QUESTION: Can you tell me how long eggs are good for after the best-buy date on the carton has expired? Are they safe to use in recipes?
– L.D. Walnut Creek
ANSWER. Eggs that have a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grading need to display the day of the year (from 1 to 365) on which the eggs were packed. Most egg cartons will also display an expiration date, month and day after which they can no longer be sold but are still safe to eat.
Assuming the eggs have been under constant refrigeration, you have about four to five weeks after the pack date during which the eggs are considered fresh and safe. The expiration date will pass during this period. A good rule of thumb is to use fresh eggs within three to five weeks after purchase.
As time passes, the eggs gradually lose some of their qualities. In a fresh egg, the yolk is compact and stands high, and the white stays close to the yolk. As the weeks pass, the yolk and the egg white begin to spread, and the yolk sack becomes more fragile. Anyone who eats their eggs sunny-side up or over easy will notice that it doesn't take much to rupture the yolk of an older egg.
Such changes result from subtle changes in the albumin, the protein in the egg, but this does not have a significant impact on the egg's nutritional value. Over time, though, the changes can affect how an egg performs in certain recipes.
Use the freshest eggs for poaching or frying, as older ones will be more runny. If you want to whip your egg for volume, such as in a meringue or cake, it's OK to use a middle-aged egg (about 10 days old). Older eggs will perform fine if they are going to be used in
a batter. If you are going to be making hard-boiled eggs, older ones are preferred, as it is easier to take the shell off an older egg than a fresh one.
If the expiration date is long gone and you have concerns, it is always best to discard the eggs. If you do end up using eggs near or just after their time is up, be sure to cook them well. That is always the best way to eliminate any bacteria in the off chance that some might have taken up residence.
The USDA has a booklet on how to buy eggs at tinyurl.com/6kqc34, and there is more detailed information about safety at eggsafety.org.
Some of the supplements I take are hard tablets and some are soft gels. I like to sort them all into small containers with tight lids; then I just take them according to schedule each day and don't have to mess with all the bottles. But I have wondered if there is a problem keeping them together like this. What about storage in the refrigerator?
Moisture and heat can decrease the shelf life of supplements. Storing hard tablets with soft gels will not necessarily cause problems as long as they are stored properly. It is best to keep your supplements in a cool, dry place, avoiding extreme temperatures. Storage in the refrigerator is not necessary unless it is called for on the product label.
Most supplement containers include a moisture-absorbing packet to help preserve the product. If you feel the need to take them out of their individual containers, be sure to label everything to avoid confusion, and include some of the moisture-absorbing packets.
There is little to be concerned about if you are dealing with short-term storage in a well-sealed container. The risk with the refrigerator is that there is potential exposure to moisture through condensation.