How to Tell if Eggs Are Bad
Posted on: December 29th 2022
Have you ever cracked an egg into a bowl of ingredients only to question whether the egg has gone bad or not? Like other perishable foods, eggs can eventually spoil. However, it can be tricky to rely solely on the eyes to figure out whether an egg is bad or not, and the nose can’t always detect freshness either.
Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to determine whether your eggs are safe to eat. You can also take several steps to prevent them from going bad. But it’s not just about correctly storing your eggs — where you purchase them and the actions you take until you cook with them are just as important.
Keep reading to learn how to tell if eggs are good or bad, proper storage methods, and how to shop for good quality eggs.
1. The Sink Test
The sink test is an easy way to determine whether you’re dealing with a rotten egg. Egg shells are porous, meaning that air can easily penetrate them. Therefore, the older the egg, the more air inside it. After enough time has passed, your eggs might have enough air to make them float. While the sink test does not determine whether an egg has gone bad, it can provide a helpful indication of the age of an egg.
To conduct a sink test, fill a bowl or cup with water and ensure it is big enough to submerge the egg entirely. Gently place the egg inside to see whether it sinks or floats. If it sinks, then it’s likely safe enough to eat. If it floats, however, it’s old, and you’ll want to discard it. If the egg sinks and stands straight up, it’s likely not fresh but still edible. An egg that sinks and falls to its side is at its prime and safe to eat.
However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), an egg that floats may still be safe to eat. You can further test the egg by cracking it open and checking for a rotting smell and visible signs of contamination.
2. The Shake Test
Another easy test you might perform to tell if eggs are good or bad is a shake test. Simply hold the egg to your ear and shake it. If you don’t hear anything, your egg is likely okay to eat. If you hear a rattle or the sound of liquid moving around, the egg white has deteriorated, deeming it no longer fresh and firm but old and watery.
However, USDA does not endorse this test to determine freshness as they do the sink test. A more reliable indicator is cracking open the egg to test for smells and other signs of contamination.
3. The Sniff Test
If the egg doesn’t pass the sniff test, it’s best to throw it away. When cracked on a clean plate, eggs should have a neutral odor — not a strong smell like sulfur, gas or sour notes. Discard the egg and wash the plate thoroughly if you detect any pungency. A foul smell indicates a bad egg, according to the USDA. The odor will be present even if you have already cooked the egg.
In some cases, when an egg is old or spoiled, you might even smell the unpleasant odor before cracking it open. The sniff test is very reliable, so it’s always best to smell your egg before using it to ensure it’s safe to eat.
4. The Candling Method
The candling method is another easy way to determine the quality of an egg. It involves using bright light to detect signs of cracking or internal defects in an egg. Egg producers often use conveyer belts and mechanical sensors to examine many eggs quickly and efficiently. However, you can also perform candling at home by holding an egg to a bright light, such as a lamp or a strong flashlight in a darkened room.
Once held to the light, you should be able to see the air cell inside the egg. The cell will appear as a small bubble or sac, usually visible on the large end of the egg. The egg is still fresh if the cell is less than an eighth of an inch deep. So, the larger the air sac, the older the egg. Like the sink test, candling will only determine the freshness of an egg and will not confirm whether it is safe to eat.
5. Visual Signs an Egg Is Going Bad
Sometimes an egg will look or feel different than usual. At that point, you should check for visible signs of contamination or rottenness. Discard an egg that has any of the following characteristics:
- Cracks in the shell
- A powdery substance on the shell
- A shell that looks or feels slimy
A slimy or cracked egg could mean that it is contaminated with bacteria. At the same time, a powdery substance on the shell could indicate mold. If the covering is intact with no apparent signs of contamination, damage, or foul odor, you should open the egg. If you find any signs of discoloration, whether pink, iridescent, green egg whites, or yolk, it’s best to discard the egg.
Also, be sure to quickly examine your eggs in the carton before purchasing them. If you find any that are leaking or cracked, choose a different pack.
6. Crack the Egg
The best way to find out if you have a rotten egg is by cracking it open. Examine the color and thickness of the egg white and yolk. A fresh egg should have a bright orange or yellow yolk and a thick egg white that doesn’t spread far. If something is off, the yolk will appear flat and discolored, and you’ll smell an unpleasant odor after cracking the egg open.
You can tell if egg whites are bad by their color. If the egg isn’t clear or cloudy white, it might be spoiled. If the egg white is green or iridescent, it might contain harmful bacteria, deeming it unsafe to use. However, eggs that develop a green ring on a hard-cooked yoke after cooking are safe to eat. The green color is often from overcooking the egg or high iron content in the water.
A runny egg white could also signify that the egg is no longer good. While this does not necessarily mean it is unsafe to eat, it can affect its taste and cooking properties. Just be sure to examine for any other signs of rottenness, such as an off-odor or strange appearance, before deciding to use it or throw it away.
How to Tell if Hard-Boiled Eggs Are Bad
Hard-boiled eggs are packed with protein and are a great snack to have around. You might put them in a salad or sandwich as part of a nutritious, balanced meal. Still, they have a shorter shelf life than fresh eggs.
After boiling your eggs, ensure that you label and date them. If they are older than the date you mark them, they are likely spoiled and should be thrown away. If the yolk is watery or gray, the egg is likely rotten. A slimy or chalky shell can indicate bacteria or mold growth, while a brown shell is a sign of spoilage.
If any of these signs are present, toss the egg to be safe. And as stated, a foul odor is also a sign of rottenness, so you should discard the hard-boiled egg to avoid getting sick.
How to Properly Store Eggs
Eggs have a long shelf life as long as you refrigerate them properly. The best way to store eggs is to keep them in their original carton, placing them in the refrigerator immediately after purchase. Cartons reduce water loss and protect flavors from other foods being absorbed into the eggs. Storing the eggs loosely or in a specific section of your fridge is not recommended since it can expose the eggs to damage. Egg shells are porous and the carton protects your eggs from contamination.
Rather than storing your eggs on the inside of the fridge door, place them in the coldest section, usually the middle or bottom shelf. The entry is the warmest part of your fridge, as it’s exposed to ambient temperature every time you open it. So, reducing how often you open and close your fridge also reduces spoilage from frequent temperature changes.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends keeping the temperature of your fridge at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to slow the growth of bacteria.
At the same time, hard-boiled eggs have a shorter shelf life than raw eggs and will need to be stored differently. When boiled, the egg loses its protective outer coating. As a result, it becomes more porous and susceptible to bacteria and other contaminants.
To store hard-boiled eggs, keep them in a covered airtight container or resealable bag. If you’ve already peeled your eggs, you can keep them moist by covering them with a damp power towel above and below before storing them in the container. You might also freeze the cooked yolks and use them as a tasty garnish on different dishes.
What Happens if You Eat a Bad Egg
If you eat a bad egg, you’re at risk for a foodborne illness caused by Salmonella Enteritidis (SE), a bacterium that can grow both on the shell and inside the yolk and egg white. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food poisoning symptoms can develop between 6 hours and 6 days after eating a contaminated egg. They may last between four and seven days. Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal cramps
In most cases, these symptoms go away without antibiotics. However, those with serious symptoms may require hospitalization. Salmonella infection is often more dangerous among certain groups of people, including:
- Children younger than 5 years old
- Adults 65 and older
- People with weakened immune systems, such as people who are living with HIV, those receiving chemotherapy, or people who have gotten an organ transplant
Not everyone who eats a spoiled egg will experience a Salmonella infection. You can take steps to reduce the risk of getting it by:
- Washing your hands and any objects that come into contact with the raw or spoiled eggs
- Keep eggs refrigerated
- Discard eggs after the expiration date
- Discard any eggs with cracked shells
- Cook eggs thoroughly, so both the yolk and white are firm
- Use pasteurized eggs for dishes that require raw or lightly cooked eggs
How to Shop for Good Eggs
You’ll want to look for a few things when buying eggs. Eggs you find on the shelves of grocery stores go through a stringent USDA inspection process. As well as being inspected for quality, they must also meet strict transportation standards to ensure their safety.
Still, it’s essential to know how to shop for good eggs. Here are some tips you can follow:
- Consider refrigeration: To ensure the safety of your eggs, always purchase them from a refrigerated case. Eggs typically arrive at stores in vehicles that maintain a temperature no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent salmonella and other foodborne illnesses.
- Check for cracks: Open the egg carton to inspect for breakage or cracks at the grocery store. Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells since salmonella can get into the interior if cracked.
- Look for the USDA-grade shield on the carton: If you see the USDA shield, that means the specific eggs received a grade for consistency, meeting strict quality standards set by the USDA. An egg’s highest grade is an AA, meaning the eggs have thick, firm whites and a high, round yolk.
- Check the date: The “use by,” “use before,” or “best before” date indicates a period you should eat the eggs before the quality diminishes.
Do not let your eggs sit in a hot car for long after purchasing them. Also, be sure not to leave them out over two hours at room temperature or more than an hour in temperatures 90 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. As soon as you get home, immediately store your eggs in the refrigerator to help them stay fresh and safe to eat.
Where to Shop for Good Eggs
You can shop for good eggs at Sauder Eggs. We have standards in place to ensure our farms provide only the highest quality eggs — those that offer nutritional value and taste excellent. We also adhere to standards to ensure our eggs and egg products are safe to consume.
We conduct quality tests on the farm two to three times during the flock’s life to ensure no salmonella is present. If we find SE, we test the eggs themselves to make sure salmonella is not present. Using the most innovative and latest technology to process our eggs ensures they are top quality.
Federal and State governments have strict regulations for egg producers, and our handling and testing procedures will always meet or exceed these standards. Our egg candling systems verify our eggs are crack-free and clean, and we also use automated egg processing equipment to preserve their freshness before delivering them to stores.
Sauder doesn’t just rely on our own tests — we also turn to independent laboratories and technicians to inspect our eggs and prepare accurate reports. Additionally, every farm in our network has refrigeration units onsite. After eggs are gathered, they’re refrigerated and transported to maintain FDA-required storage conditions.
We also print the use-by date on every one of our Sauder-branded egg cartons, ensuring that you know when you choose a carton of eggs, you’re getting the freshest quality available.
Check the Packing and Expiration Dates
Checking the expiration date on your egg carton is the best way to shop for fresh eggs that are safe to eat. But, if you’re past the expiration date by just a few days, that doesn’t necessarily mean the eggs are rotten and should be thrown away.
You might notice a “sell by” label, which indicates the length of time the store should sell the eggs, not whether the eggs have gone bad. In general, retailers shouldn’t sell eggs after 30 days of being packaged. The expiration dates let you know if the eggs you’re about to purchase are still fresh. Each day past the expiration date is another day of the eggs losing freshness.
The “pack date” is also present on egg cartons and is required by the USDA for graded eggs. This is the date the eggs received their grade and were washed and packaged. If your eggs are within the “sell by” or expiration date or within 21 to 30 days of the pack date, they’re likely safe to eat.
How to Safely Prepare Eggs
There are other simple steps you can take to prepare your eggs and ensure they are safe to eat. These include:
- Wash any utensils, equipment, and countertops with hot, soapy water before and after they come in contact with eggs.
- Raw eggs and other ingredients should be combined according to the recipe directions and cooked immediately or refrigerated and cooked within 24 hours.
- Always cook your eggs until the yolk and white are firm unless they are pasteurized eggs.
- Dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a food thermometer to ensure the internal temperature is met.
- Serve cooked eggs and dishes as soon as possible after cooking or refrigerate quickly for later use.
- Do not keep eggs outside the refrigerator for more than two hours — If a recipe calls for room temperature eggs, only leave them out for a maximum of two hours.
- Use any leftover cooked eggs or egg dishes within three to four days.
How Long Can You Keep Eggs Before They Go Bad?
According to the USDA, you can keep eggs in the refrigerator for three to five weeks. Even if the sell-by date expires during that time, they may still be safe to eat. When stored properly, you can safely keep unpeeled, hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator for approximately one week. Peeled hard-boiled eggs can last for up to five days. Just ensure you refrigerate the eggs within two hours of cooking to keep your eggs safe to eat.
The Best Quality Eggs From Sauder Eggs
How eggs are processed plays a significant role in their freshness, quality, and safety. We use the latest technology at Sauder Eggs to keep our eggs safe and top-quality. We are committed to exceeding customer expectations on taste and freshness, offering the energy and high protein you need for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.