How long can you leave an uncooked egg on the counter before it goes bad?
I asked myself this question a couple of days ago.
As most bakers know, the key to tender and perfectly baked cakes/muffins/cookies requires that all of your ingredients are at room temperature prior to baking. This includes butter, eggs, dairy and anything else that might have been previously refrigerated. The only time this rules does not apply is when a recipe clearly states that certain (or all) ingredients should be cold (like in a pie crust).
So why’d I ask myself this question?
On Monday night, I’d set three eggs out on the counter, as I’d planed to bake this Cherry-Chocolate Chip Pound Cake on Tuesday. Unfortunately, my three little eggs sat on my counter through Tuesday (I was in the ER w/my mom as she managed to break her big toe in the process of swatting the hell out of a fly) and into Wednesday (I spent an entire day in my county’s Zoning Ordinance Department due to a dispute regarding a treehouse we’ve built in our backyard. Irritating what one can/cannot do on her property, but that’s a discussion for another time/a separate magazine).
In the end, it wasn’t until Thursday before I had an opportunity to begin thinking about baking this cake, making it a total of three days that my eggs sat on my counter. I always leave my dairy on the counter to warm up to room temperature; however, this normally takes 30 minutes to an hour…not necessarily 3 whole days. Was it safe to bake with these eggs? Would a family member or I die from ingesting these? Would we vomit incessantly as a result of eating a rotten, salmonella infested egg?
I hated to throw these eggs out, as they were incredibly expensive (sun-powered, organic, free-ranged eggs, which cost approximately $.50 per egg. I know, I know, but they taste so good and the egg yolk is as orange and shiny as the setting sun over the horizon at the end of a balmy, sunny day….so worth it). So, I did a little unscientific/unofficial research.
What I found (online) is confusing, slightly complicated and most likely unreliable. However, most sources seem to agree that large portions of the world, in both the developed and developing world, eat unrefrigerated eggs with no issue. With that said, it seems that most societies abide by one major guideline when eating unrefrigerated eggs: know your egg sources (i.e. farmer) to ensure that your eggs are delicately cared for and properly handled as this information can/will determine how long your eggs can sit on the counter prior to ingestion. Otherwise, it is probably a very good idea to refrigerate your eggs (if you can) and too fully cook them (unless you are making a caesar salad dressing, but then you’d better know where your egg came from).
All in all, I’ve decided, based on my thorough research, that my eggs are safe to ingest after sitting on the counter for a couple of days. It is important for me to note that I’ve never been fond of eating eggs raw (unrefrigerated or refrigerated), but I suspect if you had a chicken coop in your yard and you, yourself, handled your chickens/eggs properly, that it would be relatively safe to eat the egg, refrigerated or unrefrigerated, raw, at room temperature or fully cooked.
I realize this article was probably not all that helpful for people genuinely struggling with the question I posed in the beginning. If this is the case, I suggest you simply take three eggs from your fridge or counter and try this pound cake recipe. You won’t be disappointed.
Cherry Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
Slightly Adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Yogurt Cake
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (reserve ½ a cup)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain coconut yogurt (use any yogurt you like here)
1 cup sugar
3 extra large eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of frozen cherries
½ cup of mini chocolate chips
Butter and flour a loaf pan. Line the bottom w/parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, add all the dry ingredients and sift (I always use a whisk to do this). In a large bowl, add the yogurt, sugar, eggs, extract, zest and lemon juice. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients w/o overbeating the batter. Mix until just combined
Add the olive oil and mix, gently. Try not to overbeat.
In a small bowl, mix the cherries, the reserved ½ cup of flour and chocolate chips. Make sure the cherries and chocolate chips are fully coated w/flour.
Add the cherries/chocolate chips to the batter and gently mix, folding over careful so not to break up the cherries.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and place in pre-heated oven for about 1 hour, checking after 55 minutes. The top should be golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean. Let rest in pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let it fully cool on rack.
Enjoy w/tea or coffee!