Is It Safe to Eat Expired Eggs?
Has that carton of eggs been languishing in your fridge? If the egg expiration date has passed, don't rush to ditch the eggs. Here's what that date really means, and how to tell if eggs are safe.
There are two types of people: those who throw food away the minute it passes its expiration date, and those who proudly break open expired cans, polish off languishing leftovers, and chow takeout boxes with mysterious origins. I’m definitely in the former camp, except when it comes to one type of food: eggs.
The reason? Eggs take a very long time to go bad— even if you have speckled eggs or notice stringy white stuff in your eggs. There’s also a simple test to spot expired eggs before you crack them. Just make sure you’re removing eggs from the carton the right way before you start.
What does the date on the carton mean?
Your egg carton is stamped with multiple numbers. First is a date, which is almost always a sell-by date, or the day by which a grocery store has to pull an item off the shelves. The thing is, this is centered around quality and freshness rather than safety or health concerns.
There’s another number on the carton: a three-digit code called the “Julian date.” It’s the day your eggs were put into the carton. It might take you a minute to work it out since it corresponds to a number of the calendar year from one to 365. So 001 would be January 1 and 365 would represent December 31. Again, this number is most useful for determining freshness. New eggs are delicious eaten scrambled, while older eggs are ideal for other recipes, like meringue.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, eggs can be sold for up to 30 days after they were packaged. So even if they’re in stock and not expired, they might be weeks old. Look, we know how stressful grocery shopping can be, but checking the Julian date is an extra step worth taking. If you don’t want to whip out your calendar and calculator (we don’t blame you), here’s a general rule of thumb to follow. If you’re buying eggs in early to mid-January, look for lower numbers (015 will be significantly fresher than 364). If you’re buying eggs later in the year, look for the highest number possible.
How to tell if your egg is fresh
Do the float test! Fill a glass with water and drop the egg in. If it floats, the egg has gone bad. Discard it. Here’s the safety net: Bad eggs aren’t discreet. Most will smell like sulfur and basically scream that they’re off.
How long can you use eggs beyond the date?
The float test is helpful, but it’s also handy to know a general time frame. Eggs stay fresh between three and five weeks beyond the sell date. That’s a big window! Now that you know all about the egg expiration date, check out why you shouldn’t wash fresh eggs before cooking them.