Is it OK to eat a cracked egg?

Quick Answer

It is generally safe to eat cracked eggs, as long as the shell is intact and there are no visible signs of contamination. Cracks alone do not make an egg unsafe. However, eggs with damaged shells should be handled carefully to avoid potential exposure to bacteria. It’s best to cook cracked eggs thoroughly until both the yolk and white are firm. Avoid consuming raw or undercooked cracked eggs. When in doubt, throw it out.

What causes eggshells to crack?

There are several reasons why eggshells may become cracked:

  • Rough handling during transportation and storage – This is the most common cause of cracks. If eggs bump into each other or are dropped, the shells can easily crack.
  • Changes in temperature – If eggs are refrigerated after being stored at room temperature, the contents of the egg can contract and put pressure on the shell, resulting in cracks.
  • Age of the egg – As eggs age, the shells lose calcium over time and become more brittle and prone to cracks.
  • Breed and size of the hen – Some chicken breeds lay eggs with thinner, more fragile shells that are more likely to crack.
  • Nutritional deficiencies in the hen’s diet – A lack of calcium or vitamin D can cause weak eggshells.
  • Diseases or stress in the hen – Certain illnesses in chickens can affect shell quality and strength.

So in summary, cracks happen but don’t necessarily mean the egg is unsafe. Proper handling and storage helps minimize cracks.

Are cracked eggs still safe to eat?

Cracked eggs can still be safe to eat as long as the inner membrane is intact. Here are some key considerations:

  • Severity of cracks – Small superficial cracks on the surface of the shell do not make the egg unsafe. However, eggs with large cracks or fractures exposing the contents should be discarded.
  • Condition of inner membrane – Even if cracked, eggs are likely fine if the membrane surrounding the egg contents remains unbroken. This membrane acts as a protective barrier.
  • Visible contamination – Discard any cracked egg with dirt, feces or other contaminants visible through the cracks in the shell. Bacteria could be present.
  • Storage temperature – Refrigerate cracked eggs right away and eat them as soon as possible. Cold temperatures help prevent bacterial growth.
  • How egg will be prepared – Cook cracked eggs thoroughly until yolks and whites are firm. Avoid raw or undercooked preparation.

So in short, cracked eggs can still be consumed as long as the inner membrane is intact and no contaminants are visible in the cracks. Take care in storage and preparation.

What are the risks of eating cracked eggs?

Here are some potential health risks of eating cracked eggs:

  • Bacterial contamination – Salmonella is the biggest concern with cracked eggs. Other problematic bacteria include Campylobacter, Listeria and E. coli. These bacteria can get through cracked shells and contaminate the interior.
  • Foodborne illness – Eating an egg contaminated with Salmonella or other bacteria can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, cramps and more. At-risk groups like pregnant women, children and the elderly are more prone to severe infection.
  • Spoilage – Cracked eggshells make eggs more prone to spoiling from bacterial overgrowth. This can occur even when refrigerated.
  • Allergic reaction – People allergic to eggs could react if cracked eggs release egg proteins externally. This risk depends on the severity of their allergy.

Proper egg handling and preparation reduces these risks significantly. But when in doubt with severely cracked eggs, it’s safest to discard them.

How to tell if a cracked egg is safe

Here are some steps to evaluate whether a cracked egg is safe to eat:

  • Inspect the shell – Small superficial cracks are OK. Discard eggs with large cracks exposing inner membrane or contents.
  • Look at the membrane – If membrane appears slimy, discolored or broken, discard the egg.
  • Check for smell – An off smell like sulfur indicates bacterial overgrowth. Throw it out.
  • Examine the contents – Discard if the white or yolk seems discolored, watery or smells bad.
  • Consider storage conditions – Refrigeration helps. Discard if left out over 2 hours.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! It’s not worth getting sick.

Cracked eggs that look, smell and feel normal can be used if cooked thoroughly. Take extra care with raw egg dishes like Caesar salad dressing or cookie dough. Overall, a cracked eggshell alone does not necessarily mean the egg is unsafe. Use your best judgment.

Tips for handling cracked eggs safely

Here are some tips for safely working with cracked eggs:

  • Buy egg cartons from reputable suppliers and inspect before purchase. Avoid already cracked eggs.
  • Refrigerate eggs right away at 40°F or below. Use within 3-5 weeks.
  • Rotate stock and use oldest eggs first.
  • Store eggs pointy-end down to keep yolk centered and protect air cell.
  • Prevent cracks by not stacking egg cartons and avoiding sudden temperature changes.
  • Cook cracked eggs thoroughly – fried, scrambled, baked, etc. Don’t use raw.
  • Avoid leaving cracked eggs or dishes containing them at room temperature over 2 hours.
  • Consume cracked egg dishes promptly after cooking. Don’t let sit out.
  • Discard severely cracked eggs or any with an off appearance, smell or leaking contents.

Following basic food safety practices helps minimize risks when dealing with cracked eggs. Take care in handling, storage, preparation and serving.

Can you still use cracked eggs for baking?

Cracked eggs can generally still be used for baking purposes as long as they are not severely damaged. Here are some guidelines:

  • Inspect egg before adding – Make sure membrane is intact and no visible contamination.
  • Use pasteurized eggs if available – An added safety measure against bacteria.
  • Discard if recipe calls for raw or undercooked eggs – As in homemade mayonnaise or Caesar dressing.
  • Avoid egg-based frostings – The raw egg risk is too high.
  • Cook thoroughly – Bake goods like cakes, muffins, breads, etc. until done.
  • Clean up spills right away – Don’t leave raw egg residue.
  • Refrigerate batters and cooked goods containing eggs.
  • Eat baked goods soon after cooking – Within 2 days.

So for most baked goods, cracked eggs are OK as long as they are cooked fully. However, discard cracked eggs that are leaking, smelly or contaminated. When baking with kids or pregnant women, pasteurized eggs provide extra insurance against bacteria.

What do professional chefs recommend for cracked eggs?

Professional chefs have a few key recommendations when it comes to working with cracked eggs:

  • Inspect every egg when cooking. Look for hairline fractures.
  • Immediately separate cracked eggs from uncracked in the carton.
  • Discard any egg with major cracks, leaks, odd smell or visible contamination.
  • Cook cracked eggs promptly after cracking rather than leaving them in bowls.
  • Avoid using cracked eggs raw or undercooked. Always cook through.
  • Save cracked eggs for baked goods over other egg dishes. The baking process provides an added safety buffer.
  • Refrigerate instead of leaving cracked eggs or dishes made with them out at room temperature.
  • When cooking for high-risk groups, pregnant women or children, use pasteurized shell eggs or egg products.
  • Err on the side of caution and throw it out if having any doubts about the integrity or safety of a cracked egg.

Following basic food safety protocols and cooking cracked eggs thoroughly allows using them safely in most cases. But chefs recommend extra vigilance and caution, especially when cooking for vulnerable populations.

What types of cuisine use cracked eggs?

Cracked eggs can be used safely in a variety of cuisines and dishes as long as handled properly. Here are some examples across cultures:

  • French – Custards, creme brulee, hollandaise sauce
  • Italian – Zabaglione, tiramisu, frittata
  • Spanish – Tortilla Espanola (Spanish omelette)
  • Jewish – Matzah brei
  • Japanese – Tamagoyaki (rolled omelette)
  • Chinese – Egg drop soup, egg fried rice
  • Indian – Kheema (minced meat and eggs)
  • Mexican – Huevos rancheros, chilaquiles
  • American – Quiche, bread pudding, custard pie

Across most cuisines, cracked eggs are commonly used in:

  • Baked goods – Breads, cakes, muffins, custards
  • Boiled, poached or fried eggs
  • Omelettes and frittatas
  • Sauces like hollandaise and mayonnaise
  • Beverages including eggnog and cocktails

In all cases, take care to cook the eggs thoroughly and avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen when prepping.

Interesting facts about cracked eggs

Here are a few interesting facts and bits of history related to cracked eggs:

  • Eggshells can crack due to sudden temperature changes. This causes the egg contents to expand and contract.
  • The “egg tapping” test was once used to assess egg freshness based on the sound – a hollow noise meant cracked.
  • In ancient Rome, only cracked eggs were used for cooking to prevent bad omens. Uncracked eggs were seen as sacred symbols of life.
  • The egg membrane that surrounds the white and yolk can act as a natural barrier against bacteria even when the shell cracks.
  • Some commercial egg farms use infrared lasers to detect hairline shell cracks before packaging.
  • During the 1600s, Europeans believed drinking raw eggs whisked in wine could treat tuberculosis and other illnesses.
  • In the early 1900s, the egg candling process used light to identify cracked eggs before sending to market. Modern technology does this automatically.

Eggs have been a fascinating and versatile food throughout history. While cracked shells raise safety concerns today, techniques have improved for identifying and separating damaged eggs before they reach consumers.


In summary, it is generally safe to consume cracked eggs as long as the shell damage is minor and the inner membrane is intact. However, take care in handling, storage and cooking to prevent bacterial contamination of the contents. Exclude any cracked eggs where damage has allowed visible dirt, leakage or other contaminants inside. Cook cracked eggs thoroughly and avoid consuming them raw or undercooked. Use your best judgment on severity, and throw it out if in doubt. Following basic food safety practices allows cracked eggs to still be enjoyed in numerous time-tested culinary applications.

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