Egg Safety

Hard-boiled eggs are stars in both Easter and Passover celebrations, but since they are perishable and vulnerable to bacteria, you need to take steps to avoid food-borne illness.
Nutrition & Health>Egg_Safety
How should I store my eggs?

  • Fresh shell eggs can be stored in their cartons in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 weeks beyond the pack or Julian date with insignificant quality loss.
  • Unless you seldom open the door, it's best to place the eggs on an inside shelf. Repeated opening and closing of the door causes temperature fluctuations and slamming can result in breakage.
  • The egg shell may have as many as 17,000 tiny pores over its surface. Through them, the egg can absorb flavors and odors. The carton in which you purchase them helps keep the eggs from picking up odors and flavors from other foods and helps prevent moisture loss—a particularly important factor if you have a frost-free refrigerator.
  • Properly handled and stored, eggs rarely "spoil". If you keep them long enough, they are more likely to simply dry up! But, don't leave eggs out. They'll age more in 1 day at room temperature than they will in 1 week in the refrigerator.
  • Eat all hard-cooked eggs within a week. If you make dishes with leftovers, toss them after three days.

What do the numbers on the egg carton mean?

  • Egg cartons from USDA-inspected plants must display a Julian date -- the date the eggs were packed. Starting with January 1 as number 1 and ending with December 31 as 365, these numbers represent the consecutive days of the year. This numbering system is sometimes used on egg cartons to denote the day the eggs are packed
  • Although not required, they may also carry an expiration date beyond which the eggs should not be sold. In USDA-inspected plants, this date must be 30 days or less after the pack date.

Are eggs really safe to eat?

  • Although eggs pose no greater food-safety risk than any other perishable food, the nutrients that make eggs a high-quality food for humans are also a good growth medium for bacteria. In addition to food, bacteria also need moisture, a favorable temperature and time in order to multiply and increase the risk of illness. In the rare event that an egg contains bacteria, you can reduce the risk by proper chilling and eliminate it by proper cooking.

What tips do you have for decorating and hunting eggs with my children?

  • Consider making two sets of eggs: one for decorating and hiding and one for eating.
  • If you won't be coloring your eggs right after cooking them, store them in their cartons in the refrigerator.
  • Always wash your hands before dyeing eggs, and use food grade dye.
  • If you plan to eat the eggs, after a hunt, keep them refrigerated until just before hiding them.
  • Refrigerate “found” eggs right away. Never eat eggs that have been out of refrigeration for more than two hours or that have cracked shells, through which bacteria can enter.

What to do when your recipe calls for raw eggs?

  • Although the overall risk of egg contamination is very small, the risk of foodborne illness from eggs is highest in raw and lightly cooked dishes. To eliminate risk and ensure food safety, replace all your recipes calling for raw or lightly cooked eggs with cooked egg recipes or use pasteurized eggs or egg products when you prepare them.

To cook eggs for these recipes, use the following methods to adapt your recipes:

  • You can use pasteurized dried or refrigerated liquid egg whites. Egg substitutes often contain gums and/or added salt which can hamper foaming. Pasteurized dried and liquid egg whites on the retail market either contain no other ingredients – for recipes where little foaming is required – or contain only a whipping agent – for recipes that require a stable foam. Follow package directions to substitute dried or refrigerated liquid egg whites for raw egg whites or use about 2 tablespoons water and 2 teaspoons dried egg white or 2 to 3 tablespoons liquid egg white for each Large egg white.
  • Cooking Whole Eggs for Use in Recipes – As a nutritious combination of egg whites and yolks, whole eggs should be fully cooked for assured safety in recipes that call for raw or lightly cooked eggs. The following method can be used with any number of eggs and works for a variety of recipes.
  • Cooking Egg Yolks for Use in Recipes – Because egg yolks are a fine growth medium for bacteria, cook them for use in mayonnaise, Hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, chilled souffles, chiffons, mousses and other recipes calling for raw egg yolks. The following method can be used with any number of yolks.

Cooking Egg Whites for Use in Recipes – Cooking egg whites before use in all recipes is recommended for full safety. The following method can be used with any number of whites and works for chilled desserts as well as Seven-Minute Frosting, Royal Icing and other frosting recipes calling for raw egg whites.

In a heavy saucepan, the top of a double boiler or a metal bowl placed over water in a saucepan, stir together the egg whites and sugar from the recipe (at least 2 tablespoons sugar per white), water (1 teaspoon per white) and cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon per each 2 whites). Cook over low heat or simmering water, beating constantly with a portable mixer at low speed, until the whites reach 160° F. Pour into a large bowl. Beat on high speed until the whites stand in soft peaks. Proceed with the recipe.

Note that you must use sugar to keep the whites from coagulating too rapidly. Test with a thermometer as there is no visual clue to doneness. If you use an unlined aluminum saucepan, eliminate the cream of tartar or the two will react and create an unattractive gray meringue.

Making an Italian meringue by adding hot sugar syrup to egg whites while beating them does not bring the egg whites to much above 125° F and is not recommended except for dishes that are further cooked. If, however, you bring the sugar syrup all the way to the hardball stage (250 to 266° F), the whites will reach a high enough temperature. You can use a sugar syrup at hardball stage for Divinity and similar recipes.

Pasteurized shell eggs are heat-treated to destroy any bacteria, should they be present, and are especially suitable for preparing egg recipes that are not fully cooked, but may also be used for other recipes, including baked goods. The heating process may create cloudiness in the whites and increase the beating time needed for foam formation. When you separate pasteurized shell eggs for beating, allow up to about four times as much time for full foam formation to occur in egg whites as you would for the whites of regular eggs. Prepare other recipes as usual. You can keep pasteurized shell eggs refrigerated for at least 30 days from the pack date (a three-digit number on the short side of the carton which represents the day of the year, with 1 = January 1 and 365 = December 31), but do not freeze them.

Quick and Easy Quiche

"Everything But the Sink Quiche," is very simple and can be prepared up to 12 hours in advance. Just about anything and everything can go in it so it’s completely customizable.


Vegetable spray

12 slices stale bread of your choice

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

1 medium bell pepper, diced

1/4 pound grated cheddar cheese

1/4 pound grated Monterey Jack

1/2 cup salsa of your choice

1 cup cubed chicken (or smoked turkey)

1 can (16 oz) of salmon, drained, flaked and free of bones

6 eggs

2 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1. Coat large ovenproof baking dish with vegetable spray.

2. Place 6 slices of bread in a single layer on bottom of dish.

3. In bowl, combine all the vegetables, meats, cheeses, salsa and any other ingredient you wish to add. Pour this mixture on top of the bread.

4. Layer the remaining slices of bread on top of the mixture.

5. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and mustard. Mix well and pour over the bread. Cover dish with plastic wrap and let it stand for one hour in the fridge. (Can stand for up to 12 hours in the fridge, so depending on the time of your brunch, it can be made the night before.)

6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees with the rack in the center position.

7. Bake dish, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Cut into squares and serve immediately - or - let it rest on a trivet while you prepare the rest of your brunch because it's perfectly delicious when served warm, too.

Return to Food Safety list.

Contact Us

Nichole Burnett

Family and Consumer Sciences Agent