When you buy your eggs at the grocery store, you can be certain they’re fresh—or at least, fresh enough to use. (If you want to know exactly how fresh your supermarket eggs are, here’s how to decipher those numbers on the carton.)
But it’s different if you store them in another container or buy them from a local farmer. As time goes on, do you remember exactly when you bought them? How long have they been in the fridge, anyway?
How Can You Tell If Eggs Are Fresh?
The good news is that badly spoiled eggs are easy to detect as soon as you crack them open. The bad news is, there’s a lot of territory between “off” and “strong smell of sulfur”—you don’t want to have to count on your nose if your health is on the line.
The great news is that there’s a way to tell whether your eggs are usable or not, without having to break the shell (which is the only thing standing between you and that rotten egg smell). Home cooks have been using this low-tech method for generations. It’s as easy as pouring a glass of water.
Do the Float Test
Bad eggs, you see, float. It has to do with the way moisture evaporates through the shell as eggs age—as that moisture decreases, the air bubble inside the shell grows. One way to test this is to hold the egg to your ear and shake it; if you hear the egg sloshing around, that’s a bad sign. But if you gently place the egg in a glass or bowl of water, you can get not only a “usable or not?” answer, but also a gauge of how fresh the egg is.
The air bubble will be at the narrow end of the egg—you can tell how fresh your egg is by how it settles in the water.
- If the egg lies horizontally, it’s at its freshest.
- If the narrow end of the egg tilts upward, the egg is still usable, but not quite as fresh. An egg that tilts would be good to use for meringue (yes, older eggs do make better meringue!).
- If the egg stands upright (but is still at the bottom of the container), it’s past its peak, but is still safe—use these eggs for baking or hard-boiling.
- If the egg floats? Get rid of it!
Simple as that. Quick, easy and it’s kind of fun, knowing you’re using the same trick grandmothers around the world used, too!