Anytime over the past 30 years that I could buy barnyard eggs from free-range chickens, I have jumped at the chance because they are so much tastier than store-bought eggs! And, for the past eight years, I’ve been buying the best eggs I’ve ever had from my local produce man. But, when I get those eggs, they have not been refrigerated, and I’ve been wondering whether this was a safe practice. So, I asked the USDA, and this is what I learned.
All eggs do not need to be refrigerated. According to the USDA, eggs that have been thoroughly cleaned by farmers must be refrigerated since the shell is more porous after cleaning. Bacteria could proliferate if the eggs are not refrigerated. Eggs that have not been rigorously cleaned do not have to be refrigerated.
Please keep reading to find out more about when eggs do or don’t require refrigeration. We’ll also cover how to tell if an egg has gone bad.
Egg Storage Guidelines
Being consistent with egg storage is the basic guideline you want to follow for storing eggs. For example, if you buy your eggs at the local supermarket where they are kept under refrigeration, then they should be stored in your refrigerator. However, if you use eggs from a local farmer who has not refrigerated the eggs or have your own chickens producing eggs, you can safely store them at room temperature.
Can Eggs Be Left Out on the Counter?
For those that live in a country like America, you have government regulations requiring egg producers to clean and refrigerate eggs sold to the public. Due to those laws, you cannot store your eggs on the counter for any significant period of time. It is dangerous to consume eggs that have been left out on the counter for two or more hours because they are at risk of giving you salmonella. Those eggs should be discarded immediately.
Eggs stored in the refrigerator will stay fresh longer than if stored at room temperature and can last approximately 50 days. But, if you either raise chickens for eggs yourself or get your eggs directly from someone else who does, and they have never been refrigerated, then you can store them on the counter.
What Happens if You Don’t Refrigerate Eggs?
Eggs are contaminated with bacteria from fecal matter from the chickens and dirt in the nests when they are laid. However, in countries that store their eggs at room temperature, farmers vaccinate their hens to prevent them from getting sick and passing the bacteria causing salmonella to their eggs.
And, in countries with government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States, government regulations require that farmers clean by washing, drying, sanitizing, and refrigerating their eggs before they are sent to market. This process eliminates any trace of salmonella from the eggshells.
The cleaning process, however, removes some of the naturally-occurring protective qualities found in the eggshell. The shell becomes thinner and more porous, but refrigeration stops new bacteria from growing.
If you do not refrigerate your eggs after they have already been refrigerated, first at the farm and then at the grocery store, they can rapidly grow bacteria when not refrigerated.
Eggs moved from the refrigerator to the counter will develop condensation, which can breed salmonella when subjected to warm temperatures. Even if your eggs are lucky enough to avoid condensation, they can still become infected with the bacteria, which can easily flow through an egg’s thin shell.
How Do You Keep Eggs Fresh Without Refrigeration?
An egg’s inner shell is covered in egg fluid, which keeps an egg fresh. As an egg gets older, the egg’s internal coating begins to dry out, producing a change in the eggshell’s consistency. It becomes more porous and enables bacteria to migrate into the egg and contaminate it.
The 5 methods below work because they prevent air from getting into the egg and drying out the inner coating.
1. Grease Your Eggs With Vaseline
Believe it or not, covering your eggs with greasy Vaseline can help keep your eggs fresh longer. For the Vaseline method, make sure that you start with eggs that have never been refrigerated, such as those you get directly from a local farm.
Make sure you cover every spot on every egg, creating an airtight barrier around the outer shell of the egg. If you miss coating a section, the air will get through the uncoated area, allowing your egg to rot.
This method of keeping your eggs fresh is both time-consuming and messy. Remember to clean the shell before using your eggs. But, if a little bit of Vaseline makes its way into your food, it will not pose a health risk.
2. 10-Second Egg Boil
Boiling eggs for 10 seconds will keep them good longer by creating an internal barrier that stops air from moving through the egg.
3. Cover Eggs With Sodium Silicate
Sodium silicate or liquid glass is a sealant that is used to waterproof various things. This chemical compound will protect your eggs from condensation and bacteria by forming a barrier outside the eggshell.
Simply crack your eggs when you are ready to use them, as this compound will not hurt you if accidentally ingested.
4. Deep Freeze Eggs
Like many other types of food, you can freeze eggs to keep them longer. But, once your eggs begin to defrost, they will only be safe to use for approximately 6-7 days.
5. Turn Eggs
By turning non-refrigerated eggs frequently, you can keep eggs fresh. Turning an egg allows the inner shell to remain moist, stopping air from getting into the shell and drying up the fluid on the inside of the shell.
How Long Can Eggs Sit at Room Temperature Before They Go Bad?
The length of time an egg can sit safely at room temperature depends on whether your eggs came directly from the farm and have not been washed or refrigerated. Once eggs have been washed in water, they need to be refrigerated because their natural protective coating has been removed.
A fresh egg with its natural coating intact can sit at room temperature for about 21 days. After that, they should be refrigerated or used. Most people prefer to eat fresh barnyard eggs within a week or two because they taste better.
But, if eggs from the store or supermarket are left on the counter for 1-2 hours, they should be immediately refrigerated and used within a short time. If you are concerned about whether those eggs are still good, you can use one of several different methods to check whether they are still safe to use.
How Can You Tell if Eggs Have Gone Bad?
Your nose and the expiration date on an egg carton are not always accurate ways of telling whether an egg has gone bad. A rotten egg can give you food poisoning, so it is crucial that you determine whether an egg is no longer good.
There are several different methods that you can use to test an egg’s freshness. Answering the 4 questions below will tell you whether an egg is safe to eat.
1. Does It Float?
Conduct the sink or swim experiment to see if a raw egg is safe to eat. Fill a bowl with cold water and add the egg. If it floats, it has gone bad.
If the egg is from a carton, you probably should discard the whole carton. An egg that floats suggests contamination and the potential for food poisoning.
A fresh egg will sink down to the bottom of the bowl and lay flat on its side. An egg that sinks but then stands up on one end is still edible but will not be as fresh as an egg that lays on its side.
2. Is the Egg White Stiff?
This method can be used after you crack an egg. All you have to do is look at the yolk and the whites. In fresh eggs, the yolk will be bright orange or yellow, and the whites will be stiff and not flat.
The whites of an older egg will be spread out, flat, and runny.
3. Do You Hear Anything When You Shake the Egg?
For this method, all you have to do is hold the egg up to your ear, shake it, and listen to see if it makes a sound. This method is a less reliable way to check whether an egg is still good.
If you hear the egg sloshing around on the inside, the egg has gone bad. The sloshing sound indicates that the yolk is watery and old. If it makes no sound, the egg is still good.
4. Does It Smell Like Sulfur?
If an egg has a neutral smell, it is probably still good, but if an egg smells like sulfur, don’t eat it. It has gone bad.
How you store your eggs will depend on where you live. Most people living in the United States, Canada, and Japan prefer clean eggs and keep their eggs in the refrigerator. In contrast, most people living in Europe and Asian countries store their eggs at room temperature.
Take it from a true egg lover; if you have access to fresh eggs from free-range chickens that have been fed the right foods, you have a valuable ingredient for so many delicious dishes! And if those eggs have never been refrigerated, you can keep them on your kitchen counter with no worries about their safety for up to 21 days. But, if you bought your eggs at the local supermarket from the cold food section, store them in the refrigerator for up to 50 days, and enjoy!
For more, don’t miss Does Pie Need to Be Refrigerated? | Ingredients Matter.
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