The Bad Egg


I have a guilty confession. It’s not as shameful as using garlic powder or anything, but some of you are gonna be pretty pisted..

I let eggs go bad.

Well, I don’t know if that’s totally true. It’s more that sometimes I have them around for awhile and I wonder if they’ve gone bad yet. I realize that people like gansie don’t have this problem, but I just don’t get around to using them as much as some of you. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good runny yolk shot as much as the next blogga, but I’m more of a bagel-and-cream-cheese guy for breakfast, and I just don’t think about incorporating eggs into dinner all that often. So 12 often seems like a lot to me. And those six-packs are always overpriced.

But I’ve wondered on more than one occasion, do eggs go bad? And when? And why? Some cartons have expiration dates on them; others don’t. Some eggs, like the ones I picked up yesterday, actually have the use by date stamped right on the shell, which just freaks me out.

But what exactly does the expiration date mean? What happens to an egg when it goes bad? When milk goes bad, it’s obvious, whether that’s before or after the printed expiration date. But old eggs look and smell the same as new ones. Can I really not use an egg that’s a few days past the expiration point? And if so, what would happen to me? And is there a trick to telling if an egg really has gone bad?

Well this is making me sound like the least knowledgeable food blogger of all time, but whatever, I want to know.  Hook me up with some knowledge please.

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  • Ramblingirl March 26, 2009  

    I was always taught that if you put an egg in a pot of water and it floats, that means it’s bad. So far, this method of weeding out the rotten eggs in an old pack has never steered me wrong.

  • Danny March 26, 2009  

    i’ve heard that when the eggshell becomes smooth they are bad… you notice how those pictured have little bumps, when those go away thrown them away.

  • Michael March 26, 2009  

    My buddy’s girlfriend always used to call me the ‘bad egg.’ Now I know she just meant that I’m smooth and that I float in water.

  • JoeHoya March 26, 2009  

    Like anything in the fridge with an expiration date, it’s not an exact science. Most places put that ‘sell by’ or ‘use by’ date far ahead of when the product can realistically be expected to spoil so they don’t have to worry about cutting it too close.

    Everything I’ve read suggests that your average egg will keep for at least two weeks beyond the ‘sell by’ date if you’ve kept it refrigerated and in the carton the whole time (some even say they’ll keep for months)…but the quality degrades just like it would with fruits and veggies. There’s a big difference between a farm-fresh egg and one that’s a week or two past its prime.

    The bumps or pimples on the egg shells are calcium deposits…perfectly natural, but not at all related to freshness. In fact, I’m pretty sure an egg that comes out with that rough texture will stay that way.

  • Diana March 26, 2009  

    I’ve read that if you coat your eggs with a thin sheen of butter or lard (I suppose crisco would work too), it extends their useful life by keeping bacteria from entering through the porous shell. I haven’t tried this though…

    Older eggs do look different once cracked, the whites are gooier and they don’t fall out of the shell as easily. But they are better than fresh eggs if you intend to hardboil them; they peel easier. But I don’t know any tried and true method of telling if they’ve gone over before cracking them.

  • jenn March 26, 2009  

    i’ve also heard the water floating test… i believe from martha stewart. with the exception of her telling me to microwave a chicken breast for 7 minutes, at which time i opened the door to find a shriveled, black stick, she’s never steered me wrong.

  • BS's Mom March 26, 2009  

    I can tell from experience when an egg is bad but this only applies to totally organic ones (as we had growing up on a farm but of course we didn’t t know the word “organic” then): if you crack it and a chicken is inside then it’s past its expiration date. Not a pretty sight.

  • Yvo March 30, 2009  

    I’ve kept eggs in the carton for months and not died. But Trader Joe’s started stamping the date on the shell and that makes me nervous. Having said that, this past weekend I used eggs that said March 21 on them and I am still alive.
    While food poisoning is no joke, and eggs are among the items I’d be wary of poisoning me, I definitely have kept eggs for 2-3 months and not thrown them away. The only time I won’t use an egg is if the shell cracks, because those cracks – even the fine hairline cracks – are breeding grounds for bacteria.

  • caperberry April 10, 2009  

    hi here is a egg freshness guide. i hope this helps.

  • aj January 18, 2011  

    I’ve often used eggs well beyond (up to 6 months or more) beyond the expiration dates, and always thought that an eggshell was one of mother nature’s most foolproof preservatives. I will say that for the last few years I have not left them in the fridge that long, and maybe the way they are grown and processed now makes my old practice not very wise. What the food processors/growers are doing with are food supply is frightening to say the least. From now on I’ll probably try to use them up not long after the exp date.

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