How to tell if eggs are still good

Egg Float Test Blog Cover

We have all heard of it, but what exactly is it?

The egg float test is a simple test which checks for the egg’s freshness.

But is it just an old wives’ tale or does this test actually work?

Today’s topic is just that, we’re going to explain the egg float test, how to do it and whether it is accurate. We will also discuss how best to store your eggs – especially in these hot and humid months!

What is the Egg Float Test?

The egg float test is an old fashioned way of telling approximately how old your eggs are. It is simple to do and only takes 5 minutes to check a carton of eggs.

How to Do the Egg Float Test

Start by filling a bowl with enough cold water to cover the egg plus two inches. The eggs to be tested should be un-cracked. Cracked eggs really should be discarded or fed back to the hens.

Once the bowl is full of water, simply place an egg into the water; one egg at a time.

The results can be understood as follows:

  • Egg stays at the bottom lying on its’ side – very fresh
  • Egg stands up but is still submerged – not as fresh but still good to eat.
  • Egg floats – very old, best not to use it.

Egg Float Test

Is The Egg Float Test Accurate?

This method has withstood the test of time – it is quite accurate.

Folks who do this test a lot will become adept at telling you how many weeks old the egg is based on its’ position in the water.

Why is it accurate? In a fresh egg there is a very small air cell, so it has little or no buoyancy. The older the egg gets, the larger that air cell becomes. When the air cell gets to a certain size, the egg will float.

Alternatives to Egg Float Test

In addition to the egg float test there are a few other methods you can try to test an egg’s freshness.

Candling

Those who are very good at candling can tell approximately how old the egg is by candling it.

This isn’t easy, so I really don’t recommend it for beginners unless you want to practice your candling skills ready for the hatching season!

Shaking the Egg

This one is a bit ‘iffy’. While it is true that really old eggs do have a sloshing sound, I’m not sure how accurate this would be in eggs that are of marginal age.

The science says that the contents of the egg shrink over time leaving a larger pocket for air and thus more mobility for the content to move when shaken, also as the egg ages the contents degrade and mix together.

Overall I’d steer clear of this method.

Sniff Test

This works once you have cracked the egg. There is no mistaking the stench of a rotten egg…ewww!

Plate Test

If you crack the egg gently on to a plate, watch how it ‘sits’.  A very fresh egg will have a vibrant yellow/orange yolk that sits upright. The white will be firm and ‘tight’.

An older egg will have a yolk that will be flatter and the white will spread out across the plate. Just because it spreads out doesn’t mean it is not good to eat, it’s just not fresh.

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Carton Date

Egg CartonClearly this method will only work on store bought eggs.

You will notice on the egg carton some information for you. On the photo enclosed there are 3 pieces of information for you.

  1. Packing plant number
  2. Day of the year the eggs were packed. Day 164 in the Julian calendar is actually June 13th.
  3. Best by date – the eggs should be removed from the shelf by this date.

Interestingly, store bought eggs can be up to 2 months old when you get them. Once the eggs are laid, the farmer has 30 days to get them packaged. Once packaged, they can be sold for up to 30 days, by law.

So, your supermarket eggs are safe to eat, just not quite as ‘farm fresh’ as you would perhaps like.

How Long Do Eggs Last?

Eggs that have been stored correctly can last a considerable time. Provided they are refrigerated at the correct temperature, eggs can be used up to 8 weeks after they have been laid.

If you want to freeze eggs, you will need to break and lightly beat them. I use large ice cube trays as 1 cube = 1 egg. These will keep for up to a year.

Frozen eggs are really best used in baking since they do slightly lose their freshness.

How to Store Eggs Properly

Different countries have differing practices when it comes to cleaning and storing fresh eggs.

My Grandma and Mum bought eggs from the local egg man who sold eggs from the back of a horse drawn cart every week.  As a child I can remember my family having those same eggs out on the counter ready for use.

We didn’t have a refrigerator – we survived, never got sick and enjoyed fresh eggs almost every day.

In our times things are a bit different for many reasons. The rise of the industrial farming has given us cheaper foods but at the cost of perhaps some cleanliness issues; most notably the salmonella outbreaks that occur.

Depressingly, it is to be expected when you cram a few thousand hens into a barn together, close quarters enable the rapid progression of ill health and disease.

This also applies to your own hens’ eggs too. Mucky eggs should never be used for things like fresh mayonnaise dressing, use only clean eggs for raw egg applications.

In order to protect the consumer, many Governments now advise you to store eggs in the fridge for your safety.

The eggs should be stored at 40-45F. Do not store them in the door of the fridge! The constant opening and closing of the door gives a variable temperature, this is the worst place for eggs – store them in a carton on the shelf in the coolest part of the fridge.

Read How to Store Your Chickens’ Freshly Laid Eggs for more.

Cooking Tip

Hard Boiled EggIf you have ever boiled very fresh eggs to make hard boiled eggs, you will already know how difficult it is to remove the shell from them.

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You should use eggs that are a bit older as they will peel easier.

If you have to use the very fresh eggs, steam them for 20 minutes for bantam eggs and 25 minutes for standard before plunging into cold water.

Repeat the cold water plunge again – you want them to stop cooking quickly. Leave aside until cool enough to handle then peel. One or two may resist you but most will peel with a bit of care.

Should You Wash Your Eggs?

This discussion goes round and round, but there is never a ‘one answer fits all’ situations.

If your eggs are laid in clean nest boxes this isn’t a problem, but if you have a bunch of poop-stained eggs, what then?

Mother Nature ingeniously places a protective coating over each egg after it is laid – it is called ‘the bloom’. The bloom seals goodness in and keeps bacteria out, so clean eggs don’t need washing.

However, those that aren’t so clean – what to do with them? Washing them will remove the protective bloom and leave the egg contents vulnerable to bacteria.

You have three options really:

  • Wash the egg: Do so in hot water; do not allow the egg to sit in the water. Run the hot water and use a cloth or scrubby pad to remove the soil. Some folks use bleach or dish soap; it really isn’t necessary.
  • Sandpaper: If the soilage is minimal and dry, use a piece of sandpaper to rub it off.
  • Toss the egg: If it’s grossly contaminated, throw it in the compost.

It really isn’t necessary to clean eggs before use if they are not visibly soiled. There are people who wash eggs regardless ‘just because’.

If you do have to wash some of your eggs, it is best to use these eggs first as you have removed their protective coating.

Tip: if your eggs are poopy on a regular basis, it’s time to look at why. Do your hens sleep in the nest boxes? If so, it is time for that to stop or you have to change out the bedding daily.

If you have a couple of hens that insist on laying on the floor (there’s always one, believe me), it could be time for some remediation if she is young enough to break the habit.

Is my egg still good?

Look for the best before date on your egg carton or directly on the eggs themselves. (Photo: Utopia / Sven Christian Schulz)

A best before date can be found on each carton of eggs. In many places, the eggs themselves also receive a stamp with the best before date on their shells. This is usually around 28 days from the day they were laid. Even after the best before date has passed, many eggs are still good.

Unwashed-eggs last three weeks, even without a refrigerator. They can then be kept in the refrigerator for another week or two. As a precaution, however, you should not eat expired eggs raw or only lightly cooked. There are several methods you can use to determine if older eggs are still good.

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The Water Test

The water test is probably the best known method to determine if an egg is still edible. Just put the intact, raw egg in a bowl of water.

  • If the egg lays on its side at the bottom, it’s still fresh.
  • If the egg stands upright on the bottom, it should only be eaten when well-heated.
  • If the egg floats to the top, it shouldn’t be eaten.

Why does the spoiled egg float on top? From the moment a hen lays an egg, water from the egg yolk begins to pass slowly through the shell and evaporate. An air pocket gradually fills the space vacated by the water. If the egg floats to the surface, you shouldn’t eat it.

The Yolk Test

Yolk Test: fresh yolks should maintain their shape on a flat surface. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / stevepb)

The egg yolk can also reveal if the egg is still good. Obviously, this method isn’t suitable for eggs that will be cooked in their shell. But for all raw egg recipes, you can carefully crack open the egg onto a flat surface (it is really important that the surface is not sloped in any way).

  • If the yolk maintains its shape and the egg white stays close by, the egg is still fresh.
  • If the yolk flattens or breaks easily and the egg white spreads across the surface, the egg should be discarded.

A cloudy hue to the egg white is a sign of extra freshness, as this “cloudiness” is actually carbon dioxide, which is present when the egg is laid. Over time, the egg white will become more transparent, as the carbon dioxide dissipates. If your egg white is pale and runny like water, you shouldn’t eat the egg.

Sound and Light Tests

There are two other methods to distinguish fresh eggs from spoiled eggs. However, they are not always conclusive. Utopia only recommends them in combination with the methods mentioned above:

Sound Test

In a quiet environment, hold the egg up to your ear and gently shake it from side to side.

  • If you cannot hear any sound, the egg can be eaten.
  • If you hear a sloshing sound, you shouldn’t eat the egg.

This occurs with older eggs because the protein is no longer completely firm. It sloshes back and forth inside the egg when you shake it.

Light Test

Often called “candling”, this is a centuries-old solution. In an otherwise dark environment, hold the egg against up to a strong light.

  • If the air pocket is small and the yolk is only slightly discernible, the egg can be eaten.
  • If the air pocket is larger or the yolk is very visible against the opaque egg white, you shouldn’t eat the egg.

As mentioned above, fresh eggs have cloudier egg whites and smaller air pockets. Cloudier egg whites conceal the egg yolks more fully when light passes through. Air pockets continue to grow as eggs age. If a hard-boiled egg does not have a full egg-shaped white when peeled, it was stale when cooked.

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