How to tell if an egg is good or not: Easy 5 ways

How to tell if an egg is good or not: Easy 5 ways

I buy eggs at Trader Joe’s because they put the date on the eggs (not just package) unlike most. Don’t you want to know how to tell if an egg is good or not- even without cracking it?

How to tell if an egg is good or not

A lack of knowledge about how to tell if an egg is good or not tend to throw away perfectly good eggs.

Eggs have a quite long shelf life – about a month, but do you know how to tell if an egg is good or not – without cracking it? Yes, you can tell without cracking the egg! You’ll learn how to tell if an egg is good or not and more about eggs.

Expiration date

The expiration date for an egg is the date after which the eggs are considered less than fresh. It is sometimes stamped on the egg carton instead of a sell-by date. There is no federal law that requires this date.

Surprisingly, eggs have a quite long shelf life – about a month. According to The American Egg Board, this is the recommendation of egg longevity:

  • Eggs: Refrigerator (35°F to 40°F)
  • Raw whole eggs (in the shell): 4 to 5 weeks beyond the pack date or about 3 weeks after purchase
  • Raw whole eggs (slightly beaten): Up to 2 days
  • Raw egg whites: Up to 4 days
  • Raw egg yolks: Up to 2 days
  • Hard-boiled eggs (in the shell): Up to 1 week
  • Hard-boiled eggs (peeled): Use the same day for the best quality

How long are eggs good after the expiration date?

With meats, produce, and herbs, it’s relatively easy to tell if they have gone bad. We go by the printed date since we can’t tell by smell nor look of egg unless we crack it. Then how could we tell if an egg is good or not?

Even though the quality might start to decline after a certain date, it may still be good to eat for several more weeks, especially if it has been properly refrigerated. An egg only “goes bad” when it starts to decompose because of bacteria or mold.

Refrigeration preserves the quality of the egg and prevents bacterial growth. In general, eggs go bad when they start to smell, but their freshness and taste is compromised days before that.

Other important dates to know

Other ways of how to tell if an egg is good or not is to check those days – “pack date” and “Sell-by-date”.

If your eggs are still within the expiration or “sell by” date on the carton, or within 21–30 days after the “pack date,” you can be sure they are still fresh to eat.


The date that the eggs were washed, graded, and packed into the cartons. This is a three-digit code that coincides with the day of the year, and it is required on all egg cartons. 

It is printed as a Julian date: each day of the year is represented by a corresponding, chronological number. Therefore, January 1st is written as 001 and December 31st as 365.


It indicates how long a store should offer eggs for sale: no more than 30 days after packing. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the eggs have gone bad. It may not exceed 45 days past the pack date, but not required in every state. 

But it’s one of the clues to how to tell if an egg is good or not.

“Use by,” “Use before,” or “Best before”

That date indicates a period that the eggs should be consumed before overall quality diminishes.

5 ways to test how to tell if an egg is good or not

These are the simple 5 ways of how to tell if an egg is good or not. Even if an egg passes these tests, it’s important to fully cook it to a safe temperature before you eat it.

1. Egg in the bowl

Eggshells are semipermeable: air can get through and the liquid inside the egg will evaporate over time. The liquid is replaced by outside air. More air in the egg results in eggs that float, which means the egg is old.

Fresher eggs sink and old eggs float to the top.

That’s how to tell if an egg is good or not.

How to judge it in the bowl

Fill a bowl with cold water and place your eggs in the bowl. If they sink to the bottom and lay flat on their sides, they’re very fresh. If they’re a few weeks old but still good to eat, they’ll stand on one end at the bottom of the bowl. If they float to the surface, they’re no longer fresh enough to eat.

how to tell good egg and bad egg in the bowl
How to tell egg freshness in the cold water bowl

2. Shake by the ear

Another way of how to tell if an egg is good or not without cracking it. Hold an egg up to your ear and shake it. Listen carefully. If you can hear a sloshing sound inside the egg, it’s probably gone bad. If you hear nothing, it is likely to be fine to eat.

Remember, the older it gets, the more air in it.

3. Use a flashlight

Go into a dark room with your flashlight. Hold the flashlight to the large end of the egg. Tilt the egg, and turn it quickly from left to right. If done correctly, the contents of the egg should be illuminated. This allows you to see whether the egg’s air cell is small or large.

In a fresh egg, the air cell should be thinner than 1/8 inch. As the egg ages, gasses replace water lost through evaporation, and the air pocket will get larger.

4. Yolk & egg white

Crack an egg onto a flat surface and look at the egg.

FRESH: the yolk should be bright yellow or orange, and the white doesn’t spread much. Not runny, and you can see the thickness in the white egg.

OLD: the yolk will be flatter, and the white will be much funnier. If the egg white is pink or iridescent this is an indication of spoilage due to Pseudomonas bacteria. Some of these bacteria can make us sick when eaten and they will produce a greenish, fluorescent, water-soluble color.

5. Smell

This is the most old-fashioned way of how to tell if an egg is good or not. Sniff the egg – after cracking it. Bad eggs will give off an unmistakable sulfur-like smell (cooked or raw). If there is no smell, the egg is good to eat. If it smells, toss the egg.

However, remember that eggs containing bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses like Salmonella, may look and smell completely normal. It’s important to cook it fully.

How to keep the eggs fresh

Keeping the eggs in the fridge is the most effective way to keep them fresh. However, not all countries do this practice.

In the early ’70s, there was concern about food spoilage and foodborne illness. As such, U.S. egg manufactures began washing and refrigerating their eggs. Other countries began to do the same thing. However, the EU doesn’t wash or refrigerate their eggs. As such, they are kept at room temperature at home and in stores.

Washing eggs removes a thin, protective membrane that prevents Salmonella and other bacteria. The argument is that removing the cuticle by washing the eggs makes refrigeration necessary to prevent foodborne illness.

  • Store in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below.
  • Store in the original carton on a shelf in the refrigerator and not in the door. Cartons are designed to prevent breakage, as well as insulate the egg to reduce temperature changes.
  • Don’t open the refrigerator too often. It fluctuates the temperature making the temperature warmer.
  • At home, don’t wash your eggs before storing or before using. The washing water can get into the egg through the pores in the shell and lead to contamination.

Purchasing Eggs

Which egg should you choose? No matter what the label says, the general nutrition profile doesn’t change drastically between eggs (except for the pasture-raised eggs). Eggs offer protein, B vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, and minerals such as zinc, iron, and copper.

Decide based on the factors: cost, environmental issues, and animal welfare.

  • Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case.
  • Check eggs with clean, uncracked shells.
  • Look for the USDA-grade shield or mark. Grading eggs is mandatory and eggs must meet standards for quality and size.
  • Choose the most useful and economical egg size. 
  • If someone in your home has a compromised immune system, is pregnant, or is young or old, buy Pasteurized eggs.

Colors of egg

Is blown egg healthier than white? Though brown ones tend to cost more, there is no difference in nutrition between brown shell eggs and white ones.

The color of the eggshell relates to the breed of chicken. Typically, chickens with white feathers and white earlobes lay white eggs. In contrast, brown eggs are laid by birds with reddish-brown feathers and red earlobes. There are even chickens that lay shells that are blue and speckled.

Egg grades

The grades are based on USDA quality standards: the quality of the shell, the yolk, and the white of the eggs. Additionally, egg processing plants are inspected to ensure the facilities follow the proper procedures. USDA grades each item separately. Then inspectors compare the different grades and award the lowest grade as the overall grade for the egg.

Only eggs that are processed in plants or facilities that operate under the supervision of the USDA receive grades. There’s not a huge difference between Grade AA and Grade B eggs. All eggs sold in the US must have at least a B grade.

  • Grade AA: Grade AA eggs are the highest grade. These have thick, firm whites and a high, round yolk. Ideal for baking, frying and poaching.
  • Grade A: These eggs may have slightly less firm whites than AA.
  • Grade B: These eggs have much thinner whites and flatter yolks. 

Egg sizes

This is defined by the weight of 1 dozen eggs.

  • Small: 18 oz
  • Medium 21 oz
  • Large: 24 oz
  • X-large: 27 oz
  • Jumbo: 30 oz

Pasteurized eggs

All egg products are pasteurized as required by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

This means that they have been rapidly heated and held at a minimum required temperature for a specified time to destroy Salmonella. But it doesn’t cook the eggs or affect their color, flavor, nutritional value, or use.

Dried whites are pasteurized by heating in the dried form, again for a specified time and at a minimum required temperature.

Though egg pasteurization is required by law, somehow I keep finding “pasteurized egg”. So I’ll add more about “pasteurized eggs”.

Pasteurized eggs have been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. This is especially relevant when preparing recipes calling for raw or undercooked eggs, or feeding young kids, pregnant women, or the elderly.

  • Taste: The pasteurized eggs lack an eggy flavor. Maybe you won’t notice the difference; add a little salt might help.
  • Firmness: Pasteurized eggs tend not to be as firm as their unpasteurized counterparts. When you want to whip the egg whites, the pasteurization process affects the ability of the proteins in the eggs to get firm.


  • Unpasteurized eggs for cooked egg recipes
  • Pasteurized eggs for sauces and other recipes that call for raw or partially cooked eggs

Food labeling terms on eggs

Don’t be fooled by misleading egg labeling terms. Many of the sounds-good terms mean little to your benefits. Egg industry is in the business to make profits. Be a wise consumer – I’m here to help you to become the one.

Safe handling on eggs

An egg is an agricultural raw commodity. You must handle with caution and safety in mind.


  • Washing your hands when you handle eggs (actually all the foods).
  • Wash any utensils, equipment and work areas with hot, soapy water before and after in contact with eggs.
  • Don’t wash your eggs.


  • Once you purchase, don’t let them sit in a hot car for too long. At room temperature, don’t leave them out over 2 hours. And if the temperature is hot (90 degrees F or higher) then no more than 1 hour. Once you get home, store your eggs immediately in the refrigerator.
  • Always keep them in the fridge under 40 degrees, not the door.
  • Keep them in the original carton.
  • Don’t keep eggs outside the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. If a recipe calls for eggs at room temperature than they should sit out a max of 2 hours.
  • Always refrigerate cooked eggs.

Cooking safely & properly

  • Raw eggs and other ingredients should be combined according to the recipe and cooked immediately or refrigerated and cooked within 24 hours.
  • Always cook eggs thoroughly – well done since salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria are present in most eggs. Cook scrambled eggs until they are 165 F, and cook hard-cooked eggs until they are completely firm. The only exception is with pasteurized eggs.
  • Cook dishes containing eggs to a minimum internal cooking temperature of 160 degrees F. Use a food thermometer.
  • Serve cooked eggs and egg dishes immediately after cooking, or place them in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerate quickly for later use.
  • Any leftover cooked eggs or egg dish should be used within three to four days.
  • If you aren’t sure which one is hardboiled or raw, spin the egg on a flat surface; if the egg wobbles, it’s fresh (the insides are moving around). If the egg spins smoothly, it’s cooked.

Conclusion: Now you know too many egg labels mean little beneficial to consumers. It's important to know how to read food labeling terms so that you can shop wisely. 

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