How Long Are Eggs Good For If Left Out

In this brief article, we will answer the question of how long are eggs good for if left out. Eggs are usually not refrigerated when we bring them home from the store, but that might not be the best way to go. 

So read on to find out how to properly store your eggs, and what you should look for when buying and storing eggs. 

How Long Are Eggs Good For If Left Out?

According to the Egg Safety Center, which follows the FDA Egg Safety Rule for eggs, eggs can be left at room temperature for about two hours, but if the temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more, they stay good outside for about one hour. In the United States, it’s more than a food safety recommendation that eggs be refrigerated – it’s the law. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determined that the best way to fight Salmonella contamination is by making sure eggs are clean before they reach consumers. These recommendations were defined upon research made on how the storage temperature affected eggs and their quality and safety (1).

However, once eggs are refrigerated, they must be kept refrigerated. Don’t leave refrigerated eggs out for over two hours before re-refrigeration.

After this period, it is recommended that you throw the eggs out and buy a fresh set rather than consume the old ones. 

Also, check whether your purchased eggs are obtained from vaccinated hens to determine how to best store them.

Why Shouldn’t Eggs be Left Out?

Temperature changes promote bacterial growth, and eggs are especially prone to infestation with Salmonella. This bacteria spreads rapidly when eggs are left at room temperature for over two hours, and especially when they are not refrigerated. The pathogen Salmonella enterica may be found not only on the egg surface but also in their inside. Studies show that refrigeration reduces the bacterial growth and their metabolic activity and therefore refrigeration of raw eggs at 4–8 °C should be done, which lowers the heat resistance of the Salmonella organism, while reducing the level of microbial multiplication in shell eggs (2).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports around 142,000 cases of salmonella poisoning from eggs in the United States every year. Symptoms of Salmonella infection generally develop after 12 to 72 hours of ingestion, and include:

  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • abdominal cramps
  • vomiting

How Should You Buy and Store Eggs?

Here are a few trips and tricks to know what eggs to buy and store properly (1):

  • Always buy eggs marked Grade A or AA. According to the USDA, There are three consumer grades for eggs: United States (U.S.) Grade AA, A, and B. The grade is determined by the interior quality of the egg and the appearance and condition of the egg shell. Eggs of any quality grade may differ in weight (size). U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells.
  • Confirm that the egg shells are clean and not cracked; bacteria enter eggs through cracks.
  • Ensure that the eggs were refrigerated before you buy them; bacteria multiply very fast at room temperature and eggs can absorb unpleasant odors from the environment. 
  • After bringing eggs home, keep them in their carton and store them in the coldest compartment of the fridge (40 degrees Fahrenheit or below).
  • If an egg cracks on the way home transfer it to a clean airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator. Use it within two days.
  • Always wash eggs before using them. Never wash them if you’re going to leave them on the counter at room temperature. Also, thoroughly wash your hands after you handle unwashed eggs.

Can Eggs be Frozen?

Freezing eggs in the shell is not recommended. 

However, if you wish to store them for more than four to five weeks, crack them into an airtight container and freeze them. They will last for more than a year, or indefinitely. Make sure the freezer is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Celsius. 

When you want to use them, thaw the eggs by placing them in the refrigerator for a week.

How To Tell If Stored Eggs Are Still Good?

Egg deterioration refers to rotten eggs caused by decomposition of egg contents by microorganisms such as bacteria and molds in appropriate temperature and humidity conditions. Eggs are vulnerable to microbial reproduction and destruction, resulting in complex physical and chemical changes in eggs, including protein spoilage, fat rancidity and sugar decomposition (3).

Firstly, confirm the expiration date on the carton, or look for the pack date. If the eggs are less than 30 days from the pack date, they’re still good.

But sometimes eggs can still be used for several weeks beyond the pack date. So you must use other ways to determine whether your eggs have gone bad. These include a sniff test, candling, or float test.

Before performing a sniff test, make sure the egg is not cracked and doesn’t have a slimy or powdery appearance. If so, simply throw away the egg. 

If the egg is good, crack it open on a clean plate and check for discoloration or unpleasant smell and the appearance of the yolk. Fresh yolk is raised after being poured on a horizontal glass surface, while stale yolk is flat (3). 

Egg albumen can be divided into two types, thin albumen and thick albumen, based on their morphology. Thick albumen is gradually hydrolyzed during storage. When a fresh egg and a stale egg are broken and the contents are poured on a horizontal glass surface, we can see that the thick albumen of the fresh egg evenly adheres to the yolk, while the thick albumen of the stale egg is rare, almost all thin albumen (3).

Another way to verify the freshness of eggs is by their gravity.  In an egg, water evaporates and albumen becomes thinner during storage, so specific gravity of an egg decreases gradually, which can be measured to get freshness. It is determined by salt water floatation method: 68 g NaCl is added into 1000 ml water, which is determined as level 0. Adding 1 grade, another 4 g NaCl is added, totaling 9 grades. Starting from Grade 0, an egg is put into the brine step by step, and the least brine specific gravity of a drifted egg is freshness level; a fresh egg is classified as above Grade 3 (3).

However, eggs contaminated with Salmonella often smell and look normal. Hence, make sure to cook your eggs to the recommended internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill any bacteria.

Other FAQs about Eggs that you may be interested in.

Can you eat peacock eggs?

Can you eat pasteurized eggs raw?

How many eggs should I eat in a day

Conclusion

In this brief article, we answered the question of how long are eggs good for if left out. Eggs usually do not go bad if handled properly and refrigerated. But they do decline in quality with time if left at room temperature for long, so you might have to throw them out at some stage.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know.

References:

  1. Egg Safety Center
  2. Fikiin, Kostadin, Stepan Akterian, and Borislav Stankov. Do raw eggs need to be refrigerated along the food chain?: Is the current EU regulation ensuring high-quality shell eggs for the European consumers?. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 2020, 100, 359-362.
  3. Qi, L., Zhao, Mc., Li, Z. et al. Non-destructive testing technology for raw eggs freshness: a review. SN Appl. Sci. 2, 2020, 1113.