The shelf life of eggs ranges from a few hours, weeks, months and years, depending on the way in which they are stored. Moreover, the form in which the eggs are stored will also contribute to their shelf life.
Eggs are high in protein and are highly vulnerable to bacterial growth in a short span of time. The egg has a natural protective coating that protects it from the attack of bacteria like Escherichia, Klebsiella, Yersinia, Salmonella, etc. If not handled or processed properly, they reach the consumer with all such contaminants. This is why egg handlers at poultry farms are asked to wash eggs, as per the guidelines given to them.
Proper washing before packing reduces the chances of microbes entering the eggs, when they are cracked for consumption. However, the washing process removes the natural coating, which is why mineral oil is sprayed on the egg to protect it from bacterial growth.
One should ideally pick up the eggs from a supplier who has a high turnover. The expiry date on the egg carton should be checked before purchasing. In the US, the date mentioned is the one on which the eggs were packed. The number is written from 1 to 365, where 1 means 1st January and 365 means 31st December. According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists in Athens, GA, the shelf life of eggs comfortably extends the recommended sell-by-date on the retails cartons, if stored correctly.
What is the Shelf Life of Eggs
The shelf life of the egg will vary with the form and the temperature at which it is stored.
Shelf Life of Eggs in Refrigerator
» Place the eggs in the original carton itself and place them in the refrigerator, as soon as you bring them home. This is because the protective cardboard slows down moisture loss, thereby protecting the eggs from imbibing the different odors and flavors of strong smelling foods in the fridge.
» Eggs are susceptible to loss of quality induced by changes in temperature, which is why they should be placed in the inner side of the fridge where the temperature is cool and consistent.
Storing eggs on the fridge door, where warm air enters each time the door is opened, can cause the eggs to deteriorate quickly. The storage period for uncooked eggs and cooked eggs in the refrigerator are different. Let us look at each of them separately.
Uncooked eggs (in Refrigerator)
» When properly refrigerated, uncooked eggs (in shells) typically last for 4-5 weeks, without any significant loss of quality. However, the point to be noted is that this period of 4-5 weeks pertains to the moment since the eggs are laid and not from the time, when they make it into the refrigerator.
» To be on the safer side, it is best to store eggs in their shells for not more than 3 weeks. If you are using cold storage to store eggs, the eggs should be used within the next 2 weeks.
» In case of storing only the raw egg white, one can safely refrigerate it for up to 4 days.
» To store egg yolk, make sure the unbroken raw yolks are covered in water and stored in a tightly sealed container. In this manner, the egg can be stored for up to 2 days.
» One way to test the freshness of eggs is by carrying out the water float test. Place all the eggs in a vessel filled with cold water. The eggs that sink to the bottom of the vessel are fresh eggs, the ones that tilt slightly are the slightly older eggs and the ones that float are the rotten eggs.
Hard-boiled eggs (in Refrigerator)
» Hard-boiled eggs in the shell, unlike the raw ones, will last for only 6-7 days in the refrigerator. This is because the egg shells are highly porous in nature and are sprayed with mineral oil by poultry farmers.
» The mineral oil forms a thin film-like coating on the egg and seals it, thereby preventing deterioration. However, this mineral oil coating gets washed away when the eggs are boiled. Absence of the coating leaves the egg vulnerable to bacterial attack.
» Peeling hard-boiled, farm fresh eggs can be cumbersome, which is why raw, farm fresh eggs should be stored for 5-10 days in the refrigerator, before they are hard-boiled, to facilitate peeling. As far as storing the yolk of hard-boiled eggs is concerned, they can be kept for 4-5 days after draining them well and refrigerating them in a tightly sealed container.
Shelf Life of Eggs in the Freezer
» Frozen egg whites can last from 1-3 months. To freeze the whites, one has to place egg whites in a Pyrex custard cup and seal it.
» The egg yolks can become quite gummy when thawed. So better add a pinch of salt or sugar to it and beat it. This will protect the egg proteins. Place the egg yolks in an airtight container and freeze.
» Hard-boiled eggs should not be frozen. This is because the albumin or white of the hard-boiled egg becomes tough and watery when frozen.
Shelf Life of Eggs at Room Temperature
Let’s have a look at the shelf life of both raw and cooked eggs at room temperature.
Uncooked eggs should not be kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Eggs can contain bacteria like Salmonella, which can prove deleterious to the one consuming them. Lightly cooked eggs also do not get rid of the bacteria, which is why they are also vulnerable to spoilage. Though the chances of purchasing a contaminated egg is very low, it is better to be on the safe side and cook the eggs thoroughly.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, these egg preparations are not safe to consume if stored for more than 5-6 hours at room temperature. This will of course depend on the temperature of the area you live in. Moreover, in countries where the temperature soars beyond 85°F, these egg preparations should not be kept at room temperature beyond an hour.
Shelf Life of Powdered Eggs
Whole eggs are also available in the powdered form. The powder comprises a pasteurized, frozen, dried version of the egg yolk and white. This frozen and dried product when rehydrated can be used in the same manner as fresh eggs. However, what is the shelf life of powdered eggs?
Since powdered eggs are pasteurized, they do not need to be refrigerated. It has a considerably longer shelf life and can be stored for up to 10 years in cool, dry, dark places. Once opened, the powdered egg should be refrigerated and can be used up to 6 months. However, while refrigerating, one should ensure the powder is sealed well in a container containing an oxygen absorber.
Nowadays, scrambled egg mix, omelet mix, etc. are available in stores, which have shelf lives of over 5-10 years. There is some amount of flavor difference between the fresh eggs and powdered ones. To use them one has to mix the powder with water, and it’s good to use.
Shelf Life of Pickled Eggs
Do you have lots of eggs in hand? Then try pickling the eggs! Pickled eggs are hard-boiled eggs which have been dunked in a solution of vinegar, salt and some spices. Pickled eggs can be refrigerated in air-tight jars for about 6 months. Commercially packed pickled eggs will last for more than 12 months.
Eggs make lovely breakfast, lunch and dinner food items. The versatility of eggs is simply marvelous and fascinates every egg lover! The best aspect about egg preparation is its simplicity, because one can dole out simple and delicious dishes in minutes. Let alone the wonderful ways in which it pacifies the palette! However, egg lovers need to keep the shelf life of eggs in mind, while storing and preparing egg dishes, in order to avoid falling ill.