How to Test the Freshness of an Egg

April 16, 2016 | By

Many householders don’t keep eggs for long enough to be anything but fresh. However, if you live alone, or simply aren’t very organized, you may find a few eggs sat in the fridge and be unsure whether they are fresh enough to eat or not. It isn’t always enough to go by the time that they have sat in the fridge because it all depends on when you bought them and how old they were at that time. Fortunately, there are a couple of quick and easy ways to tell if the eggs you are using are fresh enough to use.

Place egg in a bowl of cold water

The most common way of testing the freshness of an egg is simply to place it in a bowl of cold water and see what it does. If it sinks to the bottom of the bowl and lies horizontally, it is very fresh and is ideal to be fried or poached, because the shape of the egg will be compact. This is obviously important if you are cooking for customers or guests. If one end tips upwards, then it is probably a few days old and is best saved for using in cakes, scrambled or boiled. However, if it floats to the top, then it has probably gone bad and should be thrown away.

According to a reader on, the reason that this happens is that, as the egg begins to decompose, the contents begin to shrink and water vapour and gases leave the egg through the porous shell. The air space inside the egg then increases causing it to float. 

Break it open

Another way to tell the freshness of an egg is simply to crack it open onto a flat surface such as a plate. If it has already gone off, the smell will immediately tell you that it is not edible. If it is still fresh, the yolk should be nicely rounded and stick up proudly, while the egg white will surround it closely. Cloudy egg white is nothing to worry about — this actually means that the egg is still very fresh. If the egg is not so fresh, then the yolk and egg white will flatten out a lot more. If you try poaching it, the yolk and the white will probably separate and you will be left with a mess rather than a compact poached egg. 

Maximum keeping time

If you prefer to have an idea of how long you can keep eggs before throwing away without carrying out either of the above steps, renowned British cook Delia Smith suggests that you keep them for no longer than three weeks after purchase and ideally, no longer than two weeks. Provided that you are an organised shopper and can remember when you bought the eggs, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, other sources suggest that keeping eggs for four to five weeks is probably fine. 

The fact that bad eggs smell so pungent means that it is unlikely you would eat an egg that had completely gone off. However, for the sake of health and peace of mind, it is best to throw away eggs that you doubt are fresh enough to use. 

Category: Food

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