How to Tell If Eggs Are Still Good

Brown eggs
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Do you have a carton of eggs that have passed ​their use-by date? While it's usually safe to eat eggs for several weeks past their stamped expiration date, it's best to run a quick test to see if your eggs are still OK to eat. It only takes a few seconds, and could save you from throwing away perfectly good eggs (or eating something that you shouldn't).

The Egg Test

Fill a cup with cold water; then, drop an egg in. If it sinks to the bottom of the cup, it's still fresh. If the egg sinks to the bottom, but stands on its point, it's still good, but needs to be used soon. If the egg floats to the top, it's no longer fresh, and needs to be discarded. Repeat the test with the rest of the eggs in your carton. Don't assume that all of the eggs are good or bad just because one egg has tested that way.

Why This Works

Since egg shells are porous, the liquid inside the egg evaporates over time, and is replaced by outside air. This results in more buoyant eggs. So, when you place them in water, the fresher, heavier eggs sink to the bottom, while the older, lighter eggs float to the top. While this trick can help you to determine the freshness of eggs, you should still discard any eggs that have an odd appearance or odor, or that have been stored improperly—even if they passed the sink test. Saving a carton of eggs is not worth the risk of getting sick.

How Long Do Eggs Stay Good?

The Food and Drug Administration and Egg Safety Council both say a reasonable use-by date is four to five weeks after the eggs were packed. The Department of Agriculture requires all graded eggs to have their pack date stamped on the carton. You'll usually find it on one of the ends of the carton, near the sell-by or expiration date. 

But interpreting the pack date will take a bit of math. It's listed as a Julian date, so it will be a three-digit number. Jan. 1 would be listed as 001, and Dec. 31 would be listed as 365. You'll need to do some counting to figure out the pack date on your egg carton, but it's worth the effort. The pack date is a more reliable indication of freshness than the use-by or expiration date, so don't just chuck your eggs because the use-by date has passed.

Tip: If you don't want to crack the Julian date on your own, just do a web search to figure it out the date.

Keep Eggs Fresh Longer

If your eggs aren't staying fresh as long as you'd like, it could be the way you're storing them. Many refrigerators come equipped with egg compartments in the door, but that's actually the worst place in the fridge for them. Go figure! Store your eggs in the main part of the fridge, where it's colder and the temperature is more stable. This will extend the life of your eggs considerably.

Have chickens? Don't wash your eggs until you're ready to use them. They have a covering, known as bloom, that protects them from bacteria and keeps them fresh. Leave eggs unwashed until you're ready to cook them, and your home-grown eggs should outlast grocery store varieties.

Egg Tips

  • If you have more eggs than you can use up in a reasonable amount of time, just freeze your extra eggs to extend their shelf life. They'll cook up just like fresh eggs.
  • Once you're finished with your eggs, use the eggshells in your garden. They're an excellent fertilizer, and can even help to keep pests away.
  • If you run out of eggs—or you find that the eggs you just tested are no longer any good—there are plenty of good egg substitutes that you can use, until you're able to get to the grocery store for another carton.
  • Ever cracked an egg and found a blood spot in the yolk? While you'd probably think that's cause for throwing the egg away, it's actually perfectly safe to eat. Knowing that may just save you from tossing out a nearly-completed dish that you're working on.