Eggs are a food that can get away from you when storing them for a period of time. The carton will have an expiration date, but knowing just how far you can stretch that date when you are in the middle of baking, can be a real time saver. Here are a few tests to help you determine the freshness and usability of an egg.
The water bowl test
This test is most popular, as it is easy, requires very few items and is nearly foolproof. First, you want to take a clear bowl and fill it with enough cold water to cover an egg. Drop the egg into the bowl. Does it lay on its side on the bottom? Perfect! It is a fresh egg and you can have no hesitation in using it. Does it stand up on the bottom? Still ok, but maybe consider the near future for its use. Does it hover slightly above the bottom of the bowl, but doesn’t float to the surface? Probably still all right to use, but may want to perform another test to confirm. If it floats completely on the surface of the water, it’s time to throw it out. It isn’t worth the risk of food poisoning to save a few pennies.
The reason this test works so well is the fact that eggshells are porous. They allow the air inside the fridge to seep through the shell. The larger the air pocket inside of the egg, the more damage is done to the integrity of the egg.
The plate test
This test also is extremely simple, but the results depend on reading what you are seeing and may not be as cut and dried as the bowl test. Crack an egg onto a plate. If the egg is fresh, the yolk will be centered on the plate, surrounded by equal amount of white. The yolk will be compact and stand nice and tall, and the white will be of a thicker texture. If the white is thin, runny or extremely cloudy, and the yolk flatter or broken, this is an indication that you wouldn’t want to use this egg. Head to the store immediately for a replacement carton.
The salt water test
This test is a definite yes or no answer to the question of whether it’s safe to use the egg. No results to try to decipher and feeling like you are reading tea leaves in a cup. Dissolve two tablespoons salt in two cups of water. If the egg floats, it’s bad. If the egg sinks, it’s good. Simple.
The candling test
This test falls in the category of the tea leaves tests, or maybe more similar to looking in a crystal ball. You need to be skilled in reading the results and knowing what you are looking at. Basically, you hold an egg to a candle and this allows you to see the inside of an egg, although vaguely. The air pocket size, the opacity of the white and yolk and the sharpness of the edges of the yolk are all indications of the egg freshness.
In deciding whether to use a questionable egg, consider what you will be using it for. Meringues work best when using fresher eggs, while hard-boiled eggs peel easier if they have a little more age to them. Pastry chefs actually prefer to use the slightly older eggs for baking as they tend to mix in easier since the texture is less firm. Also consider whether an emergency trip to a grocery store would be less time consuming and costly compared to a trip to an emergency room. “When in doubt, throw it out” is my motto.