Eggs are something that are found in almost every common household, but how do your store your them, and do eggs need to be refrigerated? It is not uncommon for people to put everything from their butter to their fruit and vegetables in the fridge, but are eggs something that really need to be kept there before you decide to eat them?
Just because we all have our certain ways as to how we keep things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all right, or in fact that our way is the best way. This article is going to explain whether or not eggs really do need to be refrigerated before they are used, and exactly why this is, as well as why looking out for pasteurized eggs is something that is well worth doing.
Do You Have to Store Eggs in The Fridge?
Well the primary answer to the main question is that no eggs don’t ‘need’ to be refrigerated, but they can be if you like, the choice is yours. What we aim to cover here is just why some people choose to refrigerate them, and why some don’t.
When eggs are laid they have a protective coating on them, preventing bacteria from getting through, which if not washed off means there is no need to refrigerate them. In fact they can be left on the side at home for several days.
However, commercially supplied eggs are cleaned before being packed and shipped to supermarkets, and this removes this protective coating and means that they will spoil if not used within a lesser time frame. From this point they are best refrigerated in order for them to keep longer.
Obviously suppliers like a product to be clean and hygienic, you wouldn’t want to open your carton of eggs to find them covered in goo or feathers now would you?
In fact usually the wash that supermarket eggs go through will not only take away the initial protective layer, it will also somewhat thin the shell, and make the egg more prone to being infiltrated by harmful bacteria. With the clock already ticking for how long the egg keeps, it is not helped by the fact it takes a couple of days to get from the bird to the store.
This is unless the eggs have been pasteurized, which is something that is becoming more and more common now, even if at a price to the consumer. To find out what pasteurized eggs are, please see later on in the article.
Where to Store Eggs?
For the majority of people, eggs will end up in your kitchen a few hours after you went to the store to buy them, or not long after they have been delivered to your door (oh the wonders of online supermarket shopping). Other people may have their own chickens out in the yard, who provide a daily tally of eggs, which will be collected and taken to the kitchen to be stored. But where do you store eggs, the cupboard, the refrigerator, or can you just leave them in the box on the side?
It goes without saying that how you store your eggs is going to play some part in how long they will keep before they go bad. Eggs are not like a bag of potato chips with a use by date of some six months in the future. The shelf life of eggs is a few weeks, so getting the most out of this small time frame is essential.
It is always better to be safe than sorry, and if you leave eggs that you have bought from the supermarket outside of the fridge for days at home, they are more likely to spoil quicker.
Why Keep Eggs in The Refrigerator?
Sometimes eggs can actually be better for a purpose if they are chilled, so this is why many people will decide to keep them in the refrigerator. For example, if you are to make poached eggs or fried eggs, you are better off using cold eggs. The reason for this is that they stay compact and the yolks are less likely to split, than if you were to use eggs kept in a box at room temperature.
As we have already explained though, most people reading this will be wondering what to do with the eggs that they have bought from the supermarket, and the most sensible thing to do is keep them in the fridge until you use them.
Many refrigerators come with a compartment especially for eggs at the top inside of the door, now that is hardly a coincidence now is it? This is a good place for the eggs because that is the coolest part of the refrigerator. The lower parts at the back are the coldest areas, and sometimes eggs can freeze a little if kept there.
Again although it is advisable to keep eggs in the refrigerator, you don’t actually have to like you do with something like milk, or butter.
How Long Should You Keep Eggs Refrigerated For?
When you buy eggs they do have a use by date on the box, and that is an indication as to when the eggs are likely to spoil, with the date they were laid and processed by the supplier being taken into consideration. This is usually anywhere between 3 to 5 weeks from the date they were laid, on the box though it will just show as an expiry date, or a best before date.
One thing that you should keep in mind when using something like eggs, is that the sooner you use them, the safer they are going to be to eat. If there is any danger of harmful bacteria penetrating the shell then the risk will increase the longer that you keep the eggs, especially if you choose not to keep them refrigerated.
Leaving an egg in the fridge for longer than the expiry date is not necessarily going to make you ill though. The eggs will no doubt have spoiled, but this will just have been by them drying up and being susceptible to spoilage bacteria, something that is far less harmful than bacteria that cause salmonella.
Some Eggs Come Pasteurized, What Does This Mean?
So what are pasteurized eggs, and why do they make most of the information in this article redundant?
When something is pasteurized it has been treated by heat in order to destroy any potentially harmful bacteria. Eggs can be pasteurized in order to lessen the risk of bacteria penetrating the shell and infecting the egg.
In current times these types of eggs are becoming more popular, and seen as a better choice for people who buy eggs from stores. However, the price that people pay is that pasteurized eggs are more expensive than non-pasteurized eggs.
This means that you do not necessarily have to keep these eggs in the fridge to protect them, but they can be left in the carton in the kitchen due to having been treated.
Eggs that are pasteurized say so on the carton, so make sure you check these before buying.
Of course many people like to be even safer by buying these eggs and keeping them in the fridge!
Some people think that the nutritional value of eggs is reduced if they are pasteurized, as the heat may reduce the content of certain vitamins, but this is not necessarily the case.
So, ‘do eggs need to be refrigerated’ was the initial question, and I hope that the information that has been displayed here has been able to comprehensively provide you with an answer.
Like any fresh food eggs will spoil, they just have the benefit of a protective shell to keep a little longer than things such as bread and milk. Keeping them cold in the fridge is a good way to help protect them from potentially harmful bacteria, but this risk can be reduced further still by either buying them pasteurized, or producing your own from chickens at home and not removing the protective layer that coats the egg once laid.
You should always check the expiry date of eggs when you use them, and when buying them from the store or the supermarket, one tip is to check the expiry date on a few cartons before you commit to buying one. This is because the chances of getting a few extra days is more than likely, especially if you look at the cartons towards the back of where they are stored! Of course the supermarket want the ones with the closer dates at the front to be sold first, but that is not to say those are the ones that you must buy.
Steve Wrigh, a nutritional expert.
Photo. Daniela Constantini