Obviously, the freshest eggs are the ones that come straight from your chickens without being stored at all. But often, you do need to store eggs for a few days, or even a few weeks. So, what’s the best way to store them so that they’ll stay fresh the longest? Should they be put in the refrigerator or left out on the counter?
First, let’s look at refrigeration. In America, any eggs you buy at the supermarket will already have been refrigerated. The reason for this is that these eggs have already been washed in order to meet U.S. health requirements, and washing eggs removes the protective outer coating known as “bloom” or “cuticle” from the egg shell. Egg shells are porous, which allows them to “breathe,” and bloom is a waxy substance that covers the egg shell to seal out contaminants.
When you gather eggs from your own chickens you can choose to leave them out at room temperature or refrigerate them. If you plan to store them for a long time, it’s better to refrigerate them, because they’ll stay fresh longer that way. But if you plan to eat the eggs soon, within a week or so, you can refrigerate them or store them out on the counter, as long as you haven’t washed them yet. Once you’ve washed them, you should either go ahead and use them or store them in the refrigerator. (We’ll go into more detail in a separate article about how to wash eggs.)
When refrigerating eggs you should aim for a temperature between about 36 degrees (F) and 40 degrees (F). Much colder than that, and the eggs and other food in your refrigerator are liable to freeze. Much warmer than that, and they’ll spoil faster.
Since eggs can absorb strong odors from other foods in the refrigerator (like onions) it’s best to keep eggs in an egg carton rather than store them in the open-topped egg tray that came with or was built into your refrigerator. It’s also best to store them on one of the shelves, where they’ll stay at a more constant temperature than if you were to store them in the refrigerator door. Eggs have an air cell at the large end, so store eggs in the carton with the large end up.
If you’d like to learn more about long term storage of eggs — what works and what doesn’t — read the following informative article from Mother Earth News: How to Store Fresh Eggs. It goes into a number of different “old time” methods for preserving eggs. Having experimented with a large number of eggs to test the effectiveness of these methods, they concluded, among other things, that:
The very best way we’ve found to stash eggs away for long-term storage is in a sealed container at a temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Their whites may become somewhat runny over a period of time, but even after seven months [the eggs] … stored in this manner smell good, taste good, have a good texture, and — in short — seem “almost fresh”.