Growing up, I didn't eat at home very often. Breakfast was a grab-and-go affair eaten in the car, lunch was from the school cafeteria, and dinner was usually at Grandma's house. But even though our fridge was usually pretty empty, there were always eggs inside. We didn't eat them very often, so I know those they sat around for weeks at a time, perhaps even more than a month.
We never got sick from eating those eggs, but how long can you, or really, should you keep them around?
Learn how to poach eggs like Julia does. Watch the video —->
Check the Egg Carton
When figuring out how long you should keep eggs, start by looking at the egg carton:
- Pack date - According to USDA guidelines, this is the date when the eggs were washed, graded, and packed into the cartons. This is a 3-digit code that coincides with the day of the year (December 31 would be 365).
- Sell-by date - Egg producers are not federally mandated to label with this date, but some states do require it. This may not exceed 45 days past the pack date.
- Expiration date (EXP) - Sometimes there is an expiration date instead of a sell date. There are also no federal laws that require this date.
Do I Go By the Date?
You should always purchase eggs by the sell-by or expiration date. Once you get them home, you can keep them for up to 5 weeks from the purchase date, even if the sell-by date expires during that time.
What If There's No Date?
If you purchased the eggs from a farm or farmers market and there's no date, keep them for up to 5 weeks from the purchase date.
Can't remember when you bought the eggs or threw out the carton already? Use this handy tip of dropping one in a bowl of water to test for freshness:
Where Should I Store Eggs?
To prolong the life of your eggs, don't keep them in the door of the refrigerator, even if that's where the egg holder that came with the fridge is supposed to go. The door is the warmest part of the fridge, and eggs need to be in the coldest part of the fridge instead, preferably in their original carton.
Now you're armed with the knowledge of how long to keep eggs and when to pitch them. Did you find some eggs that won't last much longer? Older eggs are better for hard-boiling than poaching. Or better yet, make eggs for dinner instead!
(Image credits: Akanit Hengsawat/Shutterstock; Dana Velden; Megan Gordon)