The Theory of The Good Egg

For a long time now, probably since I got out of college, I’ve been cooking eggs occasionally. And, except for those already cracked before the package was opened, I have yet to find a bad egg no matter how old the container. Or at least I haven’t found one that actually had “the smell of rotten eggs”.

Over time this has spawned the Good Egg Hypothesis, which is something to the extent that: An unbroken, properly refrigerated egg never goes bad.

Today I did an experiment that put this hypothesis to the most extreme test I’ve ever administered it. I had a taste for hard boiled eggs and there were two left in the carton so I slipped them in to boil. In the past I’ve noticed eggs usually sink to the bottom of the pot, but these eggs floated right at the top. The one even floated nearly a quarter out of the water.

I figured this was probably a bad sign so I checked out the internet for info and found these instructions on how to hard boil eggs. Among other things the instructions say that older eggs almost float and are better, but that eggs which actually do float are too old and shouldn’t be used.

Now the timid would probably look at the floating eggs in the pot and realize they are too old and should be thrown out. But in my mind the question is: Why is a modestly buoyant egg good while an extremely buoyant one is bad? I don’t think they just hit some critical value and suddenly become toxic.

So I finally cooked the eggs for about 12 or 15 minutes, cooled them quickly in cold water (as per Robin’s aunt’s instruction), and cracked them open to see if they looked edible or if maybe the extra buoyancy had turned them evil and little toxic spider babies would pour forth intent on my destruction. The spider babies would’ve been cool, but unfortunately they were lacking.

It turns out that over time the yolk settled to the bottom of the egg. The top 1/3 of the egg was mostly filled with air and a little liquid. I don’t know if the liquid was from the boiling water or left over from some sort of internal stuff. Also, the egg white seemed to be decreased in size significantly so that it’s volume was probably about the same as the yolk.

I’m not exactly sure what dark quazi-embryonic processes might be taking place in the black box of an uncracked raw egg. But I know that the shell of an egg is permeable to gasses and maybe the white of the egg becomes dehydrated after a long time as the moisture gradually evaporates out through the unbroken shell. My other guess would be that some biological process is actually going on near the yolk (if the egg was fertilized the embryo would be living on the surface of the yolk) which consumes the egg white over time, though this seems less likely.

There would’ve been plenty of time for the evaporation to take place since the eggs in question technically expired on Nov. 6 (I assume 2004).

The eggs didn’t look discolored or smell funny or anything and they went down well with a little salt. So I think it’s safe to say that eggs 4 months past their expiration date are safe if well refrigerated and uncracked. But I’ll keep you all informed if I show any signs of food poisoning in the near future.

About Peter

This guy lives in Boston MA with his beloved wife and two kids. You can get some idea of his likes and dislikes from posts on this website or elsewhere.

18 thoughts on “The Theory of The Good Egg

  1. This is what you do when I’m not home? Poor PJ the Robot is probably very interested in these experiments to determine the validity of the GEH, but I think he’s probably more interested in having, say, legs permanently affixed to his body.

    But then again, I don’t know much about eggs, robots, or robot eggs.

  2. Actually this is probably the most exciting thing I’ve done when you weren’t home in a long time.

    Sort of like playing Russian Roulette. With every new month past the expiration date that egg carton started to look a little more like the chamber of a revolver with two egg-shaped bullets left.

    There’s nothing like taking your life in your hands to get the blood pumping.

  3. You know if you tied a red bandana around your head while tempting fate playing good egg/bad egg, it would almost be like Deer Hunter.

  4. I’m amazed you have eggs that survived in the fridge for 4 months. We go through a carton of eggs every 1-2 weeks.

    Next up: Next time you find a beak in your egg, make some scrambled eggs. Eat that. And take a picture.

  5. I used to eat eggs alot more often when I lived on my own. But these days I mostly eat whatever She Dragon is having. She prefers chicken to eggs so I tend to only cook eggs once in awhile, usually in a recipee that calls for them.

  6. I’d estimate the mode of my consumption to be 2 eggs per month. Keep in mind I did use a couple of eggs in the time before they expired.

    Guess I’m just not the oviraptor I was in my youth.

  7. Okay… I’ve read this… and I’ve learned nothing…. except that some other guy does all the cooking like me… huh? I went ahead and cooked (hard boiled) my floaties…. delicious…. not four months old mind you…. actually only 2 months passed their date… but we ate some scrambled eggs last night from the same carton (my wife reminds me) and they were delicious. But I did cook them according to the recipe book and not the way I usually do which is way tooooo long and this time they don’t have green around the yolk…. eerrrraggggghhhh!!!! Thanks for the humorous absentee meeting here on the blog.

  8. Update:

    I have for the first time in my life found what I presume to be a rotten egg in the carton.

    These were brown chicken eggs and this one had a few darker speckles than the rest but didn’t seem particularly unusual in it’s coloration. Neither did I notice the sort of cracking which I would’ve expected for an egg to go rotten.

    My first hint that all was not right was when I went to crack the egg. Normally when I crack an egg it’s tough to break the shell and when I do the egg kind of gloops out only when there’s a significant width to the crack. In this case however as soon as I cracked the shell even a little bit some yolk oozed out… not just egg-white but actual yellow yolk! And the color of the yolk was a little off as well, milkier or almost gray.

    Oddly it didn’t have what you’d typically imagine as the sulfury “rotten egg smell”. It smelled rather like rotten fish instead.

    Heck maybe it wasn’t rotten at all but had some other weird issue.

    These eggs were also past their use by date by about 4 months, but as you know that’s not too unusual for our household. Also though they were laid by cage-free organic chickens, so the lack of excessive antibiotics in them might’ve had something to do with the condition.

    Well I ate one of the other two eggs remaining in the container which didn’t exhibit such weird symptoms so we’ll see in a couple days how things turn out.

  9. Later update:

    Sis-dragon asked me today how to cook hard boiled eggs which made me look up this post.

    It occurs to me that there there was an additional update since my last comment on it:

    A friend of mine said that that “rotten fish” smell didn’t indicate that the egg had gone bad in the traditional sense. He claimed that the fishy smell and weird consistency means that the egg was somehow fertilized (most chicken eggs that we eat are not fertilized) though apparently not incubated to maturity.

    Don’t know how accurate that is but figured it might be pertainent to the discussion.

  10. I hear some people do eat fertilized eggs, before this I never knew fertilized eggs were fishy.

    Personally? No, I wouldn’t eat a fishy egg unless I was convinced my life depended on it.

  11. Can you over-boil an egg? Let’s clarify the semantics and clearly define ‘over-boiling’ to mean the egg has been cooked to a state that the individual finds unappealing. There is no objective definition of ‘over-boiling,’ then.

    So, if you are a person who enjoys the green stuff on the yolk, then I suppose the answer is no. There is no over-boiling for you. However, if you prefer one of the many other states an egg must go through in the cooking process before it gets the green stuff, then, yes, you can over-boil. In fact, there’s no reason to boil, actually. Eggs can be pasteurized at 160 F (which is why cookie dough ice cream is generally safe, I think), and can congeal to varying styles at temps below 212F.

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