Hard-boiled Egg Filter: Eat 'em or Toss 'em
May 12, 2007 6:19 PM   Subscribe

I hard-boiled a dozen eggs this morning. They've been sitting in the same water they boiled in which is now at room temperature (about 20C/70F) for approximately six to eight hours. Are they still good?

Or should I just throw them away? I am all for throwing them away if they're iffy, but would rather not if it's not necessary (I hate wasting food).
posted by deborah to Food & Drink (57 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Peel 'em and make egg-salad. No problem. Or, tomorrow morning, peel, douse with Tabasco, eat.

Look, eggs are pretty sterile to begin with. They'll keep for weeks at room temperature. Then, even if there was a lonely salmonella or some other organism in or on them, you sterilized the hell out of them this morning, and kept them in the same water which was also sterile after the boil. There is no reason on earth they would be iffy.
posted by beagle at 6:26 PM on May 12, 2007

What beagle said. Egg salad for everyone! Or better yet: deviled eggs!
posted by trip and a half at 6:29 PM on May 12, 2007

I wouldn't risk it. Hard boiled eggs should be refrigerated right after cooking them.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:29 PM on May 12, 2007

Beagle's logic sounds reasonable to this non-expert, but the FDA disagrees:

Cooked eggs, including hard-boiled eggs, and egg-containing foods should not sit out for more than 2 hours. Within 2 hours either reheat or refrigerate.

This agrees with the typical "two hours to fridge" rule of food safety.
posted by SuperNova at 6:30 PM on May 12, 2007


ok, that is the lawyerly type answer. would i eat them? probably yes, even if i wasn't starving, but if you eat them i am sure you will get horrible diseases and die so don't even think about it.
posted by caddis at 6:30 PM on May 12, 2007

This says leaving the eggs out for more than two hours can lead to salmonella.
posted by HotPatatta at 6:31 PM on May 12, 2007

Um. This is one of those situations where throwing them away is probably a good thing.

That being said, if you had just left the stove on the whole time, they would be awesome.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:32 PM on May 12, 2007

Salmonella are (sometimes, rarely) on the outside of eggs. Those eggs were hard boiled. Any salmonella are dead. Then, the eggs just sat in nice clean water all day. There is no way salmonella, or anything else, multiplied inside those eggs during the day.

If you're still worried, bring back to a boil. Cook one minute. Cool off under cold water. Proceed to eat.
posted by beagle at 6:37 PM on May 12, 2007

I am not a food scientist or a doctor. I did get my undergraduate degree in microbiology though. To be 100% safe, toss em (or if you're next door, send them over for me to eat, cholesterol be damned). I'd expect you'd be fine based on the number of times I've done something similar. We eat a lot of boiled eggs in our household.
posted by DarkForest at 6:46 PM on May 12, 2007

Umm, that's not right, Beagle. Cooking any food kills most of the bacteria in it, but you wouldn't leave (steak/pizza/chicken/etc) out for days at a time because some bacteria will always be present and will multiply at room temperature.

Would you eat a hard-boiled egg a year after you cooked it? After all, you killed all the salmonella, right?

Note: Obviously that's a very different situation and I might eat these eggs and probably would be OK. But the point for the poster is that they are, at best, "iffy" when you consider actual scientific opinions.
posted by SuperNova at 6:49 PM on May 12, 2007

Best answer: I think they're likely to be OK. Hard-boiling kills any bacteria that were present. Therefore, anything that grew afterwards would have had to have been introduced.

So as long as you didn't stir the pot with your toilet brush after the eggs had cooled, my guess is that you're probably all right.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:56 PM on May 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

I most certainly would leave pizza out for days at a time, SuperNova!

I think we should just make a macro for "CanIEatThisFilter": The eggs are likely okay to eat and I'd likely eat them, but there is no way in hell I'm advising you to eat them on the small chance that something bad happens, so throw 'em out."

That's my advice, anyway.
posted by Justinian at 6:57 PM on May 12, 2007

SuperNova, we're not talking about a year.

Although, I have had "hundred-year-old-eggs" at Choyce Chen's, decades ago in Cambridge (MA), which were pretty good.
posted by beagle at 7:01 PM on May 12, 2007

IANA(whatever) but I guess I'd spend another $1 for a dozen eggs as soon as I thought there was a problem. I wouldn't even call my mommy. Unless I was penniless, and it was the last food I had. And even then, I'd borrow a dollar.
posted by The Deej at 7:12 PM on May 12, 2007

It's not an ideal situation, but meh, I'd eat 'em.
posted by Amanda B at 7:25 PM on May 12, 2007

I dont know. I do know we had a BBQ this afternoon and have lots of leftovers, including some salmon and sausages which were originally cooked on the grill at 1pm and have been on a plate ever since - so, for 6.5 hours. I'm eating them right now. How do they taste? Delicious.
posted by vacapinta at 7:34 PM on May 12, 2007

They're fine, and I agree with beagle. Eat'm and report back.
posted by bshort at 7:37 PM on May 12, 2007

Best answer: I've noticed that Metafilter is 17x more scared of bacteria then the average daily interaction person is.

Eat them, there is no problem.
posted by fire&wings at 7:42 PM on May 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

Here we go again. Eat 'em. I would and have. Whaddya know, I'm still alive!
posted by brautigan at 7:50 PM on May 12, 2007

I've done this countless times and always ate them without problem.
posted by dobbs at 8:16 PM on May 12, 2007

How about this: toss the water -- not the eggs. Fill the pot with water again and put the eggs back in it. Put the pot on the stove, turn on the heat and let the water come back up to a boil for about a minute, then take the eggs out, let them cool, and eat.

That'll kill the negligible amount of bacteria of any sort (apparently everyone thinks you have a really unclean home, deborah, 'cuz it's not like salmonella is just crawling everywhere) and the only downside is they eggs might be a bit rubbery.
posted by me3dia at 8:27 PM on May 12, 2007

Best answer: Some years ago, I boiled some eggs. After they cooled, I planted myself on my couch with three of them. I ate two, and fell asleep. When I woke up, egg#3 was missing, but I didn't realize it.

The next day, I found my cat playing with #3. Surprisingly, the shell was completely intact. I was hungry, so I ate it on the spot.

I'm still fairly sure that I'm alive (I didn't get sick either).
I don't necessarily recommend that you do this; I'm just providing an example.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:37 PM on May 12, 2007 [7 favorites]

I say eat them if you havn't already. Eggs are nicely protected to begin with (after all, a baby chicken is meant to grow safe and sound in there) as all the nasties tend to be kept on the outside. Even uncooked eggs will last for some time at room temp. The initial boiling ought taken care of all anything on the shell or in the water. It's not advice you can take to the bank, but when we were doing our neo-natal classes they told us that boiled water can be concidered steril for about 24 hours after the initial boiling. So eggs in their shell, floating in a sterile medium for eight hours ought to be just fine.
posted by adamt at 8:41 PM on May 12, 2007

I've brought hard-boiled eggs to work pretty often, and have eaten them after they've been sitting in a warm backpack for eight hours or more. Have I gotten sick from them? Maybe. I don't know. Wouldn't stop me from doing it again.

See, the odds of you getting salmonella from an egg are something like 1:16,000, and that's if they're undercooked. These weren't. Don't be a puss.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:44 PM on May 12, 2007


I'd throw 'em in the fridge and eat 'em when you want.

When I was a kid, we used to boil eggs and dye them for easter, and sometimes leave them unrefrigerated for DAYS, then eventually eat them or make them into egg salad. No one ever got sick.

I wouldn't do this anymore, and in retrospect it seems foolish, but 6-8 hours? No problem. I think that we've all become germ-paranoids thanks to the marketing departments of disinfectant and soap companies.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:15 PM on May 12, 2007

Eat half of one and see what happens.
posted by 517 at 9:18 PM on May 12, 2007

Make tea eggs. If there's anything on the inside or outside reboiling will kill it.
posted by casarkos at 9:44 PM on May 12, 2007

Nthing the fact that even raw eggs keep for a good while (days at least) at room temperature, so hard boiled should be totally fine. Hard boiled eggs are one of the classic picnic foods specifically because you could pack them in the morning and they still be fine for lunch or dinner. You might want to bring them to a brief boil in fresh water to kill anything that might have grown in the original water, but seriously, this is not a time to panic. If you eat them in the next day or two, there's not reason everything shouldn't be fine.
posted by mostlymartha at 9:49 PM on May 12, 2007

I know what the rules are, but I know in this case I'd eat them. Right away, though.

My rationalization is that by sitting in the once-boiling water, they were actually quite warm for longer than they were on the stove, so they didn't reach room temperature until later.

The thing is, with eggs, what works 99 out of 100 times won't work the 100th because salmonella is just such a nasty little beast. Most of us get mild cases of food poisoning all the time that we experience as "heartburn" or even "the 24 hour flu".
posted by dhartung at 9:51 PM on May 12, 2007

I'd eat 'em.
posted by serazin at 10:04 PM on May 12, 2007

The next day, I found my cat playing with #3. Surprisingly, the shell was completely intact. I was hungry, so I ate it on the spot.

I'm sorry but.... that is the funniest thing I have read all day. I don't think I shall ever rid my brain of the image of someone grabbing an egg from the cat and eating it on the spot.

Not laughing at you... laughing with you. :)
posted by The Deej at 10:08 PM on May 12, 2007

Wash them in anti-bacterial soap, bleach them, then let them sit in a Purell bath for an hour.

Seriously, they're fine. Eggs were (are?) a traditional bar snack for ages, just sitting out on the counter all day. Eat 'em.
posted by mkultra at 10:38 PM on May 12, 2007

I'd eat em, I get my eggs from my own henhouse and sometimes they will sit on the counter for three or four days before I even bother to wash the chicken shit off and cook them. Chickens do not have any of this fancy vagina over here and anus over there crap, its all cloaca baby, one multi-purpose hole and if you city kids think they wipe after pooping you are wrong. You boiled them and the water they were in and if that kills you then you you gotta play in the dirt and build up your immune system a little.
posted by Iron Rat at 10:42 PM on May 12, 2007 [10 favorites]

This FDA page gives you six hours to get your eggs to fridge tempreatures: "Once cooked, eggs and egg-containing foods should be served immediately or cooled from 60°C (140°F) to 21°C (70°F) within 2 hours and from 21°C (70°F) to 5°C (41°F) within an additional 4 hours." So they can't even get their story straight between their consumer and food service pages, and food service restrictions are usually more rigorous than domestic recommendations. I think the FDA's caution has to do with the fact that many people peel their eggs up front, in which case all bets are off for unchilled eggs.

Salmonella in eggs is a concern, hence the recommendation that all eggs be fully cooked (nobody round here eats soft boiled or over easy eggs, right?) But given that heat should kill any salmonella in the egg, if the shell is unbroken, that can't be a big issue. The risk of getting an egg contaminated with salmonella is real but not huge: "The CDC estimates that one out of every 20,000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella. The egg industry, figuring that the typical consumer eats 250 eggs a year, predicts they'd run into one contaminated egg every 80 years." The CDC via a CNN piece in 2000
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:06 PM on May 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

But those FDA pages recommend stuff that would make any foodie blanch. Cooking a ham to 165F is essentially destroying it by turning it into shoe leather, yet all government websites will recommend doing just that. Steak? They tell you 145 to 170. Do you know what a steak cooked to 170 degrees looks like? It's not pretty. 145 - the lowest end of their range - is medium to medium well.

Official recommendations are an ass-covering exercise. If you say you need to cook beef to 120F you'll get sued by the one person in ten thousand that gets food poisoning, so you recommend 150F. Sure, it tastes like shit, but at least your ass is covered.

The eggs were almost certainly fine to eat, as people have stated. If you're uncomfortable, toss 'em - they are just eggs. Otherwise, bon appetite.
posted by Justinian at 11:30 PM on May 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Another vote for eat them.

The FDA guidelines are like expiry dates on food - they're meant to protect the person giving the advice. I've safely eaten food thats a week past its expiry date - the only thing I'm iffy on is fish - I'd probably only leave that a day over, anything more and its in the bin.

As people have said, you've pretty much nuked any bacteria that was on/in the eggs and any fresh bacteria (remeber, germs are everywhere ;) ) will be on the outside of the egg, which you're going to remove. Unless you're of a really weak constitution I'd say eat 'em.
posted by missmagenta at 1:38 AM on May 13, 2007

I'm with all the egg eaters here. My slim contribution is this: If you boiled the eggs and left them in the hot water until the water cooled to room temperature, you're probably going to have some green yolked, rubbery assed eggs. Try one. If they displease you (and they'd displease me- this was my mom's standard HB recipe when I was growing up and I hated 'em) start over. Good ol' recipe, for anyone who needs it: lay 4-6 eggs an a large pot, cover w/ room temperature water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat for 17 minutes. Dunk eggs in ice water for at least 2 minutes. Then eat and enjoy your absolutely creamy, perfect eggs. (Even if you leave them out for a day or two, as I have many a time.)
posted by maryh at 2:33 AM on May 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

nobody round here eats soft boiled or over easy eggs, right?

I certainly do. From what I've heard though, I wouldn't risk it with American eggs.
posted by atrazine at 2:48 AM on May 13, 2007

The eggs have shells right? Unless there are organisms inside that haven't been killed (which would be unexpected) then the only bacteria you'll introduce are the ones on your hands when you shell 'em.

If you're feeling paranoid, toss them. I'd eat them.

When I worked in a microbiology lab at the height of the salmoneela in eggs scare in the UK we did a 'stale egg' survey. We bought eggs, kept them at 12C for nine weeks and then tested them. I tested 6000 eggs personally and only one was off, none of the rest had any pathogens.

You are far more likely (IMHO) to catch something from not washing your hands properly, or from having a dishcloth that's damp for an extended period.
posted by itsjustanalias at 3:32 AM on May 13, 2007

salmoneela.... doh! salmonella
posted by itsjustanalias at 3:33 AM on May 13, 2007

They're fine. I make and eat hardboiled eggs all the time, and I've let them sit out routinely with no ill effects.

Salmonella is on the outside of eggs, not the inside, so it isn't in there multiplying.
posted by OmieWise at 4:30 AM on May 13, 2007

Eggs are sterile on the inside. They keep underneath chickens for weeks. As long as the shells are uncracked, those eggs are perfectly safe to eat. If they cracked, but they've been sitting in the boiled water, I'd still eat 'em.. the chances of anything nasty multiplying enough to make you sick is pretty darn low. It would have to fall into the water, multiply enough in the water to get into the egg, and then multiply in the egg awhile.

You're fine. Eat them.

maryh: the Joy of Cooling recipe for hardboiled eggs is to put them in cold water and bring to a boil. Start the timer as soon as soon as the boil starts.... cook for 12 minutes, then get them into cold water as quickly as possible.

I love how they come out that way; they're exactly solid all the way through, but still yellow and yummy, not green and bouncy.

Joy of Cooking ftw. :)
posted by Malor at 5:07 AM on May 13, 2007

Heh, not "Cooling", but "Cooking". D'oh. :)
posted by Malor at 5:10 AM on May 13, 2007

Malor- I cribbed my recipe from Julia Child's The Way to Cook. And i guess she was allowing for recently refridgerated eggies...
posted by maryh at 6:04 AM on May 13, 2007

OK people. I don't want to panic anyone. But... Deborah has not replied to any posts, nor has she marked a Best Answer.

I think... she ATE THE EGGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can someone who lives nearby please check on her?
posted by The Deej at 7:59 AM on May 13, 2007

Hell, uncooked eggs are not refrigerated in Europe, and they're not dying by the thousands (or hundreds, or dozens). Sarah Phillips has an interesting take on the subject here.
posted by Neiltupper at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2007

Response by poster: The Deej: I'm still living. I haven't eaten the eggs, though. Is there a correlation? Should that be my next AskMe question?! Inquiring minds want to know!

The mister is going to play guinea pig. The dog is our other option, but the mister has better health and life insurance. The eggs have been reboiled for another two minutes, cooled off and are now refrigerated (they were quickly refrigerated when they were discovered yesterday evening). He's taking two of them to work for lunch tomorrow. I will report back as to his condition sometime tomorrow afternoon PST.

Please stayed tuned for Egg-Gate 2007!
posted by deborah at 10:57 AM on May 13, 2007

The Deej: I'm still living. I haven't eaten the eggs, though. Is there a correlation?

Whew. Glad you are ok. What's the address to send a "get well" to your hubby and dog?

Just in case.
posted by The Deej at 11:51 AM on May 13, 2007

I guess that my feeble attempts at sarcasm relating to soft cooked eggs slid right past everybody. I don't know anybody in normal health who avoids soft cooked eggs either. If you eat soft cooked eggs, worrying about intact hard boiled eggs that have been left out for a few hours is weird -- you're dismissing a real but small chance of trouble, and getting scared about a much smaller chance of contamination

As for the argument that "eggs are sterile" and salmonella is only on the outside of eggs, this is false. If the egg is contaminated with salmonella (the 1 in 20,000 chance quoted above) it is inside the egg -- that's the whole point of not eating soft cooked eggs. If the salmonella was only on the outside a soft boiled egg would be safe; as it is actually in the egg itself, you need to cook it through to be completely safe.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:03 PM on May 13, 2007

Joy of Cooking ftw. :)

In this case, no. maryh's technique produces much better boiled eggs. Try, see.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:22 PM on May 13, 2007

Sorry, offtopic.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:22 PM on May 13, 2007

Not off topic! The topic is eggs. And who would know more than a chicken?
posted by The Deej at 11:27 PM on May 13, 2007

Thanks for the validation, stavros. That recipe has never failed me.
posted by maryh at 11:32 PM on May 13, 2007

nobody round here eats soft boiled or over easy eggs, right?

Well, I don't, but not because of fear of bacteria, it's just that I don't like runny yolks. I do make (and eat) homemade mayonnaise with raw eggs, though. Yum!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:04 AM on May 14, 2007

Response by poster: *drum roll*

The mister ate both eggs a few hours ago and is still alive. He said the eggs weren't any harder to peel than normal, tasted fine and the texture was normal. He has also not spent anymore time in the washroom than is his norm.

I'd say the experiment was a success! Except that the order I had in for a Maserati had to be put on hold. Win some, lose some.

Thank you all for your feedback.
posted by deborah at 1:41 PM on May 14, 2007

And the mister didn't get suspicious about why you were asking all these questions, and timing him in the washroom? :)

Dang about the Maserati though.
posted by The Deej at 3:32 PM on May 14, 2007

Response by poster: Truthfully, and I already confessed on Metachat, it was the mister that boiled the eggs, etc. He asked if I would mind asking here to see what kind of info he could get. I wrote the question with me as the lead character (well, the eggs are really the lead, but whatever) to simplify it. It really was the mister's responsibility to take a bullet for the cause. But, yeah, I really wanted that car.
posted by deborah at 5:00 PM on May 14, 2007

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