3 Simple Tests to Determine if Your Eggs Have Gone Bad

No need to waste a carton of eggs simply because the sell-by date on the carton has passed. Use our Test Kitchen's easy go-to method to test eggs for freshness.

Whether you're eating them sunny-side-up, hard-boiled, or in a quiche, eggs are the ultimate breakfast menu item. Of course, eggs are also an essential ingredient for baking sweet and savory recipes including bread, cookies, cakes, noodles, and more. But when you don't go through a dozen before the expiration date is up, how do you tell if the eggs are bad? While the two dates on the carton can be confusing, you might be able to prevent food waste and use those eggs after all. Before you toss them in the trash, find out how long eggs actually last and use our Test Kitchen's go-to method for checking the freshness of eggs.

infographic of eggs in various stages of freshness
Michela Buttignol

Testing Eggs for Freshness

There are a few ways to test eggs to see if they're still usable for your morning scramble or cookie recipe. The easiest way to tell if your eggs are bad is the sink or float test (pictured above), but we'll go over all the methods so you can ensure those eggs are fresh.

The Egg Float Test

Scientifically speaking, the older the eggs are, the more porous the shells become, creating an air sac that separates the membrane (not good). To easily test eggs for freshness, start with a bowl of water cool water and gently drop in the eggs in question. If the egg immediately sinks and lays flat on its side, they are fresh. Eggs that sink with the tip slanted or pointing upward are still good, but you'll want to use them soon. Toss any eggs that float.

Smell Test

You've probably heard the phrase "smells like a rotten egg." This sentiment holds true here in that if you catch a whiff of a rotten, sulfurous smell upon cracking, it means the eggs have gone bad.

Check the Egg Whites

Remember the air sacs mentioned in the float test? The air that's coming into those porous shells can cause the egg whites to change appearance. Fresh egg whites should appear thick and slightly opaque. Bad eggs will have whites that are watery and clear. The egg yolks on bad eggs will also appear flat and not in a dome shape.

close up of eggs in carton
dekru / Getty Images

How Long Do Eggs Last?

While the date on the carton is a good place to start when it comes to storing fresh eggs, you can gauge how long they'll last by how they're stored (in or out of the shell). Here's a general timeline to follow for how long eggs last.

The Best Way to Store Eggs

According to the American Egg Board (AEB), it's important to store eggs in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40ºF or less. There are some egg storage containers out there, but the AEB recommends keeping them in their original carton, away from pungent foods, and not on the door of the fridge.

Eggs Refrigerator
Whole eggs (in shell) Up to 5 weeks beyond the packing date or approximately 3 weeks after purchase
Raw whole eggs (out of shell) Up to 2 days
Raw egg whites Up to 4 days
Hard-boiled eggs (in shell) Up to 1 week; try to use peeled hard-boiled eggs the same day

Freezing Eggs

Eggs in the "eat soon" phase? Freeze them to avoid having to toss them. Place slightly beaten whole eggs (or separate the egg yolks and whites) in an airtight container for up to 1 year. Don't forget to label the containers with a date. Allow the eggs to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before use. Since egg yolks thicken when frozen, the AEB says to beat in either ⅛ teaspoon salt or 1½ teaspoon sugar or corn syrup per ¼ cup yolks (4 Large). Oh, and it's not recommended to freeze whole eggs in their shells or hard-boiled eggs.

If you're looking for ways to use up almost-bad eggs, our Test Kitchen loves turning them into hard-boiled eggs, as slightly older eggs are easier to peel. Complete your menu with an egg casserole for brunch or a breakfast-for-dinner recipe.

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