Try as you might to treat your eggs gingerly, it is inevitable you'll have a broken egg on your hands -- perhaps literally -- at some point. A broken egg doesn't necessarily mean a wasted egg, but there are clear guidelines about which broken eggs are safe to eat and which should be thrown out. Know how to pick them, how to store them and when to toss them, and you won't have to worry about broken eggs again.
Whether it is safe to eat a cracked egg depends on when it cracked. Never buy or eat eggs that have cracks at the grocery store, as bacteria can enter through the cracks and make the egg unsafe to eat. If you crack an egg by accident after you've bought it, pour the contents into an airtight container, refrigerate, and use within two days. It is safe to eat eggs that crack during the hard boiling process.
To keep your eggs safe, store them in their original carton in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Do not store them in the door, even if your refrigerator has an in-door egg compartment, as they are exposed to greater temperature fluctuations there, which can foster bacterial growth, as well as excess movement that could cause breakage.
Signs of Spoilage
When you break an egg, is a good idea to give it a once-over for signs of spoilage or contamination. Pay particular attention to the color of the white. Both cloudy and clear whites are safe, but do not eat the egg if the white has a pink tinge or is iridescent, as this is a sign that harmful bacteria are present. The color of the yolk does not indicate freshness, and blood spots do not mean the egg is unsafe. If the egg smells bad, do not eat it.
Shelf Life of Eggs
Unbroken eggs have a considerably longer shelf life than broken eggs -- up to five weeks in the refrigerator. Egg yolks and whites from a broken egg, whether together or separated, will last up to four days. If you accidentally break an egg -- or several -- and you won't need to use them for a while, you can either scramble the yolk and white together and then freeze, or freeze just the whites, for up to one year. Yolks alone do not freeze well.
Kelly McCoy has been writing for lifestyle blogs and online publications since 2010, specializing in recipes and techniques for the home cook. She holds a B.A. from Boston University and J.D. from the University of Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.