Figuring out exactly how fresh the eggs in your fridge are can be a bit tricky. Same goes for the ones in the grocery store aisle. Sure, you can peek at the "best by" or "sell by" date on a carton to get a sense, but without owning your own chickens it's pretty much impossible to know exactly how fresh they are. This was the case until now.
As it turns out, there's actually a really quick and easy way to figure out precisely when the eggs in a given carton were packed so you can ensure you take home the newest ones. This is really important, as you probably don't own your own chickens so won't know what "the freshest eggs" look and feel like. Never have a disappointing breakfast again! Assuming whoever is cooking these fresh eggs knows what they're doing.
In a YouTube video posted by the folks at America's Test Kitchen, editor-in-chief of Cook's Illustrated magazine Dan Souza explains the shockingly simple yet seemingly little-known way to figure out when your eggs were packed.
He says you simply need to find the three digit number right near the best by date. That number is known as the Julian date, which signifies the number of the day in the calendar year on which the carton was packed.
So for example, 001, would mean the eggs were packaged on January 1, 004 signifies they were packed on January 4, 078 would be March 19, 234 is August 22 and so on so forth. This goes all the way through to 365, meaning the eggs were packed on December 31. Souza recommends using this handy trick to locate eggs that are less than three weeks old in order to make the tastiest egg-involved recipes. Scrambles, omlettes, quiches, they can all be as tasty as they can.
The video also helps explain why the "float test" isn't the best way to figure out how fresh they are. Many people rightly believe that fresher eggs will sink in a bowl of water and older ones will float (because the air pocket inside expands over time), but as Souza explains, it takes a whopping four to six months for an egg to float, which is way, way beyond optimal freshness.
As for keeping eggs fresh, the debate continues for where fresh eggs should be stored. In places like the UK, eggs aren't sold under refrigeration, but that's not the case in some other countries. People who have their own chickens sometimes leave the eggs outside of the refrigerator until they're ready to cook with them. Who the hell is doing it right?
In the US, egg producers heavily focus on trying to prevent the spread of Salmonella, which plagues 1.2 million US citizens yearly and kills 450 people in that time. USDA regulations require eggs to be thoroughly washed with soap, enzymes and chlorine, rinsed with hot water, before being dried and sprayed with a chlorine mist almost as soon as they are laid.
Particularly in large operations (for example - getting enough eggs to fill your local grocery store's fridge), Salmonella outbreaks are particularly prevalent. This is either as a result of contact with organic matter such as chicken manure or from the hen to the egg before it's been laid. Washing the eggs eliminates the chance of Salmonella on the production line. The chance of contracting Salmonella is not completely gone, however.
Because the cuticle layers of your eggs are gone, washed eggs can be susceptible to salmonella if they are kept at room temperature for a long period of time. Refrigerating washed eggs stops this from happening. In America, they should stay cold until the moment you cook them, to stop any chance of Salmonella.
Of course, to be safe, you can always choose to refrigerate your eggs no matter what. If an egg sits out at room temperature for a day, that's roughly the equivalent of seven days in the fridge, so you have to eat them more quickly. As always though, the fresher the food, the better the taste, and it's exactly the same with eggs.