What's that smell?
July 22, 2010 3:22 PM   Subscribe

Going camping this weekend and I have a food safety question.

In the past we've brought a carton of eggs with us, which is a pain in the cooler in terms of keeping them from getting crushed. I was thinking about just bringing a tupperware of raw eggs already scrambled but wasn't sure if there was something about them being in their shells that help them keep longer. We're only going for the weekend, leaving Friday mid-day and will be eating all of them by Sunday morning.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér to Food & Drink (14 answers total)
I think eggs will sort of congeal unless you keep them really airtight.

On past camping trips I've brought hard-boiled eggs, though.
posted by wayland at 3:25 PM on July 22, 2010

Alternative suggestion: egg beaters in a container with a screwtop lid?

Airtight + packaging that lends itself to being put in a cooler.
posted by greekphilosophy at 3:32 PM on July 22, 2010

we have a tupperware egg holder. it works exactly like the container they come in at the store, but it's built like an armored personnel carrier for eggs. you'd be able to keep them in the cooler with no worries.
posted by radiosilents at 3:36 PM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

Our refrigerator, when I was young, had a hard plastic case (top and bottom) for eggs. My mom would just pull that out tape it together (or rubber band)
and put it in the cooler. Maybe you could find one at a thrift store?!
posted by Swisstine at 3:37 PM on July 22, 2010

something about them being in their shells that help them keep longer.

Yes, there is - eggs in the shell keep for a long time, while eggs out of shell only keep for a few days. That said, for your less than 48-hour storage period your eggs will be fine in your cooler as you propose.
posted by ssg at 3:40 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've taken unrefrigerated eggs on trips for two weeks. For a weekend -- no problem. You want to keep them out of the sun and in the coolest place possible, obviously, but they don't necessarily need to be in a cooler. Just bury them in the middle of a backpack or in a pile of blankets. Storing them in the shell is better than raw eggs out of the shell. Eggs are sold unrefrigerated in much of the world outside the U.S.

After all, eggs are intended to hatch chickens and obviously don't go bad when unrefrigerated. It requires at least 100 degrees and three weeks to hatch an egg.
posted by JackFlash at 3:40 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can buy a plastic egg container at any outdoor store that sells Coleman products (Wal-Mart, etc.) It costs about 4 dollars and can definitely save your eggs from any crushing.
posted by Hiker at 3:43 PM on July 22, 2010

We went camping for 8 days last week with 18 eggs with us. We didn't use an egg carrier, just the carton it came in, with no problem. Just set them at the top of the food cooler.
posted by SuzySmith at 3:49 PM on July 22, 2010

Depends on the eggs.

Eggs in the shell will keep for up to 4 months under proper refrigeration. At room temperature they will keep for about a month before they finally dry out. The eggshell has a coating (politely called "bloom," technically it is a layer of mucus) which prevents bacteria from entering the egg. This is how fertilized eggs manage not to rot before the babies hatch.

In the days before refrigeration, and even now in rural kitchens across the world, eggs were just kept out on the counter. They do last much longer in the fridge, but if you're eating them regularly, it's pretty much the same difference.

Now where you get into problems is with commercial eggs, which are frequently infected with salmonella because they are being laid by sick chickens. Salmonella bacteria reproduces much faster at warm temperatures. The more bacteria you eat, the sicker you get, and the more toxins they leave behind so even cooking won't do the job if the eggs are bacteria-laden enough.

So if it's your own chickens, or from a local source that you trust, just bring the eggs and don't worry too much about keeping them cool. If it's grocery store eggs, then either keep them in the cooler or leave them at home.
posted by ErikaB at 4:09 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

After all, eggs are intended to hatch chickens and obviously don't go bad when unrefrigerated. It requires at least 100 degrees and three weeks to hatch an egg.

Only the fertilized ones.

Agree that the egg is one of those things that you can leave unrefrigerated for a few days, no problem. We keep them in the fridge so they last longer, and on the off chance they have some salmonella in them, but they keep just fine for a few days out.

Couldn't hurt to wash them before you pack them.
posted by gjc at 4:24 PM on July 22, 2010

Thanks everyone. I like the idea of washing the eggs before we pack them. I'll see how much room we have in the cooler once everything else is packed.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 7:02 PM on July 22, 2010

Don't wash them before you pack them. Only ever wash eggs right before you're going to eat them (and then only if it's necessary). Washing will remove the protective coating, if there is one. (Most industrial cleaning processes remove it.)

Washing an egg will only physically force bacteria into the egg. You don't want that! If you do have to clean an egg, and you don't have the proper egg wash available, most sources recommend using a bit of steel wool or sandpaper to get the gunk off. (Obviously this is only really applicable to those of us who own chickens.)

Personally I will occasionally wash an egg before usage, but only if it's really got a lot of poop on it. Otherwise I just crack that thing into the pan and call it good.

Cite cite cite.
posted by ErikaB at 9:37 PM on July 22, 2010

Just as a data point, eggs are kept unrefrigerated here in the UK in the shops. We don't refrigerate them at home either, and they routinely last a week or more.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:50 AM on July 23, 2010

Cleaning. Dirty eggs can be a health hazard. Eggs with dirt and debris can be cleaned with fine sandpaper, a brush, or emery cloth. If eggs need to be washed, the temperature of the water should be at least 20F warmer than the egg. This will prevent the egg contents from contracting and producing a vacuum. It will also prevent microscopic bacteria from being pulled by vacuum through the pores of the egg. A mild, non-foaming, unscented detergent approved for washing eggs can be used. A dishwashing liquid that is free of scents and dyes is acceptable. Eggs can be sanitized by dipping in a solution of 1 tablespoon household bleach to 1 gallon of water before storage. Dry eggs before storing because moisture may enter the shell pores as eggs cool on refrigeration.
posted by gjc at 5:04 AM on July 23, 2010

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