You may have heard that people in some European countries, such as the UK, feel comfortable leaving their raw eggs at room temperature for days and treating them like other non-perishable goods.
This, though, is not something you should do if you live in the USA and you buy your eggs from the store.
The reason is that there is a difference in the way the eggs are produced and treated to prevent the spread of salmonella poisoning.
In the UK, since a salmonella outbreak in the 1990s, all farmers are required to vaccinate their hens regularly if they want to receive the required red lion stamp, which indicates that the eggs comply with the health and industry standards.
At the same time, hen vaccination is not mandatory in the USA. Instead, the FDA has set requirements for the ways in which the eggs rather than the hens are handled. There are requirements for sanitization, testing, and refrigerating the eggs by the producers and retailers.
So, when you buy a USDA-graded egg, you can be certain that it has passed through sanitization procedures and has been refrigerated as soon as possible after being laid.
According to the recommendations by the FDA, you should make sure that you only buy eggs that have been sold from a refrigerator or a refrigerated case and store them in the fridge as soon as possible after purchasing them, at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
But some chefs and other people may argue that an egg cannot be cooked and consumed even after being left on the counter or car overnight by accident.
So, where does the truth lie, and how long can eggs sit out before going bad and being unsafe to eat? Read on to find out more.
How Long Can Raw Eggs Stay Out of The Refrigerator?
Even though when you buy a Grade A or AA USDA-graded egg, and you know that it has been cleaned and sanitized as well as refrigerated promptly after being laid, the USDA still recommends that you avoid leaving eggs unrefrigerated for over 2 hours.
The reason, according to the USDA, is that the cold egg left at room temperature can “sweat,” which can lead to the movement and growth of harmful bacteria in the egg.
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.
But some bakers, chefs, and home cooks are defending their opinion that it is not unsafe to use eggs that have been left overnight. Even more – they suggest that it is better to leave the eggs out of the refrigerator overnight before using them for cooking or baking.
According to the people supporting this view, this practice is absolutely safe, unless there are drastic temperature fluctuations, and if the eggs are cooked thoroughly and the person preparing them washed their hands thoroughly after handling them.
Keep in mind that the USDA and FDA guidelines maintain that eggs should not be consumed after being left at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 hours.
Eggs Staying in the Car Overnight
While in some cases, it may be safe to cook the eggs which you left on the countertop or in the grocery bag in your kitchen overnight, leaving them in the car overnight is an entirely different case.
The reason is that the temperature in your car, especially if it is parked outside, will fluctuate quite a lot during the evening, night and morning. This fluctuation holds great risk for the development and growth of salmonella and other harmful bacteria in the eggs.
So, if you forgot the eggs in your car yesterday, the safest thing to do is to throw them out today.
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How to Store Fresh Eggs
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there is a big difference regarding the safety recommendations for storing fresh eggs depending on whether you live in the UK, the USA, or other countries.
In most European countries, the hens are vaccinated regularly against salmonella, and the eggs are not washed, so the eggs are considered safe. It is even recommended for them to be stored outside of the refrigerator.
In the USA, only the eggs are treated to prevent the growth of salmonella via sanitization, testing, and refrigeration, so the USDA warns against using eggs that have been kept outside of the fridge (at temperatures over 40 degrees Fahrenheit) for two hours or more.
Since washing the eggs makes their shells more prone to infections, it is always recommended to put the washed eggs in the refrigerator as soon as possible after buying them.
If your eggs come from hens that have been vaccinated against salmonella, then you can safely leave them at room temperature. In fact, this is the recommended way to store them to prevent bacterial development and growth.
So, how to properly and safely store fresh eggs depends on where you live and where you got your eggs.
If you are in North America, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, or Japan, you should most probably need to keep your eggs in the refrigerator.
In other countries where the eggs have not been washed, and the hens have been vaccinated, you should store the eggs at room temperature.
In any case, if the hen has been vaccinated, then there is no danger of salmonellosis. If not, no matter the other precautions, you should store them in the fridge at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
If you have your own hens and they are vaccinated, you can store the eggs at room temperature but will have to wash them prior to cooking. Once the eggs have been washed, though, they will need to be placed in the fridge.
You can freeze the eggs and use them for up to a year.
Always wash your hands after handling eggs that have been laid by your hens.
The Right Way to Store Eggs in Fridge
If you live in the USA, the right way to store the eggs you have bought from the store is to place them and keep them in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
Don’t wash the eggs if you have bought them from the store. This will help maintain the protective qualities of the eggshells for longer.
Store the eggs in their box or in another container somewhere in the back of the refrigerator where the temperature is constant and not affected by the opening and closing of the door.
It is not recommended to store your eggs on in the door of the fridge due to these potential temperature fluctuations, which can cause bacterial growth.
When stored at consistent temperatures up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you can expect the eggs to last and remain fresh and safe to eat for 4 to 5 weeks.
How to Store Unrefrigerated Eggs
If you have your own vaccinated hens or live somewhere where there are regulations for such mandatory shots and where the eggs are not washed, then you should store them in a cupboard or countertop at room temperature.
The most important thing is to abstain from washing the eggs until right before using them for cooking or baking.
Also, remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them.
You can get a special egg holder or another device to keep the eggs safe from breaking, as well as to protect your kitchen from potential contamination.
Unwashed eggs from vaccinated hens can last for up to 3 weeks when stored at room temperature.
How to Store Already Cooked Eggs
Cooked eggs can be stored safely in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days. You can safely consume cooked eggs for the next few days after preparing them, but only if they have been kept in the fridge.
You can expect the quality of the cooked eggs to decline after being refrigerated.
Hard-boiled eggs will remain delicious even after being refrigerated, but scrambled, and fried eggs can become rigid and have a rubbery texture.
If you accidentally leave the cooked eggs at room temperature overnight, then it is best not to eat them at all.
You Might Ask
Can eggs go bad?
Yes, eggs are animal-based products that can go stale or become contaminated with harmful bacteria.
While there is a best by date on each carton of eggs, if you store them at a consistent temperature properly, then they can hardly go bad, but nevertheless, their quality will start to deteriorate if you store them for too long.
Follow our guidelines for storing eggs in the USA, in the UK, or depending on whether the hens have been immunized against salmonella or the eggs have been washed if you want to have fresh and safe eggs to eat for longer.
How can eggs cause a Salmonella infection?
Salmonella infection or salmonellosis is a foodborne illness caused by bacteria residing in a number of animal-based products, including eggs.
The eggs can become contaminated with the salmonella bacteria from their unvaccinated mothers or from the droppings when they are laid.
This is an unpleasant and sometimes dangerous illness that you can easily prevent by ensuring that the eggs you consume have been stored properly, washed, and cooked at sufficient temperatures to kill any existing bacteria.
You may want to consider buying pasteurized eggs and keeping them in the fridge at all times, as well as cooking them until they are firm in order to prevent getting salmonellosis.
Are eggs vegan?
Since eggs are laid by animals, they are not vegan. Just like all other eggs which are laid by animals and which are fertilized and have the potential to grow into animals, eggs are not vegan.
Are eggs vegetarian?
Some ovo-vegetarians consider eggs as acceptable for their diets, especially those eggs which are commercially produced and have not been fertilized and thus do not have the potential to grow into animals and hence into having to consume animal flesh.
Other pescatarian vegetarians refrain from eating eggs as they would from eating other animal-based products such as poultry, meat, or seafood.