How to Tell If Eggs Are Bad: The Water Fresh Test Explained

You can do almost anything with eggs, from baking to stir-frying and everything in between. Just like there are numerous ways to use eggs, there are many ways to check if they are still in date.

Given eggs have their shell for protection, it sometimes means you discover they can no longer be used far too late in the cooking process.

One of the ways is the water fresh test, to see if the egg needs further inspection.

As with all foods, it is important not only to look, but to also smell to see if an item has seen better days.

Newsweek asked food experts how to determine if your eggs are safe to use.

What is the Water Fresh Test?

The water fresh test determines how much air has been able to enter an egg's shell. This is important to know as it can help show how old the egg is.

To test eggs this way, fill a bowl with enough water to cover the eggs being tested. Place your eggs into the bowl and watch to see whether they sink or float.

Eggs in water
Stock image of eggs in water. A water fresh test is a good way of seeing how fresh an egg is. Getty Images

If they sink and lay on their side, they are fresh eggs. Those which stay at the bottom but sit on their tips are also fresh, but not quite as fresh as the ones mentioned above.

If an egg floats to the top, this means an air pocket has formed through the shell membranes, meaning the egg is on the more mature side.

However, Lisa Robinson, vice president food safety and public health at Ecolab, told Newsweek this test only reveals that your eggs are not fresh, but does not mean they are necessarily out of date.

She said: "An egg can float in water when its air cell (air pocket formed between the two shell membranes) has enlarged sufficiently to keep it buoyant. This means the egg is old, but it may be perfectly safe to use."

How to Test if Eggs Are Bad

Robinson has another way of telling whether eggs are out of date, which requires further investigation than the water fresh test.

For this, sight and smell are equally useful, and this can be applied to cooked or raw eggs.

Stock image of eggs
Stock image of eggs cracked in a bowl. Eggs sometimes look discolored or have a strange smell when they have gone off. Getty Images

She said: "Crack the egg into a bowl and examine it for an off-odor or unusual appearance before deciding to use or discard it. A spoiled egg will have an unpleasant odor when you break open the shell, either when raw or cooked."

The unusual appearance of an egg is usually marked by discoloration, as well as a sliminess or powdery texture which could also appear on the shell.

Dullness in color is also a key thing to look out for when testing eggs for freshness.

How to Store Your Eggs

There has long been a debate on where to store your eggs: the refrigerator or in the pantry.

In Robinson's view, refrigerated eggs are absolutely the right way to go.

She said: "Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells that are not out-of-date eggs. Take eggs straight home after purchase and store them immediately in the refrigerator set at 40°F or below.

"Keep them in their carton and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door."

While it is best to ensure uncracked eggs are chosen, Robinson added that you can keep your eggs even if they break on the way home.

If this does happen, put them in a clean, airtight container in the fridge and use within two days.

Stock image of eggs
Stock image of eggs in the fridge. An expert said keeping eggs in the refrigerator is the best way to store them. Getty Images