Forget trying to decipher the date. The “float test” is a quick and easy way to see if those eggs in your refrigerator are still safe to use in recipes. (Psst: Grandma loves this trick!)
When you buy your eggs at the grocery store, you can be certain they’re fresh—or at least, fresh enough to use. (If you want to know exactly how fresh your supermarket eggs are, here’s how to decipher those numbers on the carton.)
But it’s different if you store them in another container or buy them from a local farmer. As time goes on, do you remember exactly when you bought them? How long have they been in the fridge, anyway?
How Can You Tell If Eggs Are Fresh?
The good news is that badly spoiled eggs are easy to detect as soon as you crack them open. The bad news is, there’s a lot of territory between “off” and “strong smell of sulfur”—you don’t want to have to count on your nose if your health is on the line. (Don’t risk getting salmonella!)
The great news is that there’s a way to tell whether your eggs are usable or not, without having to break the shell (which is the only thing standing between you and that rotten egg smell). Home cooks have been using this low-tech method for generations. It’s as easy as pouring a glass of water.
Do the Float Test
Bad eggs, you see, float. It has to do with the way moisture evaporates through the shell as eggs age—as that moisture decreases, the air bubble inside the shell grows. One way to test this is to hold the egg to your ear and shake it; if you hear the egg sloshing around, that’s a bad sign. But if you gently place the egg in a glass or bowl of water, you can get not only a “usable or not?” answer, but also a gauge of how fresh the egg is.
The air bubble will be at the narrow end of the egg—you can tell how fresh your egg is by how it settles in the water.
- If the egg lies horizontally, it’s at its freshest.
- If the narrow end of the egg tilts upward, the egg is still usable, but not quite as fresh. An egg that tilts would be good to use for meringue (yes, older eggs do make better meringue!).
- If the egg stands upright (but is still at the bottom of the container), it’s past its peak, but is still safe—use these eggs for baking or hard-boiling.
- If the egg floats? Get rid of it!
Simple as that. Quick, easy and it’s kind of fun, knowing you’re using the same trick grandmothers around the world used, too!
Use Your Good Eggs Here!
I love making breakfast recipes with eggs for dinner, especially this combo with potatoes and cheese that’s started in a skillet on the stovetop and then popped into the oven to bake. —Nadine Merheb, Tucson, Arizona
My husband and I had huevos rancheros while visiting Cuernavaca, Mexico, and he loved the meal so much he asked me to cook it for him when got home. My version is suited to my family’s preference for sunny side up eggs, but poached or scrambled eggs would be just as tasty. —Cheryl Woodson, Liberty, Missouri
Ham and cheese just got a little naughtier. I turned a French classic, croque madame, from a simple egg-topped grilled sandwich into an impossible-to-resist saucy casserole. —Melissa Millwood, Lyman, South Carolina
The best part about these creative and convenient bread bowls is that you can fill them with whatever you want. This is one of our favorite breakfasts. —Patrick Lavin, Jr., Birdsboro, Pennsylvania
Adobo sauce adds so much extra flavor that you won’t even miss the smaller amounts of butter and egg yolks in this smoky hash. Here’s a tip: Add a splash of white vinegar to the poaching water right before you drop in the eggs. It helps keep them from separating as they cook. —Brooke Keller, Lexington, Kentucky
My neighbor shared more zucchini from his garden than I knew what to do with. He loved this recipe—it’s great for brunch or a special breakfast. —Darcy Kennedy, Hendersonvlle, North Carolina
My meatless version of Korean bibimbap is tasty, pretty and easy to tweak for different spice levels. —Devon Delaney, Westport, Connecticut
These easy corn cakes are super tender thanks to the creamed corn in the batter. Top them with poached eggs and fresh salsa, and you get one of my favorite breakfasts. —Jamie Jones, Madison, Georgia
My son and I love having a croque-madame (a fried egg atop our grilled ham and cheese) for lunch. If eggs aren’t your favorite, you can make the sandwich without it (which makes it a croque-monsieur). —Carolyn Turner, Reno, Nevada
Save your leftover stuffing to make shells for holding baked eggs. This is a hearty breakfast that keeps us going for the marathon shopping trips. —Karen Deaver, Babylon, New York
When my kids were growing up, I was cooking for eight. I couldn’t conveniently fry eggs for eight, so I devised this recipe that became a family favorite. Mild and salty feta cheese is my favorite for the dish, but shredded cheddar or Parmesan work, too. —Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
Dining by the campfire? This easy packet of potatoes, bacon and cheese makes a terrific hash. We like to serve it with eggs and fresh pico de gallo. —Gina Nistico, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Sizzle up spicy chorizo, veggies and eggs for a breakfast that keeps you going all morning. If I want something handheld, I turn it into tacos. —Andrea Rivera, Westbury, New York
I like my food pretty, and this breakfast pizza is eye-popping. Bring it to the table with a bowl of berries or grapes and café au lait. —Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
Hash is a classic diner dish. With potatoes and pastrami, this one’s easy to make at home. The beets give it fabulous color and flavor. —Nancy Mock, Colchester, Vermont
My hearty cheesy breakfast sandwich is packed with provolone on top and Laughing Cow on the bottom. In between, I add ham, spinach and eggs sunny side up. —Natalie Hess, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Tomatoes and red pepper flakes add the zing in these saucy eggs. Serve them with crusty bread or sauteed polenta rounds. —Nick Iverson, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Growing up, I bonded with my dad over chorizo and eggs. My fresh approach combines them with grits and black beans. Add a spoonful of pico de gallo for extra pop. —Jenn Tidwell, Fair Oaks, California
Shakshuka is a dish of poached eggs with tomatoes, onion and cumin. I learned it while traveling through Southeast Asia, and it’s been my favorite way to eat eggs since. —Ezra Weeks, Calgary, Alberta
The hearty serving size and scrumptious flavor of eggs Benedict will have your lucky dining companion running to the table. —Gilda Lester, Millsboro, Delaware