8 Mistakes You're Making When Handling and Storing Eggs

Definitely don’t give eggs a rinse.

In 2011, the average American ate 245 eggs per year, and by 2020, that figure was up to 286.5. In other words, it's safe to say that Americans love eggs—whether they are part of an early morning meal or eaten later in the day. And while eggs are plentiful and can zhuzh up anything from a salad or sandwich to a comforting bowl of ramen, they're also one of the most high-maintenance foods to handle (thanks in part to their fragility) and store. For example, unlike, say, potatoes, eggs must be safely handled, promptly refrigerated, and thoroughly cooked. And if eggs aren't stored properly, they can develop bacteria, which can cause those who eat them to become ill.

Given that eggs can be tricky, we consulted the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service website, which has an entire section dedicated to egg safety and storage. While some of the information is common knowledge, like the fact eggs need to be refrigerated, there are some nuances that are less obvious. With that in mind, we compiled a list of mistakes you might be making when handling and storing eggs—and what to do instead.

A carton of six eggs on a pink background
01 of 08

Not Purchasing Eggs That Are Stored Correctly

When shopping for eggs, make sure the ones you purchase are properly refrigerated in the store. Eggs are kept in the refrigerated portion of the grocery store because any bacteria present in an egg can multiply quickly at room temperature, but is less likely to multiply if it's cold. Furthermore, aim to choose Grade A or AA eggs with clean, uncracked shells. When purchasing egg products or substitutes, look for containers that are tightly sealed.

RELATED: Burnt Out on Hard-Boiled? Here Are 9 More Delicious Ways to Cook Eggs

02 of 08

Not Refrigerating Eggs as Soon as Soon as You Get Home

Whether you buy eggs from your local grocery store or have them delivered to your home, they need to be refrigerated promptly. According to the USDA, temperature fluctuation is critical to safety, especially when it comes to eggs. This is because eggs come with concerns about Salmonella—a bacteria found in eggs and other foods that can cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps—which means they should be refrigerated as soon as possible. Additionally, after eggs are refrigerated, they need to stay that way. The USDA notes that a cold egg left out at room temperature may sweat, "facilitating the movement of bacteria into the egg and increasing the growth of bacteria."

03 of 08

Not Setting Your Refrigerator to the Right Temperature

Not only do eggs need to be refrigerated ASAP, but they need to be refrigerated at the correct temperature. Make sure your fridge is set at 40°F or below, and keep the eggs in their carton. They should also be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator, and not kept on the door, which tends to be warmer.

04 of 08

Washing Your Eggs

Though this may seem obvious, washing your eggs is unnecessary. In fact, it may even make them less safe because it can actually increase the risk of contamination. More specifically, when an egg is washed, the water can be sucked into the egg through the pores in the shell. Furthermore, there's no reason to wash eggs, because each egg already has a protective coating put on the outside by the hen. Additionally, government regulations require that USDA-graded eggs be carefully washed and sanitized using only compounds meeting FDA regulations for processing foods, so you don't have anything to worry about.

RELATED: 8 Delicious Ways to Use Up All Those Extra Eggs in Your Fridge

05 of 08

Not Refrigerating Hard-Cooked Eggs

The next time you make a platter of deviled eggs (or any other form of hard-cooked egg) remember to refrigerate them. When shell eggs are hard-cooked, the protective coating is washed away, which leaves the pores bare and makes the eggs more susceptible to bacteria and contaminants. To keep your hard-cooked eggs safe, refrigerate them within two hours after they've been cooked and use them within a week.

06 of 08

Using Cracked Eggs

Since bacteria can enter eggs through cracks in the shell, you should never purchase or cook with cracked eggs, even if the crack is very small. However, if you notice that an egg or two has cracked on the way home from the grocery store, you can still salvage what's inside. Simply break the cracked eggs into a clean container, cover it tightly, keep refrigerated, and use the eggs within two days.

07 of 08

Leaving Eggs Out for Too Long

While you might be tempted to set out all of your ingredients long before you intend to bake something or prepare a meal, make sure you don't keep eggs out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Additionally, raw eggs and other ingredients, combined according to recipe directions, should be cooked immediately or refrigerated and cooked within 24 hours.

RELATED: Can You Eat Leftover Deviled Eggs? Here's What the USDA Says

08 of 08

Freezing Whole Eggs or Egg Yolks

There are many foods you can freeze, which is super convenient for easy meal preparation, but freezing whole eggs or egg yolks is a no-no. Freezing raw eggs in the shell causes the water content inside to expand, which will likely break the shells, while freezing raw egg yolks makes them unusable in recipes.

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  1. AskUSDA. How many eggs do Americans eat each year?. Accessed February 8, 2023

  2. Statista. Per capita consumption of eggs in the United States from 2000 to 2023. Accessed February 8, 2023.

  3. USDA. Shell eggs from farm to table. Accessed February 9, 2023.

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