OMG! My Egg Floats! What Does That Mean?
How To Tell Old Eggs From Fresh
Storage and Dating
The first step to good eggs is proper storage. To help you keep your eggs fresh longer, the best storage for your eggs when you get them home is toward the back of your refrigerator where it will be the coolest…not in a door where they are exposed to warm air each time the door is opened.
Food safety agencies recommend eggs be consumed within three to five weeks from the date of purchase when stored properly.
In a recent conversation with Archie, a food safety expert with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), he said your date of purchase is the most important to keep track of because it’s assumed that stores go through their eggs in a regular, timely manner while rotating their stock, and they won’t have the same stock on the shelves for more than one to two weeks.
If you have ‘Sell By’ dates on your cartons, Archie stresses that this is not the date you should use when figuring out those three to five weeks. Only add three to five weeks to your purchase date. If you add these weeks to any ‘Sell By’ date on your carton, your eggs may very well be bad by the time the fifth week rolls around.
If your egg carton does not have a Sell By date, it may not be required by your State while other States may prohibit this stamp. This date on egg cartons is not federally required and its use is determined by your State, according to the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service information.
If you don’t go through eggs quickly, Archie suggests marking the date you bought them on the carton to help keep track of the three to five weeks. (You can go a step further and mark your own ‘end’ date on the carton by adding those three to five weeks to the date you bought them so you don’t have to calculate the weeks each time you grab an egg, wondering if it’s still good.)
Perhaps you don’t go through eggs quickly enough to keep some of them from going bad. But how can you tell if the egg is bad? Floating it in water won’t answer this question. Good eggs float!
Why does an egg float?
I, like many, grew up believing that eggs that float in water have gone bad and shouldn’t be used. Well…it’s another wive’s tale. I hate to think how many eggs I’ve pitched while not having the facts.
In a recent online chat with a food safety representative through FoodSafety.gov’s “Ask Karen”, I found that this isn’t true…if an egg floats, it only tells you that it’s old but it may still be safe to use.
As an egg ages the pores in the shell allow more air to get into the egg and, like an inflated inner tube in water, the egg will float. This only means the egg is older.
Archie confirmed this and explained further that one end of the egg has an area that holds air. This space collects more air through the pores of the shell as the egg ages. You’ve probably noticed, inside the shell, that one end has less egg and more area of air…this is the end that will always float to the surface in water when the egg is old.
Then how can I tell if my egg is bad?
The only way to tell if your egg is so old it’s gone bad…is to open it. Ask Karen suggested cracking it open into a separate bowl to see if it looks and smells okay. If it doesn’t look good or looks abnormal, if it smells off or bad, don’t use it.
As I always tell myself…when in doubt, don’t!
The good news about an egg that floats, they explained, is that when it’s boiled, the shell comes off easier!
Floating An Egg
Get a bowl or pan deep enough to hold the entire egg lengthwise under water. Fill it with water…enough water to completely cover the egg.
Gently place the egg into the water.
Fresh eggs typically sink when they’re placed in a bowl of water. If your egg sinks to the bottom it’s fresher than one that floats and you shouldn’t expect problems unless it’s cracked.
On the other hand, when an egg has aged and the pores have allowed more air into the shell, it floats in water.
Learning this new money-saving lesson, now when I do this test and the egg floats, I crack it open into a separate bowl from the bowl or pan I’m using and see what the condition inside is before I use it. Does it look odd? Does it smell bad?
If the answer is yes, toss it.
If it smells fine and looks fine, according to the USDA and Ask Karen it’s perfectly fine to use.
You can learn more about egg safety from the USDA here.
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