We’ve all had busy days that result in something being left where it doesn’t belong. Many of us have accidentally left groceries on the counter or in our cars for hours on end, and maybe even overnight.
If you accidentally left eggs out overnight, you may be wondering:
Are raw eggs left out overnight still safe to eat? According to the USDA, no; eggs are not safe to eat if they have been left out overnight. However, some chefs and bakers may say that they are not only safe but they’ll actually be better for cooking. This somewhat complicated answer may also depend on where you live.
In this article, we’ll explain what the USDA safety recommendations are for eggs as well as why some people may disagree with these guidelines.
By the end, you’ll have enough information to make an educated, and hopefully safe, conclusion about the quality of your eggs.
How Long Can Raw Eggs Be Left Unrefrigerated?
Once an egg has been refrigerated, it should remain refrigerated until it’s ready to be cooked. The USDA guidelines recommend that fresh, shelled eggs not be left unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.
Once an egg has been cooled, bringing it to room temperature or higher can cause the egg to “sweat,” which can allow for the movement and growth of bacteria.
However, there are many cases of chefs and bakers not only using eggs that have been left out overnight, but recommending it.
According to these chefs, if there aren’t any great temperature fluctuations in your kitchen, you cook your eggs thoroughly, and you wash your hands after handling them, eggs left out overnight should be safe to eat.
It should be stated once more for clarity, however, that this does go against USDA food safety recommendations.
Left Eggs In The Car Overnight
While there may be some leniency in the safety recommendations for eggs left out on your counter overnight, leaving them in your car overnight is a much different story.
Room temperature doesn’t fluctuate excessively. The temperature in your car, regardless of where you live, is likely to change dramatically from afternoon to evening, throughout the night, and then again in the morning.
This fluctuation in temperature is very risky for eggs. Bacteria is much more likely to develop. If you’ve left eggs in your car overnight, the safest course of action is to discard them.
How to Store Fresh Eggs
There is a great debate over storing fresh eggs, which is especially common in households with European family members. In Britain and many other countries within Europe and Asia, eggs are not refrigerated.
The difference in safety regulations is determined by the chickens and the egg production facilities. In the US and certain other countries, eggs are removed as soon as they are laid and washed to reduce bacterial contamination.
The washing process damages the natural protective qualities of the eggshell, however, so to keep them safe from future contamination, the eggs must be refrigerated at all times.
By the way, if you’re not using a reusable egg storage container (like my favorite one from Amazon) then you are limiting how long your eggs will stay fresh in the fridge.
In Europe, up to 90% of chickens are vaccinated against salmonella, making it nearly impossible for the eggs to be contaminated by this bacteria. They are not washed and their shells remain highly protective against all other contaminants.
Eggs that are marked as having been laid by chickens with the salmonella vaccine should not be refrigerated, as this can actually make them more susceptible to bacterial growth.
Where does that leave you? Should you refrigerate eggs? Can you store eggs at room temperature?
If you live in North America, Japan, Australia, Sweden, or the Netherlands, commercially produced eggs will need to be refrigerated. If you’re in another country, you may not have to refrigerate your eggs.
Look into the eggs you are purchasing to see whether they are from vaccinated hens to decide how best to store your eggs.
What about freshly laid eggs from your own chickens? This is a more difficult question to answer. Unless your chickens have been vaccinated, they and their eggs are still susceptible to Salmonella.
As such, they should be washed before they are used, but they don’t have to be washed immediately. As soon as they are washed, however, they should be refrigerated.
You should always wash your hands after handling freshly laid eggs.
You can actually freeze shelled eggs to extend their shelf life for up to a year.
How to Store Eggs in Fridge
If you’ve bought eggs from the store and they were refrigerated, try to get them home as quickly as possible. It is not recommended to wash eggs, as that breaks down the natural protective qualities of the egg’s shell.
You can keep your eggs in their container for safety, and store them in your fridge, toward the back. Many people store their eggs in the door of the fridge, but this isn’t ideal.
Your eggs will stay fresh much longer if you use a container like this one from Amazon.
The fridge door will experience the greatest degree of temperature fluctuation, which puts your eggs at greater risk of being contaminated by bacteria.
Most containers will come with a best-by date stamped on the package, but you can usually rely on eggs to stay fresh for 4–5 weeks if kept constantly cold.
How to Store Eggs Without Refrigeration
If you live in a country that does not wash eggs or if you collect eggs from your own vaccinated backyard chickens, you may choose not to refrigerate your eggs.
The most important thing to remember is to always wash your eggs right before you use them. Never wash them and then let them sit on your counter. Also, always wash your hands after handling unwashed eggs.
If you’re going to store eggs on your counter or in a cupboard, it’s a good idea to get a storage device designed to hold eggs.
Not only will this protect them from being accidentally crushed, but it will also protect your counter and the rest of your kitchen from contamination.
Unrefrigerated eggs will not last as long as those in the fridge and they should be eaten within 3 weeks.
How to Store Cooked Eggs
Once eggs have been cooked, they should always be either eaten or refrigerated as quickly as possible. They will remain safe for 3–4 days, as long as they’re carefully stored in an airtight container.
Never eat cooked eggs that have been left out overnight.
The quality of your cooked eggs will vary, depending on how they were cooked. Hard-boiled eggs are often eaten cold and considered delicious. A fried egg, on the other hand, will be rubbery and tough, even if it is safe to eat.
Scrambled eggs, quiche, and egg casseroles will be somewhere in the middle. The texture and consistency will change after it’s been refrigerated, but not in an overly unpleasant way.
Do Eggs Go Bad?
Yes, eggs can go bad in a variety of ways. They may be contaminated with bacteria and they can also go stale.
Every carton of eggs will have a suggested best-by date. However, if eggs are kept refrigerated at all times, they will rarely rot or spoil.
In North America, eggs are washed as soon as they are laid to reduce the chance of being contaminated by Salmonella.
This washing is very effective, but it also reduces the natural protective quality of the egg, making it more susceptible to contamination in the future.
This is why eggs are refrigerated in North America and certain other countries. As long as they are kept cold, bacteria will not form or spread. The quality, however, will deteriorate.
The older an egg gets, the runnier both the whites and yolks will be. For this reason, you should use your freshest eggs for frying or poaching. If you’re going to scramble or boil your eggs, older eggs will work just fine.
How Do Eggs Carry Salmonella?
Salmonella is a type of food poisoning that is caused by a bacteria commonly found in animal products.
Eggs can become contaminated by this bacteria the moment they are laid if there are salmonella-contaminated droppings nearby, which is very common.
Salmonella is both easy to suffer from and easy to prevent. Foods that are properly cooked will kill any dangerous bacteria, so whether it’s meat or eggs, make sure that you aren’t consuming any products raw.
To reduce the chance of salmonella contamination in eggs, consider purchasing pasteurized eggs, keeping them refrigerated, and always making sure they are cooked until firm.
Are Eggs Vegan?
No, eggs are not vegan because they are animal products. Any type of egg is laid by an animal, and, with fertilization, had the potential to grow into an animal, and therefore is not part of a vegan diet.
Are Eggs Vegetarian?
Yes, most vegetarians consider eggs an acceptable part of their diet. Eggs that are sold for commercial consumption have never been fertilized, meaning they will never develop into animals and therefore aren’t animal flesh.
Eggs aren’t considered meat, but they are animal products, grouped with meat, poultry, and seafood.
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