How Long Can Eggs Be Unrefrigerated? | Tips on Food Safety and Shelf Life

Eggs are a staple in many households and are used in various dishes such as omelets, scrambled eggs, and baked goods. They are a good source of protein and other essential nutrients. However, storing eggs can be tricky, especially when it comes to refrigeration. Many people assume that eggs should always be refrigerated, but this is not necessarily the case. In fact, there is an ongoing debate about how long eggs can be left unrefrigerated. Some say it’s okay to leave them out for a short period, while others insist on immediately refrigerating them. So, what’s the truth? How long can eggs be unrefrigerated before they become unsafe to eat? This article will explore the factors that affect egg shelf life and provide guidelines for keeping eggs safe and fresh.


According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), eggs should be stored in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below to ensure maximum safety and freshness. However, it’s not uncommon for people to leave eggs on the counter for hours or even days before cooking or consuming them.

While unrefrigerated eggs may seem harmless, they actually pose a risk to food safety. The problem lies with bacteria such as Salmonella enteritidis, which can be present on the outside of the eggshell or inside the egg itself. These bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature, potentially leading to foodborne illness.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that salmonella causes approximately 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths each year in the United States alone. While not all cases are caused by contaminated eggs, consuming raw or undercooked eggs is a common culprit.

Therefore, it’s important to understand how long eggs can be safely kept unrefrigerated and what factors can affect their shelf life. By following these guidelines, you can help prevent foodborne illness and enjoy your eggs safely.

Factors That Affect Egg Shelf Life

Egg Quality

Egg Quality

The quality of an egg is determined by various factors, including eggshell thickness and freshness. When it comes to eggshell thickness, thicker shells are more desirable as they offer better protection against bacteria and other external contaminants. Thin eggshells can easily crack or break, which can lead to spoilage and potential health risks.

Freshness is another crucial factor that affects egg quality. A fresh egg has a plump and firm yolk, while the white is thick and does not spread too much. As an egg ages, its contents start to break down, causing the yolk to flatten and the white to become thin and runny. Therefore, fresher eggs are more nutritious and flavorful than older ones.

To determine the freshness of an egg, you can perform a simple float test. Fill a bowl with water and gently place the egg in it. If the egg sinks and lays flat on the bottom, it is fresh. If it stands upright on the bottom or floats to the top, it is not fresh and should be discarded.

In addition to eggshell thickness and freshness, other factors such as storage temperature and handling practices can also impact egg quality. By ensuring proper storage and handling, you can maintain the freshness and quality of your eggs, resulting in a better-tasting and safer product for consumption.

Storage Conditions

Storage Conditions

When it comes to storing eggs, the conditions in which they are kept can have a significant impact on their overall quality and shelf life. Three factors that play a crucial role in egg storage are temperature, humidity, and light exposure.


Temperature is perhaps the most important factor to consider when storing eggs. Eggs should always be stored at a consistent temperature of 40°F or lower, as this inhibits bacterial growth and helps preserve their freshness for longer. If eggs are stored at room temperature, they age more quickly and become more susceptible to spoilage.


Humidity also plays a role in egg storage, as it affects the eggshell’s ability to maintain its protective coating. Eggs should ideally be stored in an environment with a relative humidity of around 70%, as this helps prevent moisture loss and keeps the shell intact. However, excessive humidity can cause the shells to become damp, which can lead to bacterial growth and spoilage.

Light Exposure

Light exposure is another factor to consider when storing eggs. Eggs should be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, as exposure to light can cause them to age more quickly and produce off-flavors. Some egg cartons come with built-in shields or opaque lids to protect them from light exposure.

Overall, proper storage conditions are crucial to maintaining the quality and safety of eggs. By keeping eggs in a consistently cool, humid, and dark environment, you can help extend their shelf life and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Age Of Eggs

Age Of Eggs

The age of eggs is an important factor to consider when determining their shelf life. This can be determined by the laying date, expiration date, or sell-by date.

Laying Date

The laying date refers to the date when the egg was laid by the chicken. Fresh eggs have a firm white and a thick yolk that stands up in a rounded dome shape. As they age, the whites become thinner and the yolks flatten out. It’s best to use eggs within 3 to 5 weeks of the laying date for optimal freshness.

Expiration Date

The expiration date is usually printed on the carton and indicates the latest date by which the eggs should be used. However, this date is not always accurate as it may take into account additional time for transportation and storage. It’s recommended to consume eggs before the expiration date, but it’s also important to use your senses to determine if they are still fresh and safe to eat.

Sell-By Date

The sell-by date is another date printed on the carton and is used by retailers to determine how long to display the eggs for sale. It’s important to note that this date is not an indicator of freshness or safety. Eggs can still be consumed after the sell-by date as long as they are handled and stored properly.

In conclusion, understanding the age of eggs is crucial for maintaining their quality and safety. By keeping track of the laying date, expiration date, and sell-by date, you can ensure that you’re consuming fresh and safe eggs.

How Long Can You Keep Eggs Unrefrigerated?

When it comes to storing eggs, one question that often arises is how long they can be kept unrefrigerated. Eggs are a versatile and nutritious food that can be enjoyed in many different ways. However, they are also perishable and can spoil if not stored properly. In this section, we will explore the shelf life of eggs at room temperature and provide some safety guidelines for keeping them fresh.

Room temperature is typically considered to be between 68°F and 72°F (20°C and 22°C). At this temperature range, eggs can be kept unrefrigerated for a short period of time, usually no more than two hours. After that, they should be refrigerated to prevent spoilage and bacterial growth.

Refrigeration is the best way to extend the shelf life of eggs. When kept in the refrigerator, eggs can last up to five weeks beyond their pack date. The ideal temperature for storing eggs in the fridge is between 33°F and 40°F (0°C and 4°C). This helps to slow down the aging process and keep them fresh for longer.

It’s important to note that the shelf life of eggs can vary depending on various factors such as the egg quality, storage conditions, and age of eggs. For instance, fresher eggs will have a longer shelf life than older ones. Eggs stored in a cool and dry place will last longer than those exposed to heat and humidity. Additionally, eggs that are past their expiration date or have cracks or other defects should be discarded immediately.

To ensure the safety of your eggs, it’s recommended to follow some basic guidelines when storing and handling them. Always wash your hands before and after handling eggs, use clean utensils and surfaces, and avoid cross-contamination with other foods. If you’re unsure about the freshness of an egg, you can perform a simple “float test” by placing it in a bowl of water. If it sinks to the bottom and lies flat, it’s fresh. If it stands on one end or floats, it’s no longer fresh and should be discarded.

In conclusion, while eggs can be kept unrefrigerated for a short period of time at room temperature, it’s best to store them in the fridge to ensure their freshness and safety. By following some basic guidelines for handling and storing eggs, you can enjoy this tasty and nutritious food with peace of mind.

Can You Eat Eggs That Have Been Unrefrigerated?

When it comes to food safety, it’s important to understand the risks and take necessary precautions. Eggs are a staple in many households, but what happens if they’ve been left unrefrigerated for too long? Can you still eat them?

The short answer is no, it’s not safe to eat eggs that have been unrefrigerated for an extended period of time. The risk of foodborne illness, particularly from salmonella bacteria, increases as eggs sit at room temperature. Salmonella can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, which can be severe or even life-threatening in some cases.

Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding foodborne illness from eggs. Always remember to refrigerate eggs as soon as possible after purchasing them. If you’re unsure how long eggs have been sitting at room temperature, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard them.

It’s also important to handle eggs safely and cook them thoroughly to kill any potential bacteria. This means washing your hands before and after handling eggs, using separate utensils and cutting boards for raw eggs, and cooking eggs until both the yolk and white are firm.

In conclusion, while it may be tempting to save money and use up those eggs that have been sitting out, the risk of foodborne illness is simply not worth it. To ensure your health and safety, always store and handle eggs properly and cook them thoroughly.



In conclusion, eggs are a staple in many households and it’s important to understand how to properly store them. Eggs should be refrigerated at all times to maintain their freshness and safety. When eggs are left unrefrigerated, they have a shorter shelf life and can potentially lead to foodborne illnesses such as salmonella.

To ensure the longest possible shelf life of your eggs, make sure to purchase eggs that have been stored properly at the grocery store. Also, always check the expiration or sell-by date on the carton before purchasing and using the eggs.

In addition, it’s important to store eggs in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which is typically on the middle or bottom shelf. Avoid storing them on the door or in the egg compartment as these areas are not as cold and can cause eggs to spoil more quickly.

By following these simple guidelines for proper egg storage, you can extend the shelf life of your eggs and prevent any potential food safety concerns. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!
Eggs are a versatile and protein-rich food that can be prepared in many ways. However, it is essential to handle them properly to avoid the risk of foodborne illness. In this article, we have explored the factors that affect egg shelf life, how long eggs can be kept unrefrigerated, and whether it is safe to consume eggs that have been stored at room temperature. By following safety guidelines and storing eggs properly, you can ensure their freshness and reduce the risk of getting sick. Remember to always check the expiration date, keep eggs refrigerated, and discard any eggs with cracked or dirty shells. So, next time you’re making breakfast or baking a cake, make sure your eggs are fresh, safe, and delicious!

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