Do Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated?

And do you need to wash eggs?

November 29, 2022

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View of opened box of chicken eggs for market place

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View of opened box of chicken eggs for market place

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pixinoo/Getty Images

By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

Once you’ve brought a carton of eggs home from the farmers' market or grocery store, do you need to refrigerate them? What about washing them? We consulted Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best-selling author of The Family Immunity Cookbook.

Do Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated?

Yes, in the U.S., eggs need to be refrigerated. “Eggs that have just been laid by hens should be refrigerated immediately,” Amidor says. “In addition, Salmonella is a concern, and this bacteria does like to multiply at room temperature.” Plus, USDA-graded eggs are washed and sanitized according to FDA regulations, which removes the eggs’ outer coating and exposes the shell’s pores, leaving the egg susceptible to contamination.

Brown eggs in pleated baskets with written prices in french.

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Brown eggs in pleated baskets with written prices in french.

Photo by: ©Tasty food and photography/Getty Images

©Tasty food and photography/Getty Images

Why Aren’t Eggs Refrigerated In Other Countries?

Some countries do not wash their eggs after harvesting, which leaves the eggs’ original thin layer (cuticle) intact. “This thin layer acts to protect the shell of the eggs and helps minimize bacteria getting into the pores of the shell, and helps prevent Salmonella from getting into the egg,” Amidor says. “In addition, some countries have far less distances to travel to bring the eggs to the market or to sell the eggs.”

A female Caucasian farmer is standing in her field. She is holding a handful of eggs.

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A female Caucasian farmer is standing in her field. She is holding a handful of eggs.

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FatCamera/Getty Images

Do Fresh Eggs Need to Be Refrigerated?

Freshly laid eggs need to be refrigerated immediately. Fresh eggs purchased from a farmers market need to be refrigerated as soon as you get home. Per USDA guidelines, eggs should be stored at 40 degrees F or below to help minimize the risk of Salmonella. Eggs should be stored in their carton and placed in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door.

Stock Photo of Eggs on Zinc

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Stock Photo of Eggs on Zinc

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

How Long Can Eggs Sit Out?

According to the USDA, refrigerated eggs should not be left out for more than two hours. “Eggs are stored cold right after the hen lays the eggs. Once a cold egg is left out at room temperature it can sweat, which facilitates the movement of bacteria into the egg and can increase the growth of bacteria,” Amidor says.

Do You Need to Wash Eggs?

No, you do not need to wash eggs. “Eggs are washed already and sanitized according to strict government guidelines that meet FDA regulations. As such, there is no need to wash the eggs again,” Amidor says.

Organic eggs in cartons tray on blue background. Flat lay, top view

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Organic eggs in cartons tray on blue background. Flat lay, top view

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Tanja Ivanova/Getty Images

Tips for Shopping for and Storing Eggs

The USDA has provided several helpful tips to keep in mind when shopping for eggs and storing them.

  • Buy Grade A or AA eggs: U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells. U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are "reasonably" firm. This is the quality most often sold in stores.
  • Make sure shells are clean and intact: Check eggs to ensure that shells are clean and uncracked. Don't purchase cracked eggs; bacteria can enter eggs through cracks in the shell.
  • Ensure that eggs have been refrigerated: Make sure the eggs have been refrigerated in the store; bacteria can multiply quickly when eggs are left at room temperature.
  • Refrigerate eggs immediately once home: Bring eggs directly home and store them in their carton, in the coldest part of your fridge (not the door) at 40 degrees F or below.
  • Separate cracked eggs: If an egg cracks while you're transporting it from store to home, break it into a clean container, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. Use it within two days.

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