4 Easy Ways To Tell If An Egg Has Gone Bad

How do you tell if an egg has gone bad? This easy checklist will ensure you don't use a less than fresh egg.

Eggs Floating in Water
Photo: Howard Shooter/Getty Images

So, you've got a carton of eggs in the fridge that has gone well past its sell-by date. Now what? All is not lost, as the printed date on the packaging isn't the definite expiration date. In fact, most store-bought eggs kept in the refrigerator remain fresh for weeks beyond the stamped date. You can't rely solely on your eyes and the "best by" date to determine if an egg is still good enough to eat. Plus, contrary to popular belief, the nose can't always determine an egg's freshness either.

Because eating a bad egg can cause food poisoning, it's better to be safe than sorry. Before you toss that entire expired carton in the garbage, here are four quick and easy ways to tell if an egg has gone bad. The best part? These basic tips don't require you to boil a single egg.

Sink or Swim?

The best kept secret in determining an egg's freshness is to see if it sinks in water. To try the egg water test, simply fill a glass or bowl with cold water and submerge the eggs. If the eggs sink to the bottom and lay flat on their side, they're still fresh.

However, if they sink, but stand on one end at the bottom of the glass or bowl, they're not as fresh but still edible. Of course, if any eggs float to the top, they shouldn't be eaten. The science behind this is based on the fact that eggshells are semipermeable, which means air can get through. So the older the egg, the more air can penetrate its shell, causing it to float.

Hard Boiled Eggs in Bowl
Getty/antpkr

Shake It

Another method not as reliable as the float trick is to hold an egg up to your ear and shake it. If you hear liquid swishing around inside, it's gone bad. On the other hand, no sound equals good news. The sloshing sound usually points to an old, watery yolk.

Sniff it Out

If the egg doesn't pass the smell test, it's best to toss it. When cracked, eggs should have a neutral odor—not a distinct smell such as sulphuric, gassy, or sour notes.

Use Your Eyes

Inspect your egg while it's still in the shell. If it has cracks or a slimy or powdery exterior, it's likely contaminated by bacteria or mold.

Just before you make that cheesy scramble with an egg that appears to be good enough to use, you need to observe the yolk and egg white once cracked onto a flat surface. Fresh eggs will have a bright yellow or orange yolk, where the egg white is slightly stiff and sits up around the yolk. The white of a not-so-fresh egg will be more flat and spread out.

If your eggs are expiring soon, a delicious way to make use of them is to hard-boil them and stuff them in a jar with a brine to make pickled eggs. Also, be sure to keep your eggs fresher longer by storing them in the right place in your fridge.

Must-Try Egg Recipes

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