So you’ve had that carton of eggs sitting in your fridge for a while. You thought you would use them all, but you haven’t, and now you’re in the mood for breakfast food. The best-by date on the carton has passed, but does that really mean anything? Can you still go ahead and eat those eggs?
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to tell if eggs are bad as it is with other foods. With that loaf of bread, for example, you can just check for staleness or mold. The egg is a complete mystery — but it doesn’t have to be.
There are a few ways you can determine if your eggs are safe to eat, without putting your health at risk.
1. Check the Carton’s Hidden Code
Don’t even pay attention to that best-by date or sell-before date. There’s another, somewhat secret code on most cartons of eggs that gives you a little more useful information.
Check out the side of your egg carton for a long list of numbers, typically somewhere around that best-by or sell-before date. Take a gander at the last three digits in that long series of numbers. Got ‘em?Those three numbers tell you when the eggs were actually packed. However, the dates are Julian, meaning the numbers are going to be somewhere between 001 and 365, with, as you might guess, 001 meaning Jan. 1 and 365 meaning Dec. 31.
Calculate the month and day for that Julian date and then count ahead five weeks. Is that five-week date in the future, or has it passed?
If it’s passed, it’s a good rule of thumb to toss those eggs and go for some breakfast toast instead. If it’s in the future, though, you should be good to proceed.
2. Put Your Egg to the Test
Another easy, mess-free way to test your eggs’ freshness is to fill a glass or bowl with cold water and gently drop a few eggs in.
What do the eggs do?
If they sink, the eggs are good to go. This is true whether they sink and lay on their sides or sink and stand upright. The only difference is, if they lay on their sides, they’re definitely very fresh, but if they stand upright, they’re nearing the end of their life (but just not there yet — still totally edible!).
Of course, if the egg floats, toss it.
Why does this work and what does it mean? It’s a simple fact of science. Air permeates eggshells over time, so if an egg’s been sitting around too long, it’ll have enough air within to float.
3. Give It a Sniff
Of course, if you’ve already cracked your eggs, then you won’t be able to test your eggs’ buoyancy in a glass of water. So, simply give your eggs a sniff.
If the egg has any odor at all, toss it. Normal, safe eggs do not have an odor.
(And remember — thoroughly wash whatever you cracked the egg into, in order to remove any potentially dangerous germs.)
4. Give It a Good, Long Look
This is true for both cracked and whole eggs.
If you have yet to crack your egg, look for tell-tale signs that the egg may be on its last leg. If it has any cracks at all, throw it out. Also, look for slime or powder on the shell’s exterior, which might be a sign of some bacteria or mold.
After you’ve cracked your egg, you want to look for discoloration. Blue, green, black and even pink hues may show up in the yolk or whites, which, again, could be a sign of bacteria. If you spot any of this, toss it.
If you see any changes in egg consistency (maybe the yolk or whites are a little runnier than normal), that’s not necessarily a sign the egg’s gone bad, but just that the egg is a little on the older side.
5. Give It a Listen
Yes, even your ears can tell you something about the freshness of your eggs.
Hold your egg up to your ear and give it a firm shake. What do you hear?
If there’s some sloshing or swishing, the egg is likely bad. If, though, you hear nothing, your egg is most likely good.
6. Try an Old-Fashioned Technique
If you want to test your eggs the old-fashioned way, you can always try candling. It takes some practice, but it’s honestly kind of cool.
You’ll want to get a small light (like a flashlight or reading lamp) and then hold the large end of the egg to the light, tilting it and turning it quickly from side to side. If you get the movements correct, you’ll be able to see the insides of the egg illuminated by the backlighting.
But what are you looking for? You’re trying to determine how much air is in the egg. If the egg is still fresh, you’ll only be able to see an air pocket that’s about 1/8 of an inch. Of course, you could argue the float test is a much simpler way of determining how much air is an egg — but, then, it’s not as cool of a party trick.
What Can I Do with Eggs About to Go Bad?
Do you have eggs that are just on the cusp of going bad and you want to use them up, quick, but don’t really want to make that many scrambled eggs? Try a few of these recipes:
But How Can I Keep My Eggs From Going Bad in the First Place?
You can keep your eggs fresher, longer, through a few methods:
- Store your eggs on the bottom shelf of your fridge
- Coat your eggs with mineral oil (yes, really!)
- Freeze your cracked eggs for easy use whenever you need them
And if you still suspect you have some bad eggs, give them one of the tried and true tests above.
You might also be interested in: The 11 Best Hot Sauce Gifts [For Your Extra Spicy Friends]