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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Egg facts that will blow your mind!

Did you know that fresh eggs (and I mean fresh-from-the-bird fresh) don’t need to be refrigerated?  Does that not blow your mind?  When eggs are laid they have a bloom, or a coating, on the shell that protects the chick inside from bacteria. The eggs we buy in the store are all super duper washed, which gives them their various grades…but that washing makes it so eggs must be refrigerated. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Just interesting. Okay, I’ll admit it – this is pretty much completely un-useful information. But I still like it. And I actually do have a few friends who have chickens and this info does apply to them. But they already know it, so, yeah, I’m not really helping anyone here.

carton of eggs web

My pastry chef friend Faye has been the source of my recent egg enlightenment.  Here’s another quick fact from Faye, which actually is a little more useful. Faye told me that if you wash your eggs with mild soap and water before cracking them, then the chance of salmonella contamination pretty much goes away. (Disclaimer: There is still a chance there could be salmonella on the inside of the egg, but it’s very slight…it almost always comes from the outside of the shell.)

So what does this slightly helpful information mean?  It means for those of us who insist on eating raw eggs (hello cookie dough, cake batter, chocolate mousse…all foods I just can’t give up!), if you wash your eggs with soap and water before cracking them open, then you’re pretty much good to go.  No guarantees though, people. If you get sick, no blaming me. But, I will be taking the risk myself. 😉


  1. 1

    Hey Jane!
    I was allergic to eggs after I had Ivy, but it went away after I had Nate (go figure). Anyhow, I LOVE cookie dough so I had to figure out something so I could still eat it without having horrendous stomach aches afterward. I discovered that you can use 3 TBS. water and 1 tsp. baking powder instead of an egg (double for 2 eggs) and there is no difference in the taste or shape(?) of the cookies. It’s amazing! And although I’m not allergic anymore I always use that replacement in recipes which saves on eggs and also the risk of salmonella. BUT, it does not work in brownies or muffins–believe me, I tried 🙂 Just thought I’d share my little tidbit of egg (or rather non-egg) info!

  2. 2

    We have our own chickens and I just want to add that you shouldn’t wash fresh eggs in hot water. That opens up the pores in the shell just like on your skin. So use MILD soap and cool water. We love our fresh eggs and even got one the other day with double yolks!!

  3. 3
    Jane Maynard

    oooo, I love it, an EGGspert! ha ha! great info, fran! will wash with mild soap and cool water (I think I’ll even update the post).

    thanks for the great info as well, maren!

  4. 4

    I had seen that, and always wonder if I can leave those eggs I get at the farmers market out. I never have, though. I also read that one you refridgerate them don’t take them out, but I could have read that wrong 🙂 Thanks for washing tips…I don’t worry about eating raw eggs too much, I worry more about raw flour in cookie dough giving my kids tummy aches, although just tell them that to keep them from eating too much 🙂

  5. 5

    I live outside the US for part of the year, and eggs are almost never refrigerated in my other country–even in the grocery store. I wondered how this could be ok, but when in Rome…

  6. 6
    Jane Maynard

    now you know! my friend mindy said when she lived in spain they never refrigerated their eggs…it was the same deal. very interesting!

  7. We have had chickens for as long as I can remember and I had no idea that the eggs didn’t need to be refrigerated! I always assumed that if the eggs were not collected on the day that they were laid that they were no longer safe to eat!

    Thanks for enlightening me!

  8. 8

    off to wash all my eggs so I can have a good go at my cookie dough:)

  9. 9
    Jane Maynard

    well, caitlin, I am SO happy I wrote this post…just for you! yes, in fact not only do you not have to refrigerate your eggs (as long as you don’t wash them until right before using them, of course)…but they actually last LONGER than the ones you buy in the store and refrigerate. it’s actually kind of amazing, right?

    sheena – I’ll be right over for some dough. save some for me.

  10. 10

    That was unbelievably helpful. I’ve always wondered why the Germans never refrigerated their eggs when I was an exchange student, and what the difference between those grade A eggs and the non-grade A (or any grade for that matter) eggs at Farmer’s Market meant.

  11. 11

    I hate to disagree – but… eggs need to be washed at a temperature that is warmer than they are currently are at (i.e., if the hen just laid the egg and she got her muddy feet on it as she was exiting the box – like mine do all the time this time of year!) then that egg is HOT – and using a cooler temperature than the egg is at will actually DRAW bacteria into the egg. They (USDA) recommend NOT using soap – but a soft bristled nail brush or toothbrush to clean them gently with. Our rule of thumb for the eggs our girls lay is if they’re clean – don’t wash ’em. If they’re clean and unwashed – we don’t worry about whether they’re refrigerated or not. If they’re wet – don’t ever put ’em in the fridge until they’ve dried thoroughly – chilling them while they’re wet will draw the bacteria through the shell.

    Another good thing to know… if they’re free range/cage free hens that get lots of good organic food and forage – there is actually a higher protein count per egg, there are also higher Omega-3’s.

    Oh – and those eggs you buy in the store – can be anywhere from 1 to 3 MONTHS old by the time they come home to your house! Ewwww….

  12. 12
    Jane Maynard

    such great info, dina!!! thank you! and you’re right….EWWWW!

  13. Fascinating post. I have to wonder about the salmonella fact. It may be true, and I don’t know the answer… but eggs shells are porous so I would think bacteria could pass through easily if there were temperature fluctuations especially (osmosis). Of course getting an interesting discussion going is what every blogger wants, so good job! GREG

  14. 14

    I’m an American living in England and have always thought it strange that we don’t refridgerate our eggs here (at store or at home), but at least now I know not to try that at home in the States!

  15. 15

    I live in Hungary and when I came here I was shocked (and grossed out), by the fact that the eggs were never refrigerated or washed. Folks wash them right before they crack them. Otherwise, it is pretty common to find them with a bit of feather or dirt stuck to them. Interesting to find out that the no-washing and no-refrigeration go together.

  16. 16
    Jane Maynard

    I love that we’re getting so many comments!

    real quick response to Greg – okay, not so quick! 🙂 So, the shell is certainly not fool proof, and the bloom is the greatest defense against bacteria entering the shell. however, salmonella almost always is on the outside of the shell and when there is infection inside the egg (usually in the yolk) it is normally because the chicken was infected and the egg picked up the bacteria in the ovary or oviduct before the shell was actually formed. that said, once the bloom is removed the shell could possibly let bacteria through, although not likely. here’s an excerpt from an article written by a professor at University of Illinois: “…bacteria have an easier time entering the egg after washing. Even when the cuticle is removed, the two inner shell membranes help prevent bacteria from entering the egg. These barriers provide a good line of defense against invading bacteria.” (source:

    bottom line – it actually IS hard for bacteria to get through an egg shell. from the university of illinois article I linked to above, sounds like farmers can impact shell quality, which probably plays a role.

    this IS an interesting discussion – I love it! 🙂 I’m certainly learning a lot from the comments and articles I’ve read. kind of fun! 🙂

  17. 17

    We have had laying hens all my adult life, which has included raising three kids to adults. When we bring the eggs in we brush off the loose stuff, spot sponge where needed, and if they are really dirty we wash them under cool water. Over the years we have regularly eaten homemade mayo, eggs over-easy, Hollandaise, uncooked custard ice cream, eggnog, you name it, and none of us in all those years has once gotten sick from eating raw or undercooked eggs. If salmonella were as rampant as the media portray it to be, wouldn’t the emergency rooms around the world be filled with sick people? I wouldn’t trust a store egg, but fresh from the barn?? Go for it and stop worrying.

  18. 18
    Jane Maynard

    love it!

  19. A few things.
    1. IF you buy farm fresh eggs, ask your farmer if the wash their eggs. I don’t. I leave that to my friends and family who take home eggs, because I want the bloom you speak of to be there until the end (when I wash my eggs with warm soapy water JUST before preparing them in a meal)
    2. IF your farmer washes their eggs, your chances of the bloom being compromised is higher, but IMO the danger of contamination is still not as great as that from store bought eggs.
    3. Did you also know that farm fresh eggs are lower in cholesterol?
    4. Be aware that eggs in the store that say “cage free” can simply mean “kept in a big hut with no sun, but not kept in a cage”? Read your labels well if you buy from the store and THINK you are getting free range eggs etc. The life of a battery hen. Other misleading labels include: ‘Farm Fresh’, ‘Country Fresh’, and ‘Naturally Fresh’ When possible, buy from a farmer where you can visit and SEE how the hens that lay your eggs are living.

  20. 20
    Jane Maynard

    thanks for all the great info, rachel!

    this is also an unbelievably helpful link about what all those egg labels mean – and you’re right, for the most part they mean squat!

  21. That was an AWESOME link, Jane! I’m adding it to my site. Thank you!!

  22. In Australia, I have read, eggs are not refrigerated in the store.

  23. 23

    Love your blog. Tnx jane! (i’m from Brazil)

  24. 24

    The majority of incidents with salmonella does not occur because the eggs weren’t properly washed or shell got into the product.
    Often, the hens are infected with the bacteria and they get into the eggs when laid. (source: Marion Nestle, What to eat.)

  25. 25

    Coming in late, but… I’m from New Zealand, and eggs are not refrigerated in the store. I actually had an “egg basket” on my countertop, so didn’t refrigerate at home either. Made baking easy – eggs were already room temperature.

    I thought it was a bit strange that the eggs are refrigerated here in the store, but then – to me, a lot of things in the grocery stores are a bit strange, so I just figured… when in Rome (or indeed, Phoenix)….

    Great discussion. Mystery solved!

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