Safe storage, handling and cooking with eggs is quite simple. To enjoy eggs without worry, simply follow a handful of straightforward rules.
1. Be a good egg detective
When you're in the grocery store buying eggs, open the carton to make sure there are no visible cracks. Bacteria like salmonella can sit on eggshells waiting for a crack to open the door. If you get home to find an egg or two has cracked, discard those eggs. Also toss any that are unclean or leaking.
2. Keep 'em in the carton
It's always best to store eggs in the carton they were purchased in rather than taking them out of the carton and placing them in a pre-formed space in your fridge, says Molly Bray Yunek, RD of Davidson's Safest Choice, a pasteurized egg company in Lansing, Illinois. Also, always store your eggs on a middle or lower shelf where the temperature fluctuates less than on the door. "Keeping your eggs intact in their original carton will also prevent cracking and keep your eggs from absorbing refrigerator odors."
3. Keep 'em refrigerated
As soon as you get home from the supermarket, refrigerate your eggs. "Our tests show that the quality and culinary value of eggs benefit from refrigeration over time," Yunek adds. And, since the rapid growth of bacteria can occur between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping your eggs cold will keep bacteria from growing. "If eggs have been kept out of the refrigerator, we recommend you return them to refrigeration right away to ensure the original shelf life." If it's a super sunny day, consider keeping your eggs and other perishables in a cooler or insulated bag in your car (not in the trunk, which can get too hot) until you get home and can put them in the fridge.
Of course, if you have unwashed eggs straight from the chicken, refrigeration isn't necessary. Eggs that haven't been washed have a coating on the shells that prevents bacteria from contaminating them. So long as the coop the chickens are in is nice and clean, you can leave these eggs sitting in a bowl on a counter without any concerns about bacteria. Just eat them within a few days before the coating wears away.
4. Learn about egg grades
Egg grades are a voluntary process used to denote an egg's quality. (Photo: Steve Snodgrass/flickr)
Check out any egg carton and you'll notice a grading on the packaging. This is an indication of quality and is voluntary, according to Egg Safety, while inspection (for wholesomeness and safety) is mandatory. Companies that choose to have their eggs graded pay for this service from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA grade shield on the carton means the eggs were graded for quality and checked for size under the supervision of a trained USDA grader.
5. Become a smart egg-separator
Passing the egg yolk back from shell half to shell half isn't the most sanitary process as bacteria are so tiny that they may remain in the pores of the shell. Instead of separating an egg using a broken shell, invest in an inexpensive egg separator or funnel to reduce the likelihood of introducing bacteria, according to the Incredible Egg experts. Always wash your hands (and countertops) thoroughly as soon as you're done handling raw eggs.
6. Always completely cook through
To thoroughly destroy any salmonella that may be present, when cooking eggs, be sure to bring eggs to a temperature high enough to destroy any bacteria. The white of the egg will set between 144 and 149 degrees while the yolk is considered set between 149 and 158 degrees, according to the experts at Incredible Egg.