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Do I Have to Refrigerate Eggs? (Plus Other Questions About Storing Eggs)

How long do eggs keep? Do eggs need to be kept in a fridge? Read on to find out.
By Published Sept. 27, 2021

You’ve grabbed your carton and it’s time to get your eggs home. But where to put them? How long do they last? Here Dianna Bourassa, an assistant professor and extension specialist at the Department of Poultry Science at Auburn University in Alabama, helps answer these questions.

Do I Need to Refrigerate My Eggs?

It all depends on if the eggs were washed. Standard supermarket eggs must be refrigerated because they are washed to clean off dirt and debris, a process that strips them of their protective cuticle and leaves them more vulnerable to bacteria; refrigeration prevents bacterial growth. Home-raised and backyard eggs, if they haven’t been washed by their collector, still have this protective cuticle and don’t need to be refrigerated. However, it is recommended that before using these eggs you give them a quick rinse and scrub to clean the shells of debris.

What's the Best Way to Store Eggs?

Eggshells are porous and can absorb odors, which is why they should be stored in a container. “You want to minimize air exchange to keep them as fresh as possible,” says Bourassa. As far as where to store eggs, keep them away from the refrigerator door, which exposes them to gusts of warmth when it’s opened. Instead, store eggs on your refrigerator shelves, where they’re kept consistently cool.

How Long Do Eggs Keep?

The USDA recommends using refrigerated eggs no longer than three to five weeks after buying them, but Bourassa says there’s no hard-and-fast rule. “I like to use my eggs within a couple of weeks, but I also might stretch that a little bit,” she says. We tested two-, three-, and four-month-old eggs and found them palatable, though the four-month-old eggs had very loose egg whites and a slight refrigerator taste. The older eggs also deflated rapidly when whipped. While old eggs can be common, rotten eggs are rare. Eggs can go rotten, “but it’s really only when there’s been some sort of bacterial invasion, so it’s not a time-sensitive thing,” says Bourassa.

Should I Use a Cracked Egg?

Bourassa says to play it safe when it comes to using a cracked egg. “I wouldn’t use any cracked eggs; that’s an opening for any bacteria to get in there,” she says. Our handy jingle: If in doubt, toss it out.

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