Eggs are some of the friendliest farm products and cooking ingredients to deal with. You take it out of the refrigerator, crack it, and put it in your frying pan or baking batter. But while this versatile ingredient is simple and humble, being safe when handling eggs is of the utmost importance.
Although eggs are uncomplicated for the most part, they can still be susceptible to bacteria that can cause illnesses in humans. Even fresh eggs that have just been lain can be contaminated if they come from poorly maintained chicken coops. But what is the best way to handle chicken eggs?
Today, we’ll be talking about how to clean chicken eggs and what benefits you get out of it. We’ll also be sharing the many ways you can wash your eggs to ensure that they’re safe to eat.
What Kind of Eggs Need Washing?
Some chicken farmers might tell you that fresh eggs don’t need washing—and to be honest, they’re kind of right. Not all eggs need to be cleaned. But what kind of eggs do need that thorough wash?
You don’t have to go the extra mile of cleaning fresh eggs. When eggs have just been laid, they have a protective layer around them called the cuticle or “bloom.” This layer is made of protein from the hen’s body. It helps keep bacteria at bay so that it doesn’t infect what is inside the eggshell.
If you immediately wash an egg after it is freshly laid, you wash away the bloom’s protective coating. That makes your eggs even more susceptible to dirt and bacteria. Instead, you can store fresh, unwashed eggs right away at room temperature.
You also don’t need to worry about cleaning eggs from the grocery store. These commercial eggs are usually pre-washed in adherence to USDA regulations. They’re also pasteurized, which kills any bacteria living on them. Washing them will simply be redundant.
The eggs that you should clean are those that have been laid for a while now, and may have been sitting in a dirty nesting box for a few days. There’s a big chance that they’ve been in contact with chicken manure, so washing these eggs is a must.
Eggs that have been stored in the fridge for more than a few days should also be washed. The best time to wash them is right before you crack and cook them.
Why Do You Need to Clean Chicken Eggs?
Now that you know what types of eggs need washing, it’s important to understand why egg cleaning is a must to begin with.
The bacteria can be absorbed by the egg’s pores, thereby contaminating the egg with salmonella. There are up to 17,000 microscopic pores in an egg, so contamination on the insides of the egg is highly possible.
Salmonella is a bacteria that lives in the intestines of chickens. If you eat an egg with salmonella, you’ll get an infection and experience diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and other horrible symptoms for days. Over 40,000 cases of salmonella are recorded every year in the United States alone.
The good news is that if you’re extra diligent with egg safety, you can avoid salmonella altogether. Cooking your eggs thoroughly kills salmonella, so never eating raw eggs is pretty much a surefire way never to catch the infection.
Aside from keeping you and your family healthy, there is a need to wash eggs if you have a poultry business. There are safety procedures that you are required to adhere to before selling eggs. Cleaning and pasteurizing your eggs to kill salmonella may be part of it.
How to Clean Chicken Eggs
Depending on your egg’s situation, you can either just do a quick wipe to clean it or do a more thorough wet wash. Here’s how to clean chicken eggs properly:
1. Quickly dry washing your eggs
If you’re fairly confident that your eggs haven’t been contaminated and just want a quick, dry swoop of the eggs to ensure there’s no dirt or debris on the surface, you can simply wipe them dry.
2. Wet washing your eggs for a thorough clean
Sometimes, if your egg has been stuck in the coop for too long and has lots of specks of dirt or chicken droppings on it, it needs a more thorough cleaning. Here’s how to wet-wash your eggs, step by step:
- Rinse your eggs in lukewarm to warm water, but don’t soak them for too long. The temperature of the running water should be at least a little warmer than that of the egg. Avoid cold water, as this can force open the pores of the eggshell and absorb bacteria. Skip soap and detergent too—water alone is just fine.
- If there are still specks of feces or debris on the egg’s shell, dip it in some warm vinegar. The acidity of the vinegar can help loosen up stubborn stains.
- When you see that the eggs no longer have any specks of dirt, place them on a clean paper towel to let them dry.
- Sanitize the eggs one last time by spraying them with a solution of a little bit of bleach diluted in water.
- Transfer the eggs onto a rack where they can dry thoroughly.
3. Storing your eggs after cleaning them
When your eggs are all dry, it’s important to stick them in the fridge so they don’t suffer from moisture loss. Refrigerating eggs also prevents salmonella. To keep the eggs from breaking, keep them in egg cartons. Position them so that the pointy side is facing down to keep the eggs fresh longer.
Every once in a while, you can take some mineral or cooking oil and moisten your eggs with it with a clean cloth. This adds a nice shine to your eggs while sealing their pores so no new bacteria can enter them. It also extends the shelf life of your eggs because of the replenishment of moisture.
Want to learn more about the best practices for cleaning and storing eggs? Watch this video to learn the ins and outs of cleaning eggs straight from an experienced chicken raiser:
How to Avoid Contamination in the Coop
Cleaning your chicken eggs before handling them is an excellent precaution to avoid salmonella outbreaks in your farm and family. But the best way to make sure your eggs are safe to eat is by preventing contamination in the coop in the first place. Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Gather your farm eggs more frequently
Taking fresh eggs out of the nesting baskets daily can prevent your eggs from being exposed to fecal matter. The reason why they’re sometimes exposed to chicken poop is that they sit around in the baskets too long and eventually become contaminated with viral pathogens.
If you’re vigilant about collecting farm fresh eggs frequently, you reduce the time they spend in the nesting basket. This lowers the chances of them being exposed to bacteria and fecal matter, making them safer to handle.
2. Throw out any cracked eggs immediately
If you notice that one of the eggs in your nesting boxes has cracked even slightly, throw them out, along with any other eggs they were in proximity to. An egg infected with bacteria can pass on these pathogens to other eggs through their pores. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Make sure to always wash your hands immediately after handling these eggs. Don’t touch any cooking ware or utensils before you’ve thoroughly washed your hands with soap and water. To avoid contamination.
3. Keep your hens’ nesting boxes clean
At least once or twice a week, clean out the poultry boxes in which your flocks lay eggs in. Remove any feces you see and replace the bedding to keep the box clean. That way, you don’t always have to worry about new eggs being dropped into a dirty box with potentially tons of bacteria and dirt.
Eggs are delicious and are many people’s favorite breakfast food, but salmonella is a huge risk for chicken eggs. To prevent you and your loved ones from getting sick from eating contaminated eggs, make sure to clean them well.
You should wash your eggs properly if you want to be sure that there’s no fecal matter or bacteria on them. But not all chicken eggs should be washed. Fresh and store-bought eggs don’t necessarily have to be cleaned, but feel free to give them a rinse for extra precaution.
Avoid contaminating your eggs at the chicken coop by keeping your chickens’ home clean, gathering their eggs more frequently, and getting rid of cracked eggs that can spread bacteria. If you do your due diligence, you’ll end up with eggs that are clean and safe to eat from the get-go.