Keeping Chicken Eggs Fresh

“What is the best way of keeping the chicken eggs? Should they be kept in the fridge or not?” ~ Nikki Ward

Nikki, this is a great question, there’s a lot of confusing information out there.

As part of the formation of the chicken egg, it is covered in a thin membrane called the “bloom”. Egg shells are porous. The bloom seals the pores that allow air and germs to transfer into an egg once it has been laid. The transference of air will speed up aging and the transference of bacteria could cause contamination.

The bloom is removed by washing the egg in water. Repeated handling will eventually wear it away as well. If you choose to wash your chicken eggs right after collecting them, it is imperative that they be refrigerated as the bloom can no longer protect the egg. This is important; if you wash your eggs, use them immediately or refrigerate them at a temperature between 35°F and 45°F (3° and 7°C).

However, there are those that would argue that if the bloom can protect a chick for 21 days until it hatches, certainly unwashed eggs can sit on your counter and forego refrigeration.

After all, people enjoyed eggs long before there was refrigeration. Let’s not forget that there are many people throughout the world that enjoy chicken eggs as a staple in their diet and who have no electricity. Since millions of eggs are consumed daily, wouldn’t there be wide spread sickness if eggs were really so easily contaminated?

If your unwashed eggs are clean and have no cracks, I see no problem with letting them sit out for up to two weeks.

Some will tell you that they will stay fresh much longer than two weeks but I’d rather advise you more conservatively. I also believe that if you do not refrigerate your unwashed eggs, you should always do a cool water float test for freshness before you prepare them for eating. More about cool water tests below.

You may be saying, “But what if my eggs have poo on them? Don’t I have to wash them?” The answer to that is, “Yes”. You will need to thoroughly wash the eggs and either use them or store them in the refrigerator to be used first.

I cannot recommend storing soiled eggs in your refrigerator with the rest of your food. Salmonella is a bacteria found in chicken manure. While the bloom is intact, salmonella cannot get into the egg. If you have a soiled egg that is cracked, it should not be eaten because of the potential for bacteria to enter the egg through the crack. But even a heavily soiled egg is perfectly safe if it is thoroughly washed and either cooked or stored under refrigeration.

Use these refrigerated, washed eggs first.

Remember that once the bloom has been removed, the egg is susceptible to air transference; this will speed up the aging process.

The best thing you can do with a muddy or manured chicken egg is prevent it from getting that way in the first place. Keep your nesting boxes clean and your nesting material fresh. Chickens poop mostly at night. If your hens have developed a habit of sleeping in their nesting boxes, thereby messing up their nests, go out and move them to their roost. Do this nightly and within a few weeks, they should get the message. If you have to, block off their boxes to keep your hens from sleeping in them.

My recommendation is to store clean, unwashed eggs in the refrigerator. You have the best of both worlds. The bloom naturally protects the egg from bacteria and refrigeration further slows aging to retain freshness. There are studies showing that this is the best way to store eggs long-term. Eggs can be stored in this manner for up to 6 months and still remain edible. Again, a cool water test is in order if the eggs have been stored for awhile.

Here’s how to conduct a cool water float test:

Fill a bowl with cool water and place the egg in it.

If the chicken egg lies on its side, it is very fresh.

If the egg lies at an angle but still in contact with the bottom of the bowl, it is fresh.

If the egg stands on end but still is in contact with the bowl, it’s okay for baking.

If the egg floats, get rid of it!

If you have any concerns about the freshness of an egg, use this method to be sure the egg is okay to eat.

Always wash all eggs thoroughly before use. I would also recommend that you always crack your eggs into a separate container than the one you are preparing. If your egg is less than fresh, better to find out before you’ve added it to other ingredients so you won’t have to start over.

Always store your eggs in an egg carton in the middle of the refrigerator. Do not use the spots made by the manufacturer in the door. As you open and close the door, the eggs are exposed to many changes in temperature. To best retain their quality, the eggs need to stay at a more constant temperature on an interior shelf.

Finally, there are non-refrigeration preservation methods that are interesting and worth looking into.

The Waterglass Method and the Lard Coating Method can indeed preserve your eggs much longer than no preservation but not as long as unwashed, refrigerated eggs. In both of these methods, the bloom is not removed prior to preservation. We may talk about these techniques more in a future newsletter.

Nikki, I hope this has answered your question, thanks so much for asking.

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