Most Americans are hardwired to toss their eggs into the refrigerator the moment they return home from grocery shopping. But it turns out that we may have been wrong about storing our golden-yolked friends in the fridge all this time: Some eggs are actually better suited for the counter.
Food correspondent for The New York Times Kim Severson explains that eggs from small producers — including eggs found at farmers markets, farm stands and your own backyard — do not have to be refrigerated. Instead, they can be kept at room temperature for one (possibly two) weeks.
Leaving your farmers market eggs out on the counter instead of in the refrigerator not only frees up some extra space for your other produce, it also can actually make your food taste better. Ever wonder why you can’t get your cake to taste like the version from your favorite bakery? Bakers swear by the powers of room-temperature eggs to get their pastries tasting top-notch.
Supermarket eggs, on the other hand, are a completely different story. The FDA dictates that American producers with 3,000 or more laying hens must wash their eggs in order to control bad bacteria like salmonella. Unfortunately, washing eggs with soap or chlorine “also cleans off a thin, protective cuticle devised by nature to protect bacteria from getting inside the egg in the first place,” Severson explains.
Once nature’s safety vest is washed away, there is an increased chance that bacteria will permeate the shell. Meaning it is imperative to keep those washed eggs chilled until you cook them if you’re picking them up from your local grocery store.
In many parts of the world, including Europe and parts of Asia, commercial eggs aren’t washed and therefore do not have to be refrigerated. If you think about it, this approach makes a whole lot of sense, considering it wastes less energy in the form of refrigeration.
What other foods do the wise people in countries outside the U.S. leave out of the fridge? In many European cultures, it’s commonplace to leave butter that will be used within the week out on the counter so that it’s soft and spreadable. Surprise: This habit is completely safe.
According to Organic Authority, due to its low water content and the addition of salt, butter won’t spoil if left out in a butter crock for up to two weeks. Of course, we wouldn’t advise doing this if you live in New Orleans and it’s summer, but if the temperature in your house stays below the mid-70s, your butter shouldn’t go rancid.
The next time you come home from the farmers market, take a moment before you instinctively shove all your eggs into the refrigerator. You’ll be delighted when your baked goods come out more delicious than usual and your friends compliment your Martha Stewart-esque egg display.
Erin has made telling stories about food her profession. You can find those stories in Food & Wine, LA Weekly, Serious Eats, KCET, Robb Report and First We Feast.
What do YOU think?
Do you always keep your eggs in the fridge? What about your butter? Do you think Americans are a little too obsessed with sanitization and refrigeration? Let us know in the comments!