There has been many a heated debate about where to put your eggs (aside from not all in one basket, of course).
The world falls roughly into two camps: those who keep their eggs in the fridge, and those who think room temp is best. Each group believes they are right and views the rival gang as a bit cracked.
Years ago, most of our condiments, including our eggs, were kept in the kitchen cupboard, but these days more and more of us are opting to move them into the fridge.
So why is it that some people believe eggs, which have sat happily on our kitchen counters for so many years, should have to make the move into the cold?
Well, avoiding incidences of food poisoning is one major concern, and a longer shelf life is another good reason to keep them chilled.
Australian Eggs recommend making sure that wherever you choose to store your eggs, you’re careful to keep eggs that were purchased cold, from the refrigerated aisle of the supermarket, in the fridge at home.
“If the eggs have been bought unrefrigerated, it is okay to keep them at room temperature when you get home,” they say, “However, the eggs will last longer if they are stored in the fridge.”
“If they have been bought refrigerated, it is important to put them back into a fridge as soon as possible after purchasing. Variation in temperature can cause the eggs to sweat and it is in these conditions that bacteria are more likely to grow.”
Keeping them in the fridge inhibits the growth of many bacteria and means eggs can be kept for up to six weeks - but always check the best before date.
The argument for the pantry
Despite the arguments for the fridge, many people still keep their eggs in the pantry or on the bench - which is something a number of foodies encourage.
“You don’t need to refrigerate eggs,” says chef Craig Mather, “Eggshells are porous and will absorb flavours of other foods in the fridge, such as cheese (which shouldn’t be in the fridge either) or onions.”
Australian Eggs recommends that if you want to keep your eggs in the fridge, you can combat this by keeping eggs inside the cardboard containers you buy them in.
“Cartons reduce water loss and protect flavours from other foods being absorbed into the eggs,” they say, “Storing eggs loose, or in specially designed sections of the refrigerator is not recommended as this also exposes eggs to greater risk of damage.”
What about salmonella?
It’s not a common occurrence, but Linda Nicolaides, a microbiologist and an expert in Food Safety & Quality Management explains how eggs could contribute to the risk of salmonella, as we saw happen in Australia earlier this year.
“There is a low risk that eggs will become infected with Salmonella Enteritidis Phage type 4 at the point of laying,” she explains.
“If this happens the bacterial cells present in low numbers will be ‘trapped’ in the white (Albumen). In fresh eggs the albumen is too viscous to allow salmonellae to move from the point of infection. As the egg is stored it absorbs moisture from the air diluting the albumen. It takes approximately three weeks for the albumen to be liquid enough to allow Salmonella to swim from the albumen into the yolk, where they can use the surrounding nutrients to increase in numbers.”
But not all eggs-perts agree. Dr Martin Goldberg, a lecturer in microbiology at Nottingham Trent University argues that keeping eggs in the fridge does not alter the risk of salmonella. “There is no need to keep eggs in the fridge as the shell and membranes act as a barrier to bacteria,” he says. “When we find Salmonella in eggs, it is because they get in during formation of the eggs in the chickens’ oviducts.”
When it comes to reducing the risk of food poisoning, you should steer clear of eggs that are cracked or dirty, and store them away from other foods to avoid the spread of infection. Cooking eggs properly significantly reduces the risk of salmonella.