How to Tell if an Egg is Bad

Food poisoning is one of the worst experiences a person can go through, it can be lethal. Eggs can be the source of some superb meals, but they can also be the source of food poisoning if they are eaten when they've gone bad. How can you tell when an egg is fresh or ready for the garbage can? You use the old floating egg trick, just follow these steps:

  1. Place the egg into a bowl of water. The water level should be deeper than the egg is long.
  2. Leave things alone for a few seconds.
  3. Observe what the egg does. Gently touch the egg to see if it does one of the following:
    • Fresh eggs will sink to the bottom of the bowl and lie on their sides.
    • Slightly older eggs (about one week) will lie on the bottom but bob slightly.
    • If the egg balances on its small end, with the large end reaching for the sky, it's probably around three weeks old.
    • Eggs that float at the surface are bad and should not be consumed.
  4. If you have difficulty observing the egg by touch, smell the egg. With time, bacteria break down the proteins in the whites of the egg and create a gas. This gas is hydrogen sulphide, better known as "rotten egg gas."

The floating test works because the air pocket inside the egg gets bigger with time as the egg contents lose both moisture and carbon dioxide. As the air pocket gets bigger, the egg is more likely to float.

TIP: When a recipe calls for a lot of yolks or whites, separate the eggs in a different bowl then dump the contents with the rest of the egg yolks (or whites). There's nothing more wasteful than cracking open egg number 14 in a 15 yolk recipe and finding out that it is a bad egg. You could also test all the eggs for freshness using this floating technique.

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