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I've read a lot of conflicting advice on whether it's advisable to store eggs in the refrigerator. The case against seems twofold: (1) that eggshells are porous, and eggs can take on unwelcome flavours, or even spoil faster in the fridge, and (2) that cooking with cold eggs can be problematic. But lots of people refrigerate eggs through perceived necessity.

Do eggs last longer in the fridge, and is the shelf life gain worth it? Or should I just stick them in the cupboard?

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2+ years after this question was asked, Forbes magazine might have given the answer of why there's conflicting advice ... Darin hinted at the washing, but part of the reason that other countries can get away with lack of refrigeration is that they vacinate their chickens against samonella (which just isn't done in the US). They also mention that the reason for lack of refrigeration in stores is to prevent condensation when you're taking them home. –  Joe Apr 3 '13 at 1:53

12 Answers 12

up vote 22 down vote accepted

The exterior coating on an egg is known as the 'cuticle'. It helps to protect the otherwise porous nature of the shell and minimize moisture loss but it eventually breaks down as the chick matures and prepares to hatch.

The reason that eggs in the US are typically sold under refrigeration is because they are washed with warm water and detergent to remove the large amount of bacteria that are deposited on the shell while being layed. Once the cuticle is removed the egg becomes more porous.

Most bakeshops that are using whole eggs will typically keep several flats out at all times to have them at room temperature. Eggs will store better and longer in the refrigerator but if being used frequently and fairly quickly, they can also be left at room temperature. Howard McGee in "On Food & Cooking" says that egg quality deteriorates as much in one day at room temperature as it does four days under refrigeration.

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In Israel each egg has two expiration dates printed on it - with and without refrigeration, with about a month apart between them (in favor of refrigerated eggs, of course).
I guess climate plays a big part here - in a warm country it never even occurred to me to keep eggs out of the fridge.

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ideally, for freshness and safety, eggs should be stored at temperatures below 20c(70f) so a cool pantry or larder will probably be ok, otherwise use the fridge.

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I read somewhere, that eggs have a protective layer on the eggshell (smiliar to the acid mantle on the human skin) which keeps bacteria like salmonella out. When the eggs are stored in the fridge this mantle is destroyed. If this happens the eggs have to stay in the fridge because salmonella multiply less in the cold. That means, when the store you buy the eggs at stores them in a fridge you should do it, too. Here in Germany there are also two expiraton dates (usually about two weeks between them). The first one says how long you can store them outside the fridge and after that you should put them in it, because the protective mantle loses its effect after some time.

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It's not that being in the fridge destroys it. It's that other processes (certain kinds of washing) do, and the processors who know they did that keep them in a fridge as a result. So when you buy them from a fridge it's a signal to you the coating is gone and you should keep them in the fridge. –  Kate Gregory Aug 15 '11 at 16:08

While I can't attest what effect it has on shelf life, I can tell you I don't refrigerate my eggs. I grew up in Indonesia, where eggs were commonly sold on shelves, and it's just become a habit even after returning to the States. I've not had any "incidents" so far.

That said, I do keep the eggs in a relatively cool pantry, away from the stove and sunlight. I would personally also not store eggs in the refrigerator door because of the temperature fluctuations, which I've always believed does more harm than leaving eggs in a less cold but stable temperature. (And it certainly helps if you feel like whipping something up and not having to plan to pull eggs out of the fridge.)

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In the US, eggs may sometimes be salmonella-contaminated. The USDA FSIS says you must refrigerate the eggs. See my answer, below. If you're concerned about temperature fluctuations, keep the eggs in a cardboard carton in a cold part of the fridge: not in the door. –  unforgettableid Nov 3 '13 at 21:37

The egg cartons here in the Netherlands state that you should 'store them in a dry, cool place'. Supermarkets don't keep them in refrigeration anymore, which used to be the case until about 10 years ago - which probably means some government directive changed. At home, I just keep them unrefrigerated on the shelf, usually my box of six lasts a week maximum anyways.

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How quickly are you using the eggs? If you can't get through a carton of eggs in a week (no matter the size you're buying), I'd store them in the fridge, simply because eggs will age faster at room temperature -- I normally estimate a week of aging for every day out of the fridge, but it varies with time of year, etc.

Also, consider how you're going to be using the eggs -- if you're making crepes, whipping egg whites and other recipes that require warm eggs, I'd be more likely to leave them out.

Personally, I refrigerate -- not because I think warm eggs are unhealthy, but because I don't have a good place to store them otherwise. Also, as I don't have central air conditioning, I don't air condition my kitchen, and it's been in the 90s or above (F) for the last few weeks.

I also don't know how much truth there is to the eggs picking up flavors -- I tend to add things to my eggs (onion, pepper, etc.) that I don't know I'd have a clean egg flavor coming through; maybe if I were making meringue I'd be concerned, but I could also just put the eggs into a container that seals well. I guess as you can easily keep eggs for a month or more in the fridge, it'd have more time to absorb flavors, if nothing else.

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You don't have to store eggs in the fridge. The ideal temperature for storing eggs is between 12 and 15 degrees Ceslius (50 – 69 F). Don't keep the eggs in a place that's too dry though.

Btw: somebody told me that it's better to store eggs pointy side down, because of the air sack in the egg is at the rounded end. So you keep that end up and it helps the egg retain its moisture.

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I seem to recall Harold McGee saying there was no appreciable difference in whether an egg is store point up or down. –  daniel Jul 18 '10 at 9:00
    
Someone ended up asking about this: Store eggs upside down or not? –  Pops Oct 23 '13 at 19:03

Yes, eggs can take on unwelcome flavors when stored in the fridge, if they're not protected. It's not hard to protect them, though; Christopher Kimball recommends* storing eggs in the paper cartons they come in for exactly that purpose.

*: Talevich, T. (2009). Storing food right. Home cooking the Costco way: fantastic recipes using Costco products (p. 13). Issaquah, Wash.: Costco Wholesale.

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In the US, the USDA FSIS says you must refrigerate eggs (source). If you own fowl, and they lay eggs, I'm not sure if you must follow that advice or not. Phone the FSIS and ask what they think.

But your profile says that you live in the UK. So I don't know what advice to give you.

P.S. When asking location-sensitive questions like this, it's best to specify in the question what country you're in.

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@unforgettableid : It's bad to link to documents that long rather than the specific item which says that "Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than 2 hours". Note the qualifier of refrigerated because they also say : "FDA's Egg Safety Rule requires those transporting eggs to maintain an ambient temperature of 45 °F beginning 36 hours after laying of the eggs." (so your attempts at rewording are bad, as it makes it sound like that they must be chilled down immediately) –  Joe Nov 4 '13 at 6:28
    
Dear @Joe: dear Aaronut: thank you. I have edited the post further. –  unforgettableid Nov 4 '13 at 20:58

Here in the United Kingdom I never refrigerate my eggs. Here most of our hens are vaccinated against salmonella. You can tell if they aren't because they won't carry the red "little lion" stamp which certifies that they are from vaccinated hens. I buy mine from a shop that sells local eggs and I keep them in the cupboard next to the fridge, so it's fairly cool anyway. I've done this for very many years and my family has never yet had a case of poisoning. The only time I use unstamped eggs is when they are a gift from my daughter, who keeps her own hens, because I know how fresh they are and how the hens are kept.

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Fresh unwashed eggs - a reason to buy locally from a non-commercial seller - are best stored and used at room temperature. Only exception is in summertime or in warm climates. True free range chickens produce the tastiest and most nutritious eggs.

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Welcome to Seasoned Advice, Mario. Your answer could be improved if you presented more complete information: why is a room temperature egg a good thing (which you seem to imply)? What about washed eggs - where should those be stored? What support do you have for the claim that free range = most nutritious, and how is this claim relevant to the question at hand? –  Marti Nov 5 '12 at 17:46

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