In the US, eggs are considered a perishable item.
This means they must be kept in the refrigerator to prevent them from going bad.
However, eggs can last for a surprisingly long time when they’re stored properly. In fact, if you throw eggs out as soon as their expiration date arrives, you may be wasting money.
This article covers everything you need to know about how long eggs last before going bad.
In the US and certain other countries, including Australia, Japan, Sweden and the Netherlands, eggs require refrigeration.
This is because eggs in these countries are washed and sanitized soon after they are laid in an attempt to prevent contamination with Salmonella, the bacteria often responsible for food poisoning from poultry products.
Yet in addition to removing bacteria, washing an egg may damage its naturally protective cuticle. This can make it easier for bacteria to move through the shell and contaminate the egg.
The presence of bacteria inside an egg is what eventually causes it to “go bad,” or rot.
However, keeping an egg at refrigerator temperatures (below 40°F, or 4°C) slows the growth of bacteria and helps prevent it from penetrating the shell.
In fact, refrigeration is so effective at controlling the growth of bacteria that in combination with an egg’s protective shell and enzymes, refrigerated eggs rarely go bad — as long as they have been handled and stored properly.
Nevertheless, egg quality declines over time. This means that the air pocket in an egg grows larger and the yolk and whites become thinner and less springy. Eventually, it may simply dry up instead of going bad.
Despite these changes, an egg may remain perfectly safe to eat for a long time (7).
Eggs won’t stay good forever though, and there is a point at which you’ll want to throw them away.
If eggs have been transported and stored properly, they can last for many weeks in the refrigerator and even longer in the freezer.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all eggs to be kept below 45°F (7°C) from the time they are washed until they are purchased — but it’s just as important that eggs are handled and stored properly after you’ve bought them.
This means you should refrigerate eggs quickly to prevent condensation from building up, which can facilitate the movement of bacteria through the shell.
Ideally, eggs should be stored in their original carton in the back of the fridge. This prevents them from absorbing odors and protects them from temperature fluctuations as the refrigerator door is opened and closed.
You can also use a thermometer to check that your refrigerator is at the proper temperature (below 40°F or 4°C).
This chart explains how long eggs can be stored before going bad or becoming so low in quality (taste and texture) that it’s best to throw them out.
|In-shell egg, fresh||Less than 2 hours in the U.S., Japan, Australia, Sweden or the Netherlands; 1–3 weeks in other countries||4–5 weeks||Not recommended|
|Raw egg yolks||Less than 2 hours||2–4 days||1 year for best quality|
|Raw egg whites||Less than 2 hours||2–4 days||1 year for best quality|
|Hard-boiled egg||Less than 2 hours||1 week||Not recommended|
|Egg substitute or pasteurized liquid eggs||Less than 2 hours||10 days unopened, 3 days after opening||Up to 1 year for best quality; not recommended if opened|
|Eggnog||Less than 2 hours||3–5 days if bought, 2–4 days if homemade||6 months; not recommended to freeze homemade eggnog|
|Casseroles||Less than 2 hours||3–4 days||2–3 months once baked|
|Pies or quiches||Less than 2 hours||3–4 days||1–2 months once baked; not recommended for pies with custard filling|
It is not recommended to freeze eggs in the shell. If you want to preserve them for longer than the recommended 4–5 weeks in the fridge, you can crack them into a freezer-safe container and keep them frozen for a year or more.
Eggs can be stored in the freezer indefinitely, but their quality will start to decline after a certain point. Additionally, make sure your freezer is below 0° F (-18° C).
When you’re ready to use them, move the container to the refrigerator to thaw and use within one week.
If you live outside of the US in a country where hens are vaccinated against Salmonella and eggs are not washed and refrigerated, eggs can safely be kept at room temperature for 1–3 weeks, if desired.
However, after about 1 week at room temperature, the eggs’ quality will begin to decline. And after about 21 days, an egg’s natural defenses will lose their effectiveness.
Eggs can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer after this point to extend their shelf life, but they will not last as long as eggs that have been kept in the refrigerator from purchase.
If you live in the US or another country where eggs must be refrigerated, eggs should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
If you’re not sure how long your eggs have been in the fridge, there are several ways to tell whether they are still good or not.
The first step should be to check the sell-by or expiration date printed on the carton. If the current date is before this date, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Alternatively, look for the pack date.
This will be printed as a 3-digit number that corresponds to the day of the year that the eggs were washed and packaged. For example, January 1 is 001. If the eggs are less than 30 days from the pack date, you can be sure they’re still good.
However, your eggs may still be good for up to several weeks beyond these dates. In this case, the best way to tell if an egg has gone bad is to conduct a sniff test.
Other methods, such as candling or the float test, can only tell you if an egg is fresh but not if it has gone bad.
Before conducting a sniff test, check if the shell has any cracks or a powdery or slimy appearance. If so, toss the egg. If everything looks good, crack the egg open on a clean, white plate before using. Check for any discoloration or a funny smell.
An egg that has gone bad will give off an unmistakable odor. If everything looks normal and the egg has no smell, then it is fine to use.
However, it’s important to note that eggs contaminated with the bacteria Salmonella may look and smell completely normal, even though they can make you sick.
Therefore, be sure to cook eggs to a safe internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) in order to kill any bacteria that may be present.
Read this article to find out more about how to tell if an egg is good or bad.
If your eggs are not the freshest but haven’t gone bad, there are certain ways to best use them. Likewise, there are certain uses better reserved for fresh eggs.
Older eggs are ideal for boiling. As an egg ages and its air pocket gets larger, it becomes easier to peel. Older eggs are a good choice for hard-boiled eggs, deviled eggs or egg salad.
Older eggs can also be used for scrambled eggs, omelets, casseroles or quiches.
However, fried eggs and poached eggs should ideally be made with fresh eggs.
The longer an egg sits in the fridge, the runnier its yolk and whites will be. This means that using an older egg might result in a runny mess instead of a firm fried egg or a compact poached egg.
Additionally, an old egg may not be as effective a leavening agent for baking.
Nevertheless, older eggs can be used for almost any purpose. If you’re not sure how long an egg has been sitting in the fridge, crack it open and conduct a sniff test first.
If you throw your eggs out once the date on the carton has passed, you may be wasting perfectly good eggs.
With proper storage, eggs can last for at least 3–5 weeks in the fridge and about a year in the freezer.
The longer an egg is stored, the more its quality declines, making it less springy and more runny.
However, older eggs are still good for several uses. They are ideal for boiling and can be used for omelets, scrambled eggs or baked egg dishes.
If you’re not sure how long an egg has been in the fridge, crack it open on a clean plate and check that it looks and smells normal before use.