Some Eggs Do Not Need Refrigeration

September 20, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Eggs are incredibly versatile. They can be prepared many different ways and appear in thousands of recipes, from salad dressings to dessert puddings.

While eggs taste great, they can also be dangerous if not treated properly. In the United States, about 1 in 20,000 eggs may contain salmonella — a bacteria that can make people very sick and possibly lead to death. In fact, approximately 142,000 cases of salmonella poisoning are reported each year and approx 30 of those cases result in death.

In many countries, eggs lay on supermarket shelves completely unrefrigerated. In other countries, eggs must be refrigerated when they are shipped, stored and sold.

Eggs have a natural protective layer on the outside of them which preserves the egg for a long period of time without refrigeration. Unfortunately, eggs can become contaminated with salmonella. This happens by contacting feces or other environmental contaminants during production. It can also be caused by the ovaries of an infected hen.

Because of this risk, countries such as the US and Canada insist that eggs be washed before they are sold. The advantage of this is that potential bacteria is removed from the outside of the egg. The disadvantage: the natural protective coating will also be removed, which requires that eggs be refrigerated to mitigate the risk of other contamination.

Although rare, there is also a risk that the egg yolk is infected. Refrigerating eggs prevents the potential bacteria from multiplying further, which reduces the risk of illness if a contaminated egg is consumed.

Typical egg care varies by country. If you buy eggs that are refrigerated, you should refrigerate them at home. If the eggs are not refrigerated at the time of purchase, you may optionally refrigerate them at home to extend the shelf life.

Room temperature eggs are recommended for hard boiling, experts say the shell is easier to remove because the outer membrane (just inside the shell) is weaker.

Many chefs suggest that refrigerated eggs should be at room temperature before they are mixed for baking, salad dressings and mayonnaise. The yolk in a cold egg is more firm, so they mix better at room temperature. Therefore, cold eggs are ideal for poaching or frying, reducing the chance that the yolk will break open during preparation.

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Sources: USDA, Chow, Banderas, Ochef, Wikipedia (Salmonella)

Photo: chizang (cc)

Entry filed under: Around The House, Demystified, Despite Popular Belief, Food and Drink. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anita Burnham  |  September 20, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I’ve been wondering how to not refrigerate my eggs ever since we got back from 6 months in Africa. I bought about 30 eggs each week and just put them on the shelf and left them until cooking them. They cook so much better when room temperature, so I was trying to figure it out! Thanks so much for explaining why this is not possible in the States. Although I like the fact that the feces is washed off, I kind of miss doing it myself every morning-takes me back!

  • 2. Bean  |  December 16, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Wow, that clears up a debate my daughter and I were having just the other day. She says that her Mexican friend and his family do not refrigerate their eggs, and when she pointed it out to them, they explained that they never refrigerate them at home, so continue the same here. I can now tell her why they should, at least tll they go back to Mexico, where am sure the eggs haven’t been stripped of their protective coating.


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