How to tell if eggs are bad

How many times have we arrived at a placement, cracked an egg into a bowl and then wondered if it was really ok to eat? Unfortunately, eggs are difficult to tell if they are fresh or not because of the shell which hides the condition of the white and the yolk.

There are some ways to tell if that egg is fresh or not.

Check the date on the carton

Eggs may be labelled with either a ‘sell by’ or a ‘use by’ date on them, depending on where you live and what supermarket you use.

‘Sell by’ is used for the store. They are not supposed to sell eggs after this date. It is for their guidance. The eggs may not be bad, but it is when the supermarket should remove them from the shelves.

‘Use by’ or expiration dates is when the eggs are considered less than fresh enough to eat.

Now I am sure that many of us have used eggs which are past the sell by date, and it is true that eggs in the fridge do last several weeks and still be fine to eat. However, if the date on the carton shows the eggs are past then you may want to use another method to check them.

Use the sniff test

There is an unmistakable smell that a bad egg will give off, regardless of whether they are raw or cooked. Once you have smelt this vile smell, you will never forget it!

But if you cannot smell through the shell then crack the egg into a bowl and take a sniff. If things are normal, meaning that there is no smell, then your egg is good to eat.

Take a look

Check the unbroken egg and see if the shell is cracked, slimy or powdery. Powder is an indication of mould, while slime shows bacteria. Either slime or cracked shells can indicate bacteria.

Once cracked you should break the egg into a saucer and take a look. Any pink, black, blue, or green discolouration are signs of bacteria, and the egg should be discarded.

Float the egg

This is the test that most of us will know about. It is very reliable for checking if the egg is bad or fresh.

Fill a bowl with water and pop the egg into it. If the egg sinks it is fresh. If it floats, it is bad and should be discarded. 

If it tilts upwards, it is old. It may still be usable though because as the egg ages the air pocket inside it enlarges and the egg floats, so a tilt does not necessarily mean the egg is bad, simply that it is old.

Light it up

You will need to take the egg into a dark room. You can use a candle, although a torch will work.

Hold the torch or candle up to the egg. Now tilt the egg and turn it around quickly, going from left to right. With a bit of practice, you will be able to see the contents of the egg.

You should see the air cell inside the egg, and whether it is small or large. Fresh eggs have cells of less than 1/8th inch.

This will show you if the egg is still fresh although it may not show you if the egg is bad.

Final thoughts

It is advisable never to take a chance eating an egg which you are not sure about. This is particularly important with an elderly client who may have a weakened immune system.

While there are ways to determine the freshness of the egg, if you are in any doubt, it may be best to discard it and plan another meal.



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