Cracked Egg Safety: When to Eat and When to Toss
Curious if cracked eggs are safe to eat? The answer: It depends. Here’s what to know before you cook with that cracked egg.
Eggs are one of the most affordable and easiest to cook sources of vegetarian protein. (One large egg offers 6.2 grams of protein and just 74 calories, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, aka USDA.) Many of us inspect a carton of eggs before adding it to our grocery carts, but what if you forget and come home to find a cracked egg in your carton? It need not spoil the dozen nor scramble your breakfast plans. Here’s what you need to know if you come across an already-cracked egg.
Are Cracked Eggs Safe to Eat?
The answer depends on if you accidentally cracked it yourself, or the egg was already cracked in your purchased carton.
Since bacteria can be introduced to the yolk or white through cracks in the shell, it’s important to examine your eggs at the supermarket. Avoid any containers with cracked eggs, suggests the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. If you purchased eggs that were already cracked, do not use them; throw them away! In case you need more convincing that the answer is “no” to your question, “Is a cracked egg safe to eat?” Taiwanese researchers found that salmonella was much more likely to be found in eggs with weak or cracked shells. With risks like that, you always want to be using eggs safely.
The answer is different if you were the one who accidentally cracked an egg or if you’re wanting to crack eggs the night before to cook with them. In that case, you can still use the cracked egg later, when stored correctly.
How to Store Cracked Eggs, If They’re the Safe Kind
How long do cracked eggs last? That varies for whites, yolks, or whole eggs and how you want to store them.
How to Refrigerate Cracked Eggs
If you accidentally crack an egg at home, put the egg into a clean container (such as a small bowl from this Rubbermaid Food Storage Container Set, $17.99, Target), seal, and store in the refrigerator up to two days.
When you’re ready to scramble, poach, or omelet-ize that egg, be sure to cook it fully to destroy any potential bacteria. Here are the safe doneness temperatures for each kind of egg preparation, according to the Egg Safety Center:
- Omelets, frittatas, and hard-boiled eggs: Cook to 160°F
- Egg white omelet: Cook to 144°F–149°F
- Scrambled, over-easy, over-hard, fried, and poached: Cook to 144°F–158°F
How to Freeze Cracked Eggs
Separated egg whites can be safely frozen for a year; try portioning them in ice cube tray wells. You can freeze whole eggs by beating the egg whites and yolks together and freezing in a sealed container. These will also last for up to one year. Separated egg yolks cannot be frozen.
If an egg happens to crack during hard-boiling in a pot on the stove or in your Instant Pot, simply peel and use it as you would normally. This kind of cracked egg is safe to consume.