the pores to prevent air from entering the egg. We have had eggs last 3-6 months – store bought eggs will also last longer, especially if refrigerated – you should be able to get at least 2 months out of them.

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