While "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" is always plugged as the age-old question, the real issue we've been pondering since the beginning of time is how long the egg will last before going bad — especially if the sell-by date is conspicuously missing from that carton lurking in the back of the fridge.
The short answer is that eggs are at their highest quality when used within three weeks of the carton packing date, but there are definitely some other rules of thumb to go by when it comes to your huevos.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Originally published September 2015. Updated December 2016.
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