How Long Can Eggs Sit Out?
Storing your eggs out on the counter isn't all it's cracked up to be. If you've ever wondered, "How long can eggs sit out?" we've got the answer.
We’ve all been there: You either forgot to put the egg carton back in the fridge after whipping up an amazing breakfast or got distracted while putting away your grocery store haul. Whichever way, your eggs ended up staying on the counter way longer than you intended. So the question is, how long can eggs sit out of the fridge, and is it still safe to use them?
Can You Leave Eggs Out of the Fridge?
Why It’s Not Safe
Unfortunately, eggs left out on the counter for too long need to be tossed. This is because eggs are susceptible to salmonella contamination due to how they’re processed before they get to the grocery store. Salmonella is also the reason you shouldn’t be eating raw eggs.
Eggs can be contaminated with salmonella before they leave the farm, either because the hen is infected (the bacteria doesn’t make them sick) or the egg comes into contact with dirt and fecal matter after it’s laid. Due to this risk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires egg farmers to thoroughly wash, dry, sanitize and refrigerate eggs before they’re shipped off. This process removes any potential salmonella from the shell but does slightly thin it and removes some of its natural protection. So, the eggs are almost immediately refrigerated to prevent any new bacteria introduction, as salmonella flourishes in temperatures between 40-140°F.
Why Don’t Europeans Refrigerate Eggs?
Europeans do not refrigerate eggs, which comes as a surprise to many Americans. Food safety experts there took a slightly different approach: they require that eggs remain unwashed, which keeps the shell thicker and prevents the bacteria that causes salmonella from making its way into the egg.
How Long Can Eggs Sit Out of the Fridge?
Once the eggs have been refrigerated, letting them sit unrefrigerated is a big no-no. Transferring eggs from your fridge to the kitchen counter can cause condensation to form on the eggshell. Water and warm temperatures are a breeding ground for salmonella, meaning the water on the eggshell exposes the egg to contamination. Even if the room-temperature eggs don’t have condensation on them, bacteria can still contaminate them through the thinned shell.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), refrigerated eggs should be left out for no more than 2 hours. Ideally, though, we’d recommend not taking them out until you’re ready to use them! (Or, 30 minutes before you plan to bake with them, since it is importance to bake with room temperature eggs.)
The Best Way to Store Eggs
Keep your eggs on one of the refrigerator’s shelves—the door is one of the warmest parts of the fridge. When kept in a refrigerator at 40° or lower, eggs can last up to five weeks. After those five weeks, air will have seeped through the shell and started to break down the yolk and white.
How to Store Hard-Boiled Eggs
If you’ve already boiled your eggs, you can store them in the fridge in a covered container. If you’ve peeled the shell off, you can add a damp paper towel to the container to keep them good longer. Stored this way, they should last about a week or so. If they start smelling off, it’s time to toss them!
How to Tell If Eggs Have Gone Bad
To check if too much air has penetrated your raw eggs, try the float test. Just drop your egg in a glass of water, and if it sinks to the bottom, it’s safe to use. If it floats, it shouldn’t be used. You can also give it a shake—if you can hear liquid swishing around, the yolk is probably old and watery, and you should discard the egg. This method isn’t as reliable as the float test, but it’s worth a shot.
If you crack the egg open and it smells gassy or sulphuric, get rid of it. Eggs usually have a neutral odor, and any change means it’s probably gone bad.
The symptoms of salmonella aren’t worth the risk, so even if you think your eggs might be OK after some time on the counter, it’s better to be safe than sick.
Next up: Is it safe to eat eggs with bumps on them?