Eggs are a versatile and nutritious food that can be prepared in many different ways. However, proper storage is important to keep eggs safe and fresh. There are a few key factors to consider when deciding where to store eggs.
Should eggs be stored in the refrigerator?
Yes, eggs should always be stored in the refrigerator. Refrigeration is important for food safety, as it slows bacterial growth. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends storing eggs at a temperature of 40°F or below to prevent Salmonella growth. Specifically, eggs should be placed in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not on the door where the temperature fluctuates.
Why refrigerate eggs?
There are two main reasons why proper refrigeration is critical for eggs:
- Slows bacterial growth – Salmonella and other bacteria grow best at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F. Keeping eggs refrigerated at 40°F or below prevents ideal conditions for bacterial growth.
- Preserves freshness – Refrigeration preserves the quality and freshness of eggs by slowing the loss of moisture and carbon dioxide through the shell. This keeps the yolk firm and centered and the white thick.
What temperature should the refrigerator be?
The refrigerator temperature should be set to 40°F or below to safely store eggs and prevent bacterial growth. Here are some tips to keep your refrigerator at the proper temperature:
- Use an appliance thermometer to monitor the actual temperature inside the unit.
- Make sure to regularly check and clean the seals around the refrigerator door.
- Don’t overcrowd the refrigerator, as this reduces air circulation.
- Adjust the temperature controls as needed to maintain a temperature of 40°F or below.
Where in the refrigerator should eggs be kept?
The optimal place to store eggs is in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which is at the back on the bottom shelf. Avoid storing eggs:
- On the door – where the temperature fluctuates as the door is opened.
- Near the cooling vents – where they may freeze.
- On the top shelf – where it is warmer.
The back bottom shelf maintains a more consistent cold temperature suited for egg storage.
Should the egg carton be kept open or closed?
Eggs should be kept in the closed carton in the refrigerator. Here are some reasons why:
- Prevents moisture loss – The carton helps retain moisture and prevents eggs from drying out.
- Protects from odors – The carton forms a barrier between eggs and strong odors from other foods like onions and fish.
- Helps maintain quality – Keeping eggs in the carton helps preserve the thick white and centered yolk.
- Holds eggs securely – The closed carton keeps eggs from rolling around and cracking.
How long are eggs good for in the refrigerator?
According to the USDA, eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for:
- Raw whole eggs in shell – 3 to 5 weeks from the day they are placed in the refrigerator.
- Raw yolks – 2 to 4 days.
- Raw whites – 4 to 5 days.
- Hard cooked eggs – 1 week.
The expiration date on the carton can also be used as a guide for maximum freshness. However, eggs may still be used for cooking and baking several weeks beyond this date.
How can you test if eggs are still good?
There are a few simple ways to test if eggs are still good beyond the expiration date:
- Float test – Place the egg in water. If it sinks, it is still fresh. If it floats, it is past its prime.
- Visual test – Check for signs of spoilage like discoloration, sliminess, or an off-odor when cracking open.
- Shake test – Gently shake the egg. If you cannot feel or hear the yolk moving, the egg is past its prime.
Are egg storage methods like water glass effective?
Some people use alternative storage methods like covering eggs with mineral oil or water glass solution to store eggs at room temperature. However, refrigeration is still the best and safest storage method. The USDA recommends against relying on alternative egg storage methods.
Here are some downsides to these alternative storage methods:
- Bacteria can still grow – Salmonella and other bacteria may still multiply even in cooled water glass or oil.
- Air pocket increases – An air pocket develops causing the egg to float.
- Quality decreases – The whites thin out and yolks flatten.
How should you handle eggs safely?
To prevent foodborne illness when handling eggs:
- Wash hands and cookware thoroughly before and after contact.
- Cook eggs fully until both yolks and whites are firm.
- Serve cooked eggs immediately or refrigerate within 2 hours.
- Use separated eggs within 2 days.
- Clean up any spilled raw egg thoroughly.
Can eggs be stored at room temperature?
Eggs should never be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Leaving eggs out for longer allows bacteria to multiply rapidly. Room temperature storage is unsafe according to the USDA.
If eggs are accidentally left out overnight or for many hours:
- Use them quickly in dishes that will be thoroughly cooked like casseroles or baked goods.
- Or throw them out to be safe.
Do not try to re-refrigerate eggs left at room temperature for too long.
Can eggs be stored in the freezer?
Whole raw eggs in the shell should not be frozen, according to the USDA. However, raw yolks and whites can be frozen separately:
- Egg yolks – 12 months.
- Egg whites – 1 year.
It is best to freeze extra whites and yolks in an airtight container allowing headspace. Thaw in the refrigerator before use.
Can hard boiled eggs be refrigerated?
Yes, hard boiled eggs can be refrigerated and will keep for about 1 week after cooking. Be sure to cool hard boiled eggs thoroughly before refrigerating them. It is also important to properly handle and prepare hard boiled eggs to prevent spoilage or illness:
- Store in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking.
- Use clean cookware and cooking water.
- Cook until yolks and whites are firm.
- Cool eggs by running under cold water.
- Crack shells after cooling to prevent green yolks.
Proper refrigeration is essential for egg safety and quality. Always store eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator in their original carton. Try to use refrigerated eggs within 3 to 5 weeks for the best quality and follow safe handling practices. While alternative egg storage methods exist, refrigeration is still the best way to store eggs.