To wash or not to wash eggs? While this is a closed question with a yes or no answer, The issue of washing eggs has been discussed since modernity. The yes camp, backed by regulations in countries like the United States insists that eggs have to be washed, while the No camp, backed by regulations in the rest of the world does not wash eggs.
While it is a requirement for commercial eggs to be clean anywhere in the world, there are no laws that regulate the hygiene of your backyard eggs. The choice is yours.
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Why Wash Eggs
Washing eggs may be a must in some conditions.
The reason is that the same opening where eggs lay eggs it’s the same one they use for pooping. This is not the real issue. The problem comes in when and if these eggs are contaminated with droppings or bacteria in the environment, resulting in severe and dangerous diseases that can harm those who consume them.
Salmonella and e-coli are some of the deadly bacteria that can contaminate your eggs. This can be the case when you crack unwashed eggs and they come into contact with the outer shell.
Why Leave Fresh Eggs Unwashed?
The great thing about fresh eggs is that you collect them right from your chicken coop. So they are incredibly fresh and haven’t undergone any washing.
Unwashed eggs from your backyard consist of a protective coat known as a bloom or cuticle. The coating covers the exterior of the eggshell and protects the egg content from bacteria. It seals the egg so that the egg’s insides are not affected by the elements. It also prevents the loss of excess water, which is one of the reasons why the “egg float” test is an excellent way to estimate the age of an egg.
It’s also within reason that the same bloom protects the person consuming the egg from getting sick from bacteria that may contaminate an egg after washing it.
Unwashed eggs can also be stored without refrigeration due to the protective bloom. This saves you space in the fridge for other items.
Unlike backyard chicken eggs, store-bought eggs do not have an intact bloom which is the reason they require immediate refrigeration and should be eaten within a shorter time than unwashed eggs.
However, it’s always good to wash your eggs before cracking them. When there are droppings on the egg or other contaminants, a good washing should get rid of them, and unfortunately, the bloom goes too.
If you want to keep your eggs unwashed, the secret is collecting clean eggs.
Collecting Clean Eggs
The first step towards achieving clean eggs will start in the chicken coop.
Get all the chicken waste out, sanitize the nesting boxes and roosts and replace the beddings regularly to prevent the accumulation of waste and reduce the contamination of eggs.
Ensure that you collect eggs regularly to avoid breaking or contamination.
Salmonella and Washing Eggs
Exposure to salmonella bacteria is one of the biggest health risks associated with backyard chicken eggs.
Salmonella is passed through the feces of infected chickens, where humans get sick after eating foods that are contaminated with such feces.
Chicken eggshells can get contaminated with salmonella if laid in poorly managed habitats.
Unfortunately, we cannot tell if the outer eggs shell has been contaminated with Salmonella. It is imperative to wash eggs before cracking them open so as to get rid of any bacteria on the shell.
How To Wash Fresh Eggs
There are several ideas on the best way to wash your backyard chicken eggs. Let’s look at them, and then you can choose the method that works for you.
First, you should never wash your eggs with cold water. The reason is that the insides of submerged eggs are warmer than the water. As a result, pores open and let in bacteria from the exterior, and now that there is no bloom, bacteria can pass easily into the egg you plan to eat next. Wash eggs only with warm water.
Use Water to Clean your Fresh Eggs
There is nothing more unsightly than an egg that got pooped on, kicked in droppings, or dirty litter. When washing eggs, you can use the following methods to clean them.
Washing Eggs with Water
The cleaning method does not require chemicals or soaps to clean your eggs.
- Add warm water to a bowl.
- Immerse your egg in the water and wipe them gently until clean.
- Use running water to rinse it off.
- Dry your egg gently.
- Use it immediately or refrigerate.
Egg Washing Solutions
There are egg washing solutions that you can purchase to clean filthy eggs, but sometimes you may have to dispose of extremely soiled eggs to be safe.
To sanitize the eggs, you can spray the eggs with diluted bleach-water solution after cleaning them. If you face stubborn stains that you cannot remove with water and the sanitizing solution, you can dip your eggs in warm vinegar.
In general, inspecting eggs for any visible damages is advised for all eggs before cooking them. Avoid using dish soap and other scented cleaning solutions because they can affect the taste of the eggs.
Washing your Eggs Without Water
Some people consider this method the best way to keep bacteria from getting inside the egg.
However, if your eggs are filthy and you do not wish to wash them with water, the best thing is to toss them.
The only time you can consider the method is if you are not planning to consume the eggs right away, in which case you can try removing some of the dirt.
You can use a towel or sponge to gently wipe off the droppings and dirt. For stubborn dirt, you can use sandpaper to scrape them off. However, even if you use this method, it’s still important to wash them properly before cooking them.
Storing eggs after washing
After washing your egg and drying it off, refrigerate as soon as possible. Washed eggs must be refrigerated unless you coat them with a thin layer of mineral oil to cover the pores
Refrigeration helps preserve quality and reduces the chances of bacterial growth. Though some people prefer storing their eggs at room temperature, eggs tend to degrade rapidly at room temperature.
Eggs are edible for only three weeks at room temperature, but they can go up to 15 weeks when refrigerated.
The USDA does not recommend washing eggs for end consumers unless you store them safely after washing. They further advise backyard farmers to handle their eggs properly. This includes maintaining a clean coop and proper egg collecting methods. Additionally, they suggest you cook your eggs properly to ensure that all bacteria that may have gotten inside the egg are killed. The recommended cooking methods include hard cooking, poaching, frying, scrambling, and baking. The eggs should be cooked till the yolks are firm.
Whether to wash eggs or not remains to be a personal choice.
However, you should maintain proper hygiene in the chicken coop to avoid contamination through feces and dirty water.
If you want to wash your eggs, follow the appropriate cleaning and storage method to ensure yours are good when you want to eat them.