Are Cracked Eggs Safe To Eat?

Plus, exactly what to do if you open your carton and find one shell chipped or cracked.

dozen eggs with one egg crackd
Photo: Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Affordable and easy-to-cook eggs are a staple in most Southern kitchens. In fact, Americans eat roughly 280 eggs each year, according to USDA estimates.

And you rarely need to repeat a recipe unless you want to. Eggs are remarkably versatile, too. Fried, poached, scrambled, quiched, or deviled, or incorporated into cakes, brownies, cookies, and beyond; chances are you add a dozen eggs to your cart nearly every trip to the supermarket.

Many of us flip open the top to inspect the eggs inside the carton before ringing it up. But what if you forget to do so—or order grocery delivery or curbside pickup—and find a cracked egg in the carton? Here's your food-safe strategy.

Is a Cracked Egg Safe to Eat?

The verdict here varies based on if you accidentally cracked the egg yourself (either as part of the recipe process or while transferring groceries from the bag to the refrigerator, for instance), or if the egg was already cracked when you brought it into your home.

An Egg Cracked By Someone Else

Bacteria can easily be introduced to the egg yolk or egg white through any cracks in the shells, so it's best to steer clear of any cartons with cracked eggs inside if possible, recommends the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

If you bought eggs that were already cracked or appear to be chipping, toss those individual eggs ASAP before anyone unknowingly cooks with them. The rest of the uncracked eggs in the carton should be safe to use as long as they are not showcasing any of these four signs an egg has gone bad.

An Egg Cracked By You or Someone in Your Household

If you accidentally cracked the egg as you brought it home or while moving it onto its shelf (by the way, you should ideally not store eggs in the door), you can still use the cracked egg later if you handle it with some TLC from this point forward.

Place the mistakenly-cracked egg into a clean, airtight container, top it with a lid, and store the egg in the refrigerator for up to two days, the USDA says. When you're ready to use it in your recipe, cook it fully to kill off any potential bacteria.

To extend the life of your egg a little longer, feel free to freeze separated egg whites (an ice cube tray works wonderfully for this). Alternatively, beat whole eggs into a scramble-like mixture, then freeze in a container with a lid. Both should last for up to one year.

Do not freeze separated egg yolks without adding a couple more ingredients first. Check out our primer on how to freeze eggs so you can use those yolks at a later date—and preserve their flavor and texture.

By the way, if eggs crack during the process of hard-boiling, they should be A-OK to peel and consume as usual, the USDA confirms.

How to Safely Cook Eggs (Plus Why Egg Food Safety Matters)

Cooking an egg correctly is a wise strategy any time you prepare eggs. Even uncracked eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella since the bacteria can get inside the egg before the shells are fully formed, the FDA adds. Salmonella can lead to food poisoning, a condition that can include symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever starting about 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated eggs and lasting for up to a week.

Here are the safe doneness levels for the most popular egg prep options, per the Egg Safety Center:

  • Omelets, frittatas, quiches, casseroles, stratas, eggnog, and hard-boiled eggs: 160°F
  • Egg white omelets and pie meringues: 144°F to 149°F
  • Scrambled, over-easy, over-hard, fried, basted, and poached: 144°F to 158°F
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