How to Store Hard-Boiled Eggs the Right Way—Plus, 2 Mistakes to Avoid
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Whether served as a snack, salad topping, or fuss-free breakfast, hard-boiled eggs are great for a quick protein boost and don't require much work to make. If you eat them frequently, you don't need to boil them each time—instead, you can cook a number of eggs at the same time and save them for the days ahead. In order to do that, though, you need to ensure you're storing the food properly, and with the right technique, hard-boiled eggs can stay fresh for up to a week.
How to Store Hard-Boiled Eggs
While hard-cooked eggs are easy to store, there are a few steps you should take to help them stay fresher for longer.
Let Them Cool
The eggs will be hot when they're done boiling—wait until they have cooled before storing. "When hot items are placed in the refrigerator, they can warm up other surrounding items, placing them in the temperature danger zone where bacteria like to multiply," says Tracey Brigman, EdD, MS, RDN, LD, a clinical associate professor and associate director for National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia. To expedite the cooling process, Jeanine Flaherty, vice president of food safety and quality assurance at Vital Farms, says to place the eggs in cold water or an ice bath for a few minutes.
It's likely you want to save your future self the struggle of peeling hard-boiled eggs and choose to peel them right after cooking instead. If that's the case, be sure to store the eggs in an airtight bag or container after taking off the shells. "Since they are peeled, they need to be protected from exposure to air, odors, and any microorganisms that may be present," Brigman says. She adds that you should place a damp paper towel inside the container to prevent them from drying out—something keeping the peel intact usually does.
Once in the container, keep hard-cooked eggs on the middle shelf of your refrigerator—which Flaherty says is where the temperature is most stable—until you're ready to eat them.
Unpeeled hard-boiled eggs should also be kept on the middle shelf of your refrigerator in an airtight container or resealable bag. Keeping them sealed helps prevent any odors from the fridge and harmful microorganisms from disrupting your eggs. "During the cooking process, the protective layer that coats the shell is removed, making the eggs more susceptible to air and harmful microorganisms," Brigman says. However, you can skip adding a paper towel to the container to prevent moisture loss as the eggs still have their shells intact.
How Not to Store Hard-Boiled Eggs
Avoid making these mistakes when storing hard-boiled eggs—not just to extend their shelf life, but also to keep yourself safe from unwanted bacteria.
At Room Temperature
According to Flaherty, even fully cooked eggs cannot be left at room temperature for more than two hours before spoiling. She says to place hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator within at least two hours after cooking to avoid spoilage and the spread of potentially harmful bacteria. Brigman confirms this sentiment, adding that dangerous bacteria grow slower in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the Freezer
Keeping hard-boiled eggs in the freezer may seem like a good option for longer storage but it isn't recommended. Flaherty says that once defrosted, the egg white will turn tough with a watery texture and become inedible.
How Long Hard-Boiled Eggs Last
Though they don't last as long as uncooked eggs, hard-boiled eggs can keep for up to a week, whether they are peeled or not, says Brigman. Commercially pre-packaged hard-boiled eggs last even longer; Flaherty recommends following the expiration date on the packaging rather than following the one-week rule. And for any hard-boiled egg, "If it develops a slimy or chalky texture, or if it develops an unmistakable odor, it should be discarded," Brigman says.