Food & Nutrition

Is It Safe to Eat Expired Eggs?

Has that carton of eggs been languishing in your fridge? If the expiration date is passed, don’t rush to ditch the eggs. Here’s what that date really means, and how to tell if eggs are safe.

There are two types of people: those who throw food away the minute it passes its expiration date, and those who proudly break open expired cans, polish off languishing leftovers, and chow take-out boxes of mysterious origins. I’m definitely in the former camp, except when it comes to one type of food: eggs.

The reason? Eggs take a very long time to go bad—and there’s a simple test to spot expired eggs before you crack them.

What does the date on the carton mean?

Your egg carton is stamped with multiple numbers. First is a date, which is almost always a sell-by date, meaning the day by which a grocery store has to pull an item off the shelves. Thing is, this is centered around quality and freshness rather than safety or health concerns.

There’s another number on the carton: a three-digit code called the “Julian date.” It’s the day your eggs were put into the carton. It might take you a minute to work it out since it corresponds to a number of the calendar year from one to 365. Again, this number is most useful for determining freshness: new eggs are delicious eaten plain, while older eggs are ideal for other recipes, like meringue.

How to tell if your egg is fresh

Do the float test! Fill a glass with water and drop an egg in. If it floats, the egg has gone bad. Discard it. Here’s the safety net: Bad eggs aren’t discreet. Most will smell like sulfur and basically scream that they’re off.

How long can you use eggs beyond the date?

The float test is helpful, but it’s also handy to know a general time frame. Eggs stay fresh between three and five weeks beyond the sell date. That’s a big window!

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