Ten tips for using and storing eggs -- how to tell if they're fresh, when are older eggs better, and more.

Using and Storing Eggs

Eggs were one of my first “cooking” lessons.  While I don’t actually remember it, family lore says that when I was 2 or 3 years old, my mom was doing some baking and decided to show me how egg whites get fluffy when beaten.  Since my only sibling, a brother, is 16 years older than I and in college at the time, the real story is probably that she was trying to keep me occupied while she was baking.  She put a bowl on a coffee table where I could see it, separated the egg whites into it, and started up the electric mixer.  Apparently, I watched in awe, my eyes getting bigger and bigger as the egg whites got bigger and bigger!

In the 50+ years since that day, I’ve continued to learn about using and storing eggs!

10 Tips for Storing and Using Eggs

1.  Eggs only need to be refrigerated if they’ve already been refrigerated.  Learn more about storing eggs in Reducing What You Store in the Refrigerator or Ice Box.

2.  Two tests for determining if an egg is still good to use:

  • Put the whole egg into a glass of fresh water.  If the egg sinks and lies on its side, it’s “very fresh.” If it lies on an angle (as in the photo), it’s “fresh.”  If it stands on end with one end on the bottom, it’s still good but should be used reasonably soon.  And if it floats, it’s bad.
  • The smell test is simple.  Break the egg into a cup or small bowl.  If it stinks (a nasty sulphur smell), it’s bad.

3.  If you break an egg and notice that the sac encasing the yolk is disintegrating (which happens as it ages), it’s still fine to use the egg if it doesn’t stink.  You can’t use it for a fried egg, but it’s fine for scrambling or using in baking.

4.  Hate that green line around the yolk of hard-boiled eggs?  It’s caused by the yolk getting too hot.  Read how to boil eggs without a green line.

5.  Once hard-boiled, eggs shouldn’t be kept more than a day without refrigeration.  Cooking them changes the protein, I’m told.  Of course, the “official” line is that eggs should never be kept unrefrigerated — raw or hard-boiled — so I can’t get confirmation on this.

6.  Boiled eggs peel much more easily and neatly if you use older eggs.  Using “very fresh” eggs almost guarantees they won’t peel nicely.  Read more about how to make peeling hard boiled eggs easy.

7.  The more “done” a boiled egg is, the easier it is to peel.  Starting with eggs that are equally fresh, a hard-boiled egg will be easier to peel than a soft-boiled one.

8. To boil eggs without cracking the shell, put the eggs into room temperature water, then bring the eggs and water to a boil.  If you put a cold or room temperature egg into hot water, it’s almost certain to crack.

9.  Want to make half a batch of a recipe calling for an odd number of eggs?  Read how to have “half an egg.”

10.  Another use for older eggs is when you’re beating eggs whites (although the yolk sac has to be intact so that you can separate the eggs).  They’ll beat higher if older, and also if at room temperature.  Add a little salt when you begin beating them to firm up the protein, then as they begin to foam up, add just a touch of an acid to stabilize the foam:  cream of tartar is called for in most cookbooks but can be hard to find outside the US.  You can substitute a few drops of lemon juice, lime juice or white vinegar per egg.

And one final tip from a reader: Kim on SY Tompa says: “The best way to shell a boiled egg? Put it into a tall glass add a little water, place your hand over the mouth of the glass and shake vigorously – hey presto the shell just comes away!”

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  • ben
    Posted at 02 December 2011 Reply

    My background is to always refrigerate eggs. I’m an American, it’s what we do. But when I spent some time in The Philippines, most eggs come unrefrigerated.

    There are a few things about which I’m fuzzy regarding storing eggs. First, WHY does a previously refrigerated egg have to stay refrigerated? I don’t see how that particular temperature situation affects how easily it can be contaminated. I would think warm eggs would be more vulnerable to contamination because they spend more time at a temperature in which salmonella can grow.

    Second, is an old “inedible” egg harmful in itself if it’s not contaminated? or is it just that the proteins and sulfur compounds break down to make it nasty (but technically safe)? Being a single guy, I’ve eaten eggs that were way past their sell by date by a ridiculous margin with no ill effects, and no bad smells.

    Also, the reason to refrigerate hard boiled eggs is because of the cracking shell problem. Cooking an egg too fast has catastrophic cracks, but any cooking can make small or invisible cracks. It’s too easy to have microscopic cracks that are big enough for Salmonella to get in through. After all, even “gentle” cooking is by definition a pretty violent process.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 03 December 2011 Reply

      Hi Ben!

      With regard to why a previously refrigerated egg needs to stay refrigerated, it has to do with the change in temperature somehow facilitating any bacteria on the shell moving into the egg and contaminating it.

      As to an “inedible” egg, well . . . I’ve never even thought of trying to eat one once it got to the “small nasty” stage. I eat them all the time way, way past the “sell by” date with no problem, but if you crack a “floater” it’s going to smell nasty . . . and I just can’t imagine trying to eat it.


  • Elly
    Posted at 20 April 2012 Reply

    I used a lock & lock egg container once but after a few days found my eggs were moldy. I never used it again for storage and finally gave it away. I always store my eggs outside of my fridge in an plastic egg tray and make sure to buy non-refrigerated ones. I have been told turning them around every couple of days will keep them ‘fresh’ longer. I have kept eggs up to a month without having any bad ones, but only because I was in a remote area. I prefer to buy them fresh every week or so otherwise.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 20 April 2012 Reply

      If eggs are at all damp when you put them in a Lock & Lock container, they can mold . . . and it can happen in really humid places. Friends living on the edge of a rainforest used a tiny drill bit and made an air hole in the bottom and top of each egg space — it’s no longer mess-proof but elimated the mold problem. I’ve actually known of only a few people who have had a problem with mold developing on the eggs.

      Another help might be to wipe the outside of the eggs with a dilute bleach solution and then dry them before putting them in a container — that would kill any mold spores that might have gotten on them at the “egg factory” or in transit.

  • Steph Marsh
    Posted at 18 July 2012 Reply

    When a chicken lays an egg it has a membrane around it which helps to protect it from bacteria. If the egg is washed that is removed. Similarly if an egg is refrigerated in a shop and then bought and carried home at ambient temperature, condensation forms on the shell of the egg. This removes the protective coating therefore the egg has to go back into the fridge to maintain freshness. If you can buy eggs that have never been refrigerated they will last longer than all others.

    As a European it is normal to buy eggs from the shelf – I wouldn’t dream of buying them from the cooler. It is against European law to refrigerate eggs that are for sale.

  • Cyndy
    Posted at 20 July 2012 Reply

    one way to store unrefridgerated eggs is to wipe with a dilute bleach solution then coat lightly with mineral oil which restores the original “coating”. I have heard of unrefridgerated eggs being stored for up to 9 (yes, nine) months this way. I would still use the freshness test, of course, but this is a pioneer method that seems to work.

  • Anna
    Posted at 12 October 2012 Reply

    I think I’m going to put Cyndy’s suggested method to the test, I have heard it before, but just now thought I should test this out. I live in a traditional house with refrideration, but I’m going to try this out with a carton of eggs and water check one egg each month. If this holds true it will be a great help once we move onto the boat.

  • Terry Kennedy
    Posted at 12 November 2012 Reply

    Perhaps, you should consider using “waterglass” (sodium silicate solution). You can purchase it from 16 oz bottles to 55 gallon drums. A 16 oz bottle will make a gallon of liquid (mix with water at a 1:9 ratio) and it costs around $9.00 USD. You boil up the water and let it cool then mix in the waterglass. Put eggs into your container (Those plastic wide mouth gallon containers that condiments come in work great) and pour in the waterglass to cover the eggs by about 2″. The eggs will last 9 months or longer! This method will allow you to store approximately 9 dozen eggs for 9 months at a cost of a dollar a dozen. Way cheaper than a cage of hens strapped to your gunnel… Cheers, Capt. Terry

  • Wendy Kall
    Posted at 20 March 2014 Reply

    I was very excited to use the Lock n Lock egg containers for storing my large eggs. However, they molded in the unrefrigerated state. They literally had mold all over the outside. I did not use them but had to throw. I then decided I would have to use the Lock n Lock egg container in my frig to store eggs which defeated my purpose in getting the product. If I store outside without the lid, they will last fine but not on a passage, only at anchor. This was my experience.

  • Sailing with Totem
    Posted at 12 April 2014 Reply

    Yes you can. I love eggs! Must not run out of eggs!

  • Reggie
    Posted at 06 September 2016 Reply

    We have stored previously refrigerated refrigerated eggs for weeks unrefrigerated on our boat in Florida and the Bahamas. We have done this over several years when part time cruising. As I recall, i have only had three eggs go bad. Why have we done this? inability to find unrefrigerated eggs and not enough room in the frige for the dozens we buy.

  • -johnny
    Posted at 07 September 2016 Reply

    I can’t find the article on this, but as I recall in the USA there is a law that forces egg producers to wash eggs before they can be sold. This washes off bacteria on the shell that can cause diseases if the shell comes in contact with the rest of the egg or ingredients or even the hands of the cook. This washing requires refrigeration to help the eggs to last longer. The rest of the world do not wash their eggs and thus do not need to keep them refrigerated, and they also don’t last as long.

    • Ernie Lorimer
      Posted at 28 March 2017 Reply

      There was a recent article in the New York Times that explained this further. An egg is laid with a membrane which makes the shell less permeable to bacteria. As a way of preventing salmonella, US law requires egg producers to wash the eggs, which washes off the membrane. That in turn requires refrigeration for the eggs to keep.

      In the EU, it is the opposite. It is against the law to wash an egg for sale, so as to keep the membrane intact. That in turn allows eggs to be sold without refrigeration.

      Refrigerating and then not does have some effect, but what most people see is an effect, not a cause.

  • Mary Roth
    Posted at 10 September 2016 Reply

    My husband accidentally froze the eggs that were in our refrigerator while I was away from the boat. (refrigerator setting/fullness of refrigerator issue). He said he was able to fry them in their oval shape. Is there any information about freezing eggs and their usage with or without thawing?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 10 September 2016 Reply

      I don’t have any but I know that you can crack them and freeze them, so I don’t see why freezing in the shell would really be a problem other than a weird shape.

  • -johnny
    Posted at 17 November 2016 Reply

    This is a very easy to understand video about why some countries refrigerate eggs and others do not. I hope it is helpful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbqv1SuQJ0s

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