Don’t you just love the way truly fresh eggs look in a bowl after you crack them? The yolks are so perfectly rounded and the whites whip up into the fluffiest meringue!
Fresh eggs go with the territory when you purchase from a local farm. Good quality, pastured chicken, goose or duck eggs sell quickly enough that there isn’t any need for the tricks the egg industry uses to prolong egg freshness. These questionable techniques include partial freezing and cold storage for weeks at a time before they hit your supermarket shelf.
Even if you buy organic eggs from Whole Foods or other health food stores, it is possible to get old eggs. Old eggs not only don’t taste as good, in my opinion, but they also don’t poach nicely into that perfect egg shape that sits so pretty on top of a slice of toast or English muffin.
Do you suspect your fresh eggs might be less than really fresh? If so, here are two clues that you need to find another egg source as suggested by Kenji Lopez-Alt, Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats.
The Julian Date Tells the Tale
In the United States, every egg carton sold in a store is required to be stamped with a number between 000 and 365. This number is the Julian Date and indicates the day of the year that the eggs were cleaned and packed into the carton. A carton stamped with 000 means the eggs were packed on January 1 and a number of 213 means they were packed on August 2.
The bottom line is that you want a date as high as possible ideally only a few days to a week from the Julian date of the day you are purchasing the eggs. Do not look at the date just to the right of the Julian Date as this is the expiration date of the eggs and could be up to six weeks after the eggs were packed!
For example, an egg carton stamped with the numbers 015 Feb 28 means that the eggs were packed on January 15 but the eggs can be sold until February 28 – a month and a half later!
Who wants six-week-old eggs that the store can legally sell as “fresh”? Not me!
The Float Test for Fresh Eggs
The second way to test the freshness of your egg is to carefully place the egg in a cup of water. Fresh eggs will sink and remain flat lengthwise at the bottom of the cup.
The older the egg, the more likely it is to completely float. Semi-fresh eggs will stand up on one end and not lie flat at the bottom. This is because an air pocket in the fatty portion of the egg increases in size the older an egg gets.
Why Fresh Eggs Are Important
As with any food, the fresher the better. Better for taste and better for nutrition.
Who wants eggs that have been semi-frozen and in cold storage for weeks before you even get them home just to increase shelf life? Certainly not a good option particularly if you are soft boiling the egg in order to feed your baby the warm, liquid yolk as a traditional first food!
Fresh eggs also separate better. A nice, perky yolk can be separated easily with your hands without a single drop mixing in with the white to ruin your macaroons!
Finally, fresh eggs are so much easier to poach. Fresh eggs have tighter whites as well as yolks that retain their shape better as they cook. So if Eggs Benedict or another breakfast egg recipe is your thing, you will want to ensure that your eggs are as fresh as possible.