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How long eggs really stay good in the refrigerator — and when to worry

Karen Miner is the Food & Home Editor for SheKnows. She is a freelance writer, recipe developer and is also the cook, author and photographer behind the food blog, Tasty Trials, a collection of original recipes and stories. She and her h...

What you should know about storing fresh eggs

Because it's easy to forget how long that carton of eggs has been lurking in the back of the fridge, and because the last thing you want to do is get your family or your roomies sick, we've "cracked" the code, so to speak, on the shelf life of eggs. Here's a helpful hint: Don't wait until your eggs start smelling before you throw them out.

More: 15 delicious ways to use up leftover egg whites

How long can you keep eggs in the fridge?

Expert answer: We tell consumers to look to the egg carton sell-by dates to judge freshness. The USDA says that the date can be no farther ahead than 30 days after the packing date. Your store can choose any day within those 30 days to date the eggs.

If you don't find a sell-by date on the carton, use the eggs within three weeks of the carton packing date. Within that window of time, your eggs will be at their highest quality, meaning the yolk will be high and upstanding, and the white will be tall and firm when you whip them.

According to Foodsafety.gov, raw eggs in the shell can be kept in the refrigerator for three to five weeks. Freezing in the shell is not recommended. Instead, crack those eggs, beat them, and then store them in a freezer-safe container.

More: 10 smart ways to use up leftover egg yolks

How can you tell when eggs have gone bad?

Expert answer: Eggs are unlikely to go bad in a refrigerator setting but would dry up over time. Eggs don't automatically go bad or spoil after a certain date.

If the eggs do not already have salmonella, then their sitting in the fridge isn't going to make the bacteria spontaneously generate. If your eggs do contain salmonella, the number of bacteria will be quite small, because it does not grow in cold environments, like a refrigerator. Proper handling and cooking will kill any bacteria present.

An easy way to test the freshness of an egg is to place it in a bowl of water. A fresh egg will sink, and an older egg will float.

More: Do we really need to refrigerate our eggs?

Tip on cooking eggs

Use fresh eggs for poaching and other recipes where shape is important. Save the older eggs for scrambled eggs and other dishes made with eggs.

What you should know about storing fresh eggs
Image: Tiffany Egbert/SheKnows

Originally published Sept. 2015. Updated July 2016.

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