In certain countries, people can keep eggs outside the refrigerator. However, in the United States, eggs are a perishable item. This means a person should store eggs in the refrigerator until they are ready to use them.

Eggs are a consumable product produced by chickens and other birds. The eggs a person consumes are unfertilized. This means they will not develop into an embryo.

If a person refrigerates eggs on the day of purchase, they can last 3⁠–5 weeks.

This article explains how long eggs can last, the best way to store them, and how to tell when they have gone bad.

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In the U.S., commercially available eggs have to be refrigerated by law. Eggs are washed and sanitized on commercial egg farms before being sold. This is to remove any harmful bacteria.

However, this cleaning process can also remove the cuticle of the egg. The egg cuticle covers up natural pores in the shell. This helps to prevent bacteria from entering the egg.

Without the cuticle, the egg is at risk of contamination by bacteria. Immediately refrigerating the egg can prevent bacteria from passing through the shell pores.

Eggs can last for different lengths of time in different conditions. A person should always refrigerate or freeze egg products to prevent spoiling. Out-of-date eggs can be dangerous to consume.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend that people store eggs in the following ways:

Refrigerator, 40°F (approx 4.4°C)Freezer, -18°F (approx -27°C)Room temperature
Fresh egg in its shell3⁠–5 weeksdo not freezeless than 2 hours
Raw yolks or whites2⁠–4 days1 yearless than 2 hours
Hard-cooked egg1 weekdo not freezeless than 2 hours
Unopened liquid pasteurized egg or egg substitutes10 days1 yearless than 2 hours
Opened liquid pasteurized egg or egg substitutes3 daysdo not freezeless than 2 hours
Homemade eggnog2⁠–4 daysdo not freezeless than 2 hours
Commercial eggnog3⁠–5 days6 monthsless than 2 hours
Casseroles with egg3⁠–4 days after baking2⁠–3 months after bakingless than 2 hours
Pumpkin or pecan pie3⁠–4 days after baking1⁠–2 months after bakingless than 2 hours
Custard or chiffon pie3⁠–4 days after bakingdo not freezeless than 2 hours
Quiches with filling3⁠–5 days after baking2⁠–3 months after bakingless than 2 hours

Foods containing eggs, such as quiches or casseroles, should be served immediately. A person should store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

If a person leaves an egg out of the refrigerator at temperatures of 85℉ (29.4°C) or more, it will be unsafe to consume after 1 hour.

Learn everything you need to know about eggs here.

A person should store their eggs inside the carton they purchased them in. The carton will list information about when the eggs were packaged or provide an expiration date. This can help people determine how long their eggs will be edible.

The Egg Safety Center recommends that a person refrigerates their eggs in the coldest part of their fridge. It also notes that people should not store their eggs in the refrigerator door. This is because the temperature can change when the door opens and closes.

A person should always remove the shell before freezing raw eggs. A person should then place the egg into an airtight container.

People should always check their eggs before buying them, avoiding any that are cracked or dirty.

If an egg cracks after purchase, a person should break it into an airtight container and refrigerate it. They should use this egg within 2 days.

Some people use a method that involves placing an egg into water to test its freshness. Eggs contain an air cell, which gets bigger as the egg ages. The egg will float in water when the air cell gets big enough.

However, an egg that floats in water is not necessarily bad. A person can tell if an egg has spoiled by cracking it open and examining it. A person should discard any eggs with an unpleasant odor or an unusual appearance.

Signs that an egg has gone bad include:

  • clear egg white
  • pink or iridescent egg white
  • off-color or green egg white
  • black or green spots inside the egg

A person may find that hard-cooked older eggs are easier to peel. This is because older eggs have larger air cells, which separate the inner egg from the shell. However, a person should only hard cook eggs that have not gone bad.

Over time, the inside of an egg can become thinner and runnier. This can make them less suitable for poaching or frying. Additionally, they may be less effective leavening agents for baking.

However, a person can still use older eggs for scrambling, hard-cooking, or in dishes such as casseroles or omelets.

A person can use eggs that have gone bad for compost or fertilizer.

Eating eggs that have gone bad can cause serious illness. Eggs that have been stored or cooked incorrectly can contain Salmonella. Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause salmonellosis, a type of food poisoning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people who get salmonellosis experience:

A person with salmonellosis usually develops symptoms between 6 hours⁠ and 6 days after infection. These symptoms can last between 4⁠–7 days.

A person generally will not require any treatment for salmonellosis. If they have diarrhea, they should drink plenty of water.

However, some people who develop salmonellosis require antibiotics. Antibiotics are generally only used to treat a person who has or is at risk of severe disease. Rarely, salmonellosis can cause life threatening infections.

People who have a higher risk of severe illness from salmonellosis include:

  • children under 5 years
  • adults over 65 years
  • people with weakened immune systems

A person should always store their eggs properly to prevent illness. Additionally, a person should always cook eggs and products that contain eggs thoroughly. This can help kill harmful bacteria.

Learn more about food poisoning and gastroenteritis here.

A person who feels unwell after eating eggs should contact their doctor if they have:

  • diarrhea that does not improve after 2 days
  • vomiting that lasts more than 2 days
  • signs of dehydration, such as severe thirst, dizziness, dry mouth, or little to no urination
  • fever of more than 102℉ (38.8°C)
  • bloody stool

Caregivers should also contact their doctor if a child has any of these symptoms after eating eggs:

  • diarrhea that lasts more than 1 day
  • vomiting that lasts more than 12 hours for infants, 1 day for children under 2 years, or 2 days for older children
  • signs of dehydration, such as not urinating for more than 3 hours, dry mouth or tongue, or crying without tears
  • fever of more than 102℉ (38.8°C)
  • bloody stool

In the U.S., eggs are cleaned and sanitized before being sold. This can remove the cuticle of the egg, making them more susceptible to harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella.

A person should consume, refrigerate, or freeze eggs and egg products as soon as possible.

If a person eats spoiled eggs, they can develop food poisoning. Generally, a person should recover within 1 week. However, a person should consult a doctor if they experience serious symptoms after eating eggs.