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How to Tell If Eggs Are Bad

eggs in carton
There are several ways to tell if your eggs are fresh or if they need to be tossed. 5m3photos/Getty Images

Whether they're fried, scrambled, poached or baked, eggs (and bacon) are the king of breakfast food. There's very little you can't do with eggs. Packed full of healthy cholesterol (that would be HDL cholesterol), a large egg contains around 78 calories, 6 grams of protein, and is a good source of vitamin D and choline.

But if there's one thing about eggs that is tough, it's figuring out if they're fresh or not. Using fresh eggs is essential when cooking, and while it may not be as easy to tell their freshness as say, raw chicken, there are a few fail-safe methods you can use to tell whether your eggs have gone bad.

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  1. Check the expiration date: This one may seem like a no-brainer, but checking the expiration date on the carton is the first step in determining the freshness of your eggs. You generally want to use eggs within three to five weeks of buying them; anytime after that runs the risk of them being bad.
  2. Do a visual inspection: What do your eggs look like in the carton? If any are cracked, you should considered them contaminated and toss them. A slimy or powdery substance on the shell is also a sign of potential contamination. Once you've cracked an egg open, look for signs of decay and any pink or green discoloration. Toss if you see either.
  3. Try the float test: While it may seem counterintuitive to deem something that sinks as "acceptable," an egg that floats is probably old. While they're still technically safe to eat, an egg floats when a small air pocket forms inside of its shell after a few weeks.
  4. Give it a sniff: The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service suggests you crack the egg into a bowl and give it a whiff before using it. But how do you check an egg for freshness when bad eggs smell like ... eggs? Great question. An egg that has gone too far past its expiration date has a sulfurlike scent that tingles the senses in a truly horrifying way. If it smells like trash, throw it in the trash.
  5. Crack it open: Look, you were going to have to crack the thing open at some point, right? A fresh, ready-to-eat egg will look bright and plump, while a yolk that's gone south has a distinct deflated look.

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