How can you tell the difference between a fresh egg and an old egg? Stick them in a bowl of water to see what happens. As for bad eggs, well, you’ll know one when you smell one. But are old eggs sometimes better than fresh eggs? And how long do eggs last, anyway? We’ve got answers to all these questions below.
Old Eggs Float, Fresh Eggs Sink
You may have heard of this easy water trick to test the age of an egg. But how does it work? According to Chowhound Nyleve, “As eggs age and the contents of the shell lose moisture, the air space at the big end of the egg enlarges. A very fresh egg will basically just sink. A little older and it stands on its pointy end. Much older and it will float.” See Harold McGee demonstrate:
Nyleve added: “This tells you nothing much—just that it is older. It doesn’t necessarily tell you if the egg is rotten or not.” Your nose will do that.
When you crack them open, some opacity or cloudy coloring in the white of the egg, with no smell, is a strong indicator of super freshness, says morwen. “Next time you see it, be sure to use some for poached eggs that day or the next to be able to take advantage of that wonderful freshness!” says weezycom.
Rotten Eggs Just Plain Stink
When you encounter a rotten egg, there’s nothing subtle about recognizing it—you know it immediately from the gag-inducing scent (often likened to sulfur) emanating from the raw egg. Smelling a bad egg is “an awful, but worthwhile lesson to learn, two batches of cookie dough later,” says harrie. “I can still smell the bad egg if I think about it—plus the egg comes out of the shell in a gross, gray, loose liquid, and it’s just disgusting.” If you don’t smell (or see) anything suspicious when you crack the egg, you don’t need to be concerned about its age.
While it does dirty another dish, it’s generally a good practice to crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin instead of directly into the bowl of other ingredients, so you have to chance to check it out for any defects without potentially ruining the rest of your dish. If it passes muster, slide it into your bigger bowl and crack the next egg into the smaller vessel to vet it.
Bellemain Porcelain Ramekins, 6 for $12.95 on Amazon
Ideal for lots of little jobs in your kitchen, including inspecting your eggs once you crack them.
So, How Long Do Eggs Last?
Eggs don’t go bad for a really, really long time. “I date the cartons and have used eggs that were two MONTHS old and are still perfectly fine. And I mean perfectly,” says Nyleve. “My local chicken farmer told me before she started selling them, she used to keep the eggs in her basement covered with straw all winter long,” says coll.
According to IncredibleEgg.com, you can safely store raw eggs in your fridge for 4-5 weeks beyond the pack date, or about 3 weeks after purchasing them, but even then, trust your senses. And if you freeze eggs, they can last up to a whole year (but don’t freeze them in the shell; crack them into a container first, and feel free to separate the whites and yolks, then thaw before using).
Related Reading: How Long Eggs Last Depends on What Kind You Have
Are Fresh Eggs Better?
Sometimes—when poaching, for instance—the fresher your eggs, the better, because the whites will be thicker and will coagulate more easily. Similarly, fresh eggs will be less likely to spread out all over a frying pan, but if you’re simply making a scramble, hard-boiling them, or not bothered by sprawling fried egg whites, it doesn’t much matter how old your eggs are.
Older eggs are famously easier to peel when boiled, but if you steam your eggs (or use your Instant Pot), the shells should slip off easily no matter the age of the egg. And while many people argue for the taste of fresh eggs in baking or believe they make for a more tender crumb, others actually prefer older eggs for pastry (because the thinner whites are easier to incorporate), but Cook’s Illustrated found the differences so slight as to be almost unnoticeable.
Related Reading: What Is the Difference Between Fertilized and Unfertilized Eggs?
White eggs and brown eggs are also interchangeable, but what does matter is size—at least when you’re baking or making other recipes that specify either large or extra-large eggs. Luckily, you can convert egg size if all you have on hand are medium or jumbo eggs.