Eggs are a versatile food and essential ingredient in so many favorite recipes, from lasagna to layer cake. It's important to remember that they are a perishable food like raw meat, poultry, and raw fish and should be handled and stored carefully. Proper refrigeration, cooking, and handling should prevent most egg-safety problems. Here's what to know about egg storage.
Is It Safe to Leave Eggs Out Overnight?
Though your grandmother might tell you eggs were stored on the counter when she was a child and you might have seen eggs left at room temperature in Europe, it's a risky move in the U.S. Here in the States, eggs sold in stores are prewashed by manufacturers, a process that strips them of a natural coating that blocks bacterial entry. "Don't leave perishable food—including raw or boiled eggs—unrefrigerated for more than two hours before consumption," advises Argyris Magoulas, technical information specialist at the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Even though cooking kills pathogens that may pass through eggs' porous shells, toxic by-products of their growth can survive the heat and cause illness. Even if eggs were left out overnight in a cool kitchen, experts say they should not be used.
Should Eggs Be Stored in a Certain Way in the Refrigerator?
The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA recommends storing eggs in the carton they were purchased in, and leaving your eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Generally that is the lower shelves and toward the back of the unit. If your refrigerator has an egg storage area in the door, know that the door is a warmer part of the refrigerator and thus not the optimal place for egg storage.
Are Eggs with Cracked Shells Safe?
If you thought that shoppers checked their eggs to make sure none were cracked in order to avoid making a mess in their bag on the way home from the store, you're only half right. Some shoppers may be checking eggs for that reason, but the real reason to open the carton and check eggs for cracked shells before buying them is because bacteria can enter eggs through cracks. Do not buy eggs that are cracked. If eggs crack during the ride home from the store: Break them into a clean container, cover them tightly, and place them in the refrigerator. They should be eaten within two days and cooked thoroughly.