Do You Have to Refrigerate Eggs? No. And yes.
How’s that for an answer?
I sometimes wonder what people think when they walk into my kitchen and see a big bowl of farm fresh eggs sitting on my counter.
We are so conditioned to the notion that you MUST refrigerate eggs, I’m imagine some guests likely think we’re trying to kill ourselves with food poisoning. But, believe it or not, there is a method to my madness.
There are a few reasons I like to keep a bowl of eggs out on the counter:
- When we’re in the midst of egg-pocolypse (that season where the eggs just won’t stop), I can only keep so many dozen in my fridge
- Many baking recipes call for room temperature eggs, so it’s nice to have them ready to go on short notice
- Eggs are not something that *must* be refrigerated to keep from spoiling
Wait. Stop the presses! What did you say? Eggs won’t go bad if left out on the counter?
Hard to believe, huh? Especially since we Americans are so accustomed to only keep eggs in the refrigerator.
You likely wouldn’t have caught great-great-Grandma worrying about leaving her eggs on the counter, so where did this deeply held belief that we must refrigerate eggs come from?
Do You Have to Refrigerate Eggs?
When it comes to figuring out if you need to refrigerate eggs, it all comes down to washing.
Like I talked about in my egg washing post (man, we sure talk about eggs a lot ’round here…), fresh eggs come with this magical film from the hen called the cuticle or “bloom”. The cuticle seals the egg and helps to prevent bacteria from entering the very porous shell. It also helps to prevent moisture loss, which happens as eggs age.
However, since the USDA requires commercially produced eggs to be washed and sanitized before being sold, the eggs you buy at the store no longer have the majority of their cuticle intact. Without this natural protective coating, eggs tend to more susceptible to contamination, which is why refrigeration is recommended to slow the growth of bacteria.
Fun fact: Washed and sanitized American eggs would technically be illegal in Europe, as European regulations specify eggs must NOT be washed before sale in an effort to prevent contamination. Europeans also tend to store their eggs at room temperature. Hmmmm….
What About Farm-Fresh Eggs?
Well, like most things, it depends on who you talk to…. But as far as I go? I don’t stress about leaving my beautiful fresh duck and chickens eggs out on the counter.
Since I don’t immediately wash most of my eggs, I am comfortable leaving them at room temperature for a while.
My reasoning goes something like this:
- Because I don’t wash the majority of my eggs, the cuticle is still intact
- This cuticle protects the egg.
- I usually use the eggs within a week or so, so they aren’t out for extremely long periods of time. (One study found a prevalence of salmonella-positive eggs only after the eggs were stored at room temperature for at least 21 days. Shorter periods didn’t not show much significance.)
I have never had a problem with an egg going bad. Period. And it’s nice to have room-temperature eggs ready at a moment’s notice when I wanna bake a cake. Or whatever.
There are two exceptions to my rule with refrigerating eggs:
- If I get a super dirty egg, I will wash it in hot water and then refrigerate it.
- On the rare occasion I have store-bought eggs, I always refrigerate them.
A Few Other Egg Storage Notes:
- I only keep my eggs on the counter for about a week, if I need to keep them longer than that, I transition into the fridge.
- Keep in mind that room temperature eggs will age faster, so for long-term storage, it’s best to move them into the fridge.
- Once eggs have been refrigerated, they need to stay refrigerated. If a refrigerated egg is left out at room temperature for a long period of time, it will start to “sweat”.
How to Store Eggs on the Counter:
So we answered the question of whether or not you really need to refrigerate eggs, so how about some super snazzy countertop storage ideas?
I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about a bowl of farm-fresh eggs in their various shades of brown, blue, and green that captures my imagination.
I lot of people swear by this contraption called an Egg Skelter. That’s one of those spiral-shaped racks for holding eggs on the counter. I don’t have one personally, but it looks like a good way to keep track of which eggs are newer and which ones have already been out for a while.
Or you could use a farmhousey enamel bowl.
Or a delightfully primitive basket
Or a colander in a bright color with a bit of vintage pop.
Or a classic wire basket designed specifically for gathering eggs
Or maybe all of the above, and you can swap them out weekly for a different look. Not that I do that or anything. *ahem* Hey, I told you I had a weird thing for eggs on the counter. 😉
So there you have it. If you want to keep your eggs for months at a time, the fridge is your best bet, but otherwise, enjoy gazing at those farm-fresh eggs out on your kitchen counter, just like great-great-grandma would have.