(NEW YORK) — Shoppers have seen significant price spikes on eggs as of late and since everyone wants to make the most of their hard-earned money, there are a few simple rules and tricks you should know to prevent prematurely tossing or wasting the staple protein.
Most egg cartons sold in stores get stamped with a “best if used by” or “best before” date for stores to control and rotate inventory. The U.S. Department of Agriculture explains that the printed “expiration date” is there so consumers know how long the eggs will be at their highest quality and best taste when stored in ideal conditions.
“Use by” dates show shoppers how long they have to consume the eggs before their overall quality diminishes. According to the USDA, the “use by” date “may not exceed 45 days including the day the eggs were packed into the carton.”
However, in many cases eggs can still be safely consumed beyond that date if they aren’t spoiled.
Eggs can last up to five weeks after they were packed, when stored in proper refrigerator conditions, according to The American Egg Board.
Here are some Grade A tips from the USDA to keep in mind when you need to know if you still have a good egg:
How to properly store store-bought eggs
Eggs purchased at the store should be brought straight home and refrigerated immediately at 40 degrees or colder, the USDA advises: “Keep them in their carton and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door.”
Typically, the coldest part of the fridge is lower shelves and towards the back of the unit.
Due to risk of bacteria growth and salmonella, don’t leave store-bought eggs out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. Any bacteria present in an egg can multiply quickly at room temperature, according to the USDA. When a cold egg sweats at room temperature, it can cause bacteria to move into the egg and spread more easily.
How long are eggs good once cracked?
Because bacteria can enter eggs through cracks in the shell, the USDA says to never purchase an egg that’s cracked.
“If eggs crack on the way home from the store, break them into a clean container, cover it tightly, keep refrigerated, and use within two days,” the agency states. “If eggs crack during hard cooking, they are safe. Remember that all eggs should be thoroughly cooked.”
How to use water to test if eggs are still fresh
Despite a “best by” or “packed on” date — or if you have a couple extra eggs out of their carton in the fridge and don’t remember when they got there — this sink or float test is a good baseline to determine if an egg is still fresh.
First, fill a bowl with enough cold water to cover the egg, and gently lower the egg in.
If it sinks to the bottom and stays on its side, the egg is very fresh, according to The Spruce Eats, which regularly tests common kitchen and cooking tricks like this one.
An egg that sinks to the bottom but floats on an angle or upright is slightly older but still safe to eat.
Eggs that float completely should be discarded as they’re too old to safely consume, The Spruce Eats notes.
As eggs age, the shell becomes more porous so more air is able to flow through and can create a larger air pocket between the egg membrane and shell. That small sack of air, once large enough, is what makes the egg float.
How long do you have to safely eat eggs once cooked?
Cooked eggs and dishes made with eggs should be eaten immediately after cooking. They can also be stored in a shallow container for quick cooling and then refrigerated for later use within three to four days.
When it comes to hard boiled eggs, the USDA states that the shell’s protective coating, or “bloom,” which is produced by a hen when it lays an egg, gets washed away “leaving bare the pores in the shell for bacteria to enter and contaminate it.”
For that reason, the USDA recommends hard-cooked eggs be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and used within a week.
How long do farmers market eggs stay fresh?
Because farm stands and farmers aren’t bound by the same USDA requirements to be washed, these eggs are often sold unrefrigerated and protected by their bloom.
According to The Happy Chicken Coop — an online publication and “group of chicken enthusiasts from around the world who have been raising chickens in their backyards for decades” — farm fresh eggs can be left unrefrigerated for up to a month, though after that, should be stored in a refrigerator, where they can be kept for up to six months.
Freeze raw eggs to use later
Yes, you can freeze eggs, just not in their shell because they will expand and break. So if you know you won’t finish an entire carton before the expiration, this is a great way to cut down on food waste.
According to The American Egg Board, there is a simple way to freeze eggs.
Crack the eggs into a bowl, gently whisk until whites and yolks are combined (not so much that air is introduced), and pour the eggs into an ice cube tray to freeze in individual servings. One cube is approximately half an egg. Once the cubes are frozen solid, transfer from the tray into a freezer-friendly, air-tight plastic bag.
Chef Jürgen David, director of pastry R&D at the Institute of Culinary Education, told ABC News’ Good Morning America that he suggests separating the whites from the yolks first “because many pastry applications call for just yolks or an unequal amount of yolks and whites.”
Gently beat the yolks until it forms a liquid and freeze and store as explained in the first method. One cube equals two egg yolks.
For the whites, pour directly into an ice cube tray, then freeze and store accordingly.
Frozen eggs keep best for two to three months, but can last up to a year in the freezer.
When ready to use the frozen eggs, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or under running cold water and use them as intended.
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