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Can you freeze eggs to keep them longer?

You can freeze eggs — but not whole in their shells. You'll need to crack them, and separate the yolks and whites.
You can freeze eggs — but not whole in their shells. You'll need to crack them, and separate the yolks and whites.

You're not sure exactly how it happened, but you've ended up with four dozen eggs in your refrigerator. If no one in your family is in the mood to eat massive omelets every day for the next week or so, you might assume it's a use-it-or-lose-it situation. Either you find some way to cook all those eggs, pronto, or they'll end up in the trash. You'll be glad to know that it's not such a dire state of affairs — eggs last only a few weeks in the refrigerator, but they can be frozen for up to a year.

But before you transfer a dozen eggs in their cartons straight from the refrigerator to the freezer, take a moment to think about how long it'll take you to clean out your freezer after the inevitable egg explosion. It also would be tempting to crack all of the eggs into a freezer container, secure the lid and call it a day. But you should really freeze the eggs separately — if you want to bake some muffins later on, you'll have to go through a whole lot of trouble to thaw and separate that mess of eggs. If you're planning to bake a giant cake or attempt some other recipe that would use all dozen eggs at once, by all means, freeze them all in one container, but separate is probably best.

Freezing the eggs separately does take a bit more work than cracking and dumping, but it's not too bad — all you need is an ice cube tray. You can freeze them whole or separate the yolks from the whites. Whole eggs are easy: Just beat them all together and pour 3 tablespoons into each section of the tray. Cover the tray with plastic wrap and then, when they're totally frozen, transfer them into a freezer bag or another container.

If you're freezing just the whites, put one white into each section, freeze and then transfer (or, if you have all the egg whites in one container, 2 tablespoons equals one egg white). Yolks without whites require a little more work because they don't freeze very well on their own — the texture just won't be the same when they're thawed out. It helps if you know what you might use the yolks for: If you want to use them for baking or desserts, add 1-1/2 teaspoons of sugar to every four yolks. If these will be main-course eggs, add 1/8 teaspoon of salt to every four yolks. This will keep them at their best when you use them later. You can also freeze hard-boiled yolks (but not the whites, which will become tough and runny).

Some tips for the thawing process: It's best to put the eggs into the refrigerator overnight or stick them under cold running water. Whole eggs and yolks should be used right away, but the whites will be better if you let them sit at room temperature for a half-hour or so. Then go ahead and cook away, secure in the knowledge that you let no eggs go to waste.