Expiration dates are tricky to interpret. After all, some products use a “sell by” date rather than an expiration date. What can this date tell a consumer about when their food is still safe to eat? When it comes to buying and eating eggs, should you obey the expiration date religiously, or should you throw away concern about these dates?
How to Read the Date Label on an Egg Carton
The USDA requires that all food companies create accurate labels and claims on food cartons. Egg cartons may include a Julian date or pack-date on the label to tell you exactly when the carton was created. To read a Julian date, you need to know that January 1st is read as 001, and December 31st is read as 365 (unless it's a leap year, in which case it will be 366). As you can see, the number indicates the day of the year the egg carton was packaged. You should use this date to determine a starting point to measure the freshness of the egg rather than the sell-by date on the package, which only indicates the point at which the store should no longer stock the eggs on its shelves.
When Do Eggs Really Expire?
Eggs do not necessarily expire on the sell-by date. In fact, eggs are typically good to eat for about three to five weeks after the date on the carton. Egg cartons typically list an expiration date that's about 30 days from the packaging date, and you should always purchase eggs before this date. If you keep the eggs in their original carton and refrigerate them in the coldest part of your refrigerator, they should remain safe and delicious to eat for weeks. Make sure you don't refrigerate eggs in the door, as this part of the appliance is not consistently cold. As you can see, you don't have to throw away the eggs when you notice the sell-by or expiration date has passed.
How to Tell Eggs Are Still Good
One of the easiest ways to determine if eggs are still good is to grab a glass or bowl of water. Place the egg you want to test in the water and observe its movements. If the egg quickly floats to the top of the water, it's gone bad. If the egg drops to the bottom, you can feel safe eating it.
Bad eggs float because they've accumulated a multitude of gases inside the shell. The air inside the egg has grown enough that the egg has buoyancy. Good eggs don't have these gases, so they sink.
Keep in mind that even if an egg does float, it may not necessarily be unsafe to eat. You can crack the egg into a bowl and smell it to determine if the egg may still be good to eat. Never eat an egg that smells bad or rotten.
Cook Eggs Thoroughly
Eating iffy eggs? Make sure to cook them thoroughly to ensure you do not get sick. Even if you cook eggs that you know to be good, they should be cooked through. A thoroughly cooked egg is one in which the egg yolks and whites are firm rather than runny. If you were to stick a thermometer in the egg, it should read 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Egg Expiration After Cooking
So, what happens after you cook the eggs? If you hard-boil eggs, you should make sure to refrigerate them within two hours of cooking and then be sure to eat them within the span of a week. Do not put them back into their original carton for refrigeration. If you cook other types of eggs, like scrambled or fried eggs, use them within about four days for best results.y
If you have frozen eggs, don't keep them for longer than one year, and never store eggs frozen inside their shells. Rather, beat the eggs and yolks together and store them in the freezer.