What happens if I eat a cracked egg?

Eating cracked eggs is generally safe, as long as proper handling and cooking guidelines are followed. Even eggs with cracks in the shell can be consumed without issue in most cases. However, there are some potential risks to be aware of when eating cracked eggs.

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to some common questions about eating cracked eggs:

  • Is it safe to eat a cracked egg? Yes, a cracked egg is safe to eat as long as it is cooked thoroughly.
  • What are the risks of eating cracked eggs? The main risk is potential contamination with bacteria if the cracked egg was improperly handled.
  • Can I eat raw eggs with cracked shells? No, cracked eggs should never be consumed raw or undercooked.
  • Should I discard eggs with large cracks? Yes, eggs with large cracks or damage should be discarded.
  • How can I eat cracked eggs safely? Cook cracked eggs thoroughly until the whites and yolks are firm, cook casseroles and dishes with eggs to a safe internal temperature, and avoid leaving cracked eggs out of refrigeration too long.

Examining the Potential Risks

Eggs with cracked shells have the potential to become contaminated with harmful bacteria that could lead to foodborne illness. Here are some key risks to understand:

  • Bacterial contamination: When an eggshell becomes cracked, there is a risk that bacteria from the outside of the egg or the environment may contaminate the inside of the egg. Salmonella is the primary bacteria of concern with cracked eggs.
  • Raw egg consumption: Eating raw or undercooked eggs is risky with cracked eggs. The bacteria that may have entered through the crack are not killed off.
  • Improper egg storage: Cracked eggs left out of refrigeration for too long before cooking allow bacteria to multiply to unsafe levels.
  • Large cracks and egg leakage: Eggs with large cracks, leaks, or damage are more likely to be contaminated. It’s best to discard these eggs.
  • Compromised egg quality: Cracked eggs may lose moisture and experience faster deterioration in quality.

Safety Tips for Eating Cracked Eggs

While there are risks associated with cracked eggs, they can be eaten safely by following some basic guidelines:

  • Refrigerate cracked eggs promptly and use within a few days.
  • Cook cracked eggs thoroughly until both the yolk and white are firm.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked cracked eggs.
  • Cook casseroles, soufflés, and other mixed egg dishes to a safe internal temperature of 160°F.
  • Avoid leaving cracked eggs or dishes made with them sitting out at room temperature.
  • Discard any eggs with large cracks or damage to the shell.
  • Purchase cracked eggs only if properly refrigerated in the store.
  • Only use clean, uncracked eggs when making recipes that call for raw eggs.

What Happens If You Eat a Cracked Egg Raw?

Consuming a raw cracked egg is extremely risky. When eggs are not cooked, any bacteria that may have entered through the cracked shell can survive and lead to food poisoning. Salmonella is the primary bacteria of concern:

  • Salmonella can begin multiplying rapidly in raw and undercooked eggs.
  • Common symptoms of salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps.
  • Salmonella infections can become serious for those with weakened immune systems, the elderly, and young children.
  • Raw egg dishes like homemade eggnog, caesar dressing, and hollandaise sauce are highest risk made with cracked eggs.
  • Pregnant women are also at heightened risk from salmonella and should avoid consuming raw or undercooked eggs.

To avoid the dangers of salmonella and other bacteria, never eat raw cracked eggs. Only use uncracked eggs that have been properly handled for any recipe requiring raw or undercooked eggs.

How Long Can Cracked Eggs Be Left at Room Temperature?

Cracked eggs should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. After this time, bacteria like salmonella can multiply to unsafe levels. Follow these time and temperature guidelines:

  • Store cracked eggs in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cracking.
  • Use refrigerated cracked eggs within 3-5 days for best quality.
  • Never leave cracked eggs out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour if temperatures are above 90°F.
  • When serving cracked eggs or dishes made with them, refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Discard any cracked eggs or egg dishes left out too long at room temperature. The growth of bacteria over time can make them unsafe to eat.

Identifying When a Cracked Egg Is Still Safe to Eat

Small cracks alone do not necessarily make an egg unsafe. Here are some ways to determine if a cracked egg is still OK to eat:

  • Hold the egg up to a bright light. If the crack is small and does not appear to penetrate the shell completely, it is likely still safe.
  • Check for signs of leakage. If no egg white or yolk seems to have leaked out, bacteria are less likely to have entered.
  • Look for any unusual odors coming from the cracked egg.
  • If the crack is large, the shell is badly damaged, or the egg leaked, it’s best to throw it out.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Don’t risk your health if the crack seems too large or severe.

Can You Freeze Cracked Eggs?

Freezing cracked eggs is not recommended. The freezing process can introduce additional risks:

  • Bacteria present could survive freezing temperatures.
  • Cracks can worsen during freezing and thawing, allowing more contamination.
  • Quality and texture degrades compared to fresh eggs.

Instead of freezing cracked eggs, play it safe by:

  • Cooking the cracked eggs thoroughly until heated through before refrigerating or freezing.
  • Composting cracked eggs if they are not fresh enough to cook and eat.
  • Making and freezing cooked egg dishes like frittatas, breakfast casseroles, and quiches.
  • Separating and freezing egg whites or yolks only.

Are There Health Risks When Cooking Cracked Eggs?

Cooking eliminates many of the health risks associated with cracked eggs. However, proper cooking technique is vital:

  • Cook until both the egg yolk and white are firm. Eggs should not be runny.
  • Make sure casserole dishes and egg mixtures reach 160°F internally.
  • Don’t use recipes that call for raw or undercooked cracked eggs.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by thoroughly cleaning any surfaces cracked eggs touched.

Provided cracked eggs are cooked to a safe temperature, the risks of foodborne illness are greatly reduced. But remember that cooking cannot reverse contamination that was already present.

Are There Other Risks from Cracked Eggs?

Beyond foodborne illness, cracked eggs can pose a couple other risks:

  • Decreased egg quality – Eggs can start to lose moisture and freshness through a cracked shell. The quality declines faster.
  • Broken yolk – Cracked eggs are prone to breakage of the yolk during cooking if not handled gently. This can affect the dish texture.

While not safety issues, these quality factors are things to keep in mind. Prevent broken yolks by stirring and flipping cracked eggs gently during cooking.

Should You Discard Eggs with Hairline Cracks?

Tiny hairline cracks in the shell do not make eggs unsafe or mean you need to throw them out. As long as the crack is small with no leakage, the egg can still be eaten by following safe cooking practices. Here are some guidelines for hairline cracks:

  • Hold the egg up to a bright light to examine the size and severity of the crack.
  • Small cracks less than 1/8 inch with no leakage or damage are OK.
  • Cook the eggs thoroughly until the white and yolk are firm.
  • Avoid leaving eggs with hairline cracks out of refrigeration.
  • Use them within a few days for peak freshness.

While not ideal, eggs with minor shallow cracks along the shell can be consumed safely. However, cracks that are larger, go fully through the shell, or cause leakage are riskier and should be discarded.

Common Questions About Cracked Eggs

Here are answers to some other frequently asked questions about cracked eggs:

Why do eggs crack in the first place?

Eggs can crack for several reasons:

  • Temperature fluctuations during shipping and storage
  • Rough or improper handling and transportation
  • Age of the egg. Older eggs tend to have thinner shells.
  • Chicken health factors like poor nutrition or stress
  • Washing can weaken egg shells and make them prone to cracks.

Can you use cracked eggs for baking?

Cracked eggs can be used for baking as long as they are cooked thoroughly. Baking typically heats items like cakes, cookies, and breads to over 160°F which kills any bacteria. Just avoid recipes with raw, undercooked, or lightly cooked eggs.

Should you throw out the whole carton if one egg is cracked?

No, one cracked egg does not mean the whole carton needs to be discarded. Inspect the other eggs first before removing the cracked one. As long as the other eggs are clean and uncracked, they are likely still fine to use or eat.

Can chicks hatch from cracked eggs?

It is very unlikely for cracked eggs to successfully hatch chicks. The cracks allow air and bacteria inside, harming development. However, eggs with very small, shallow cracks may still hatch if incubated properly. But most cracked eggs will not hatch viable chicks.

Do cracked egg shells indicate low quality?

Not necessarily. While fresh high-quality eggs have stronger shells, even perfectly fresh eggs can end up with cracks from rough handling. Don’t assume cracked shells mean the eggs themselves are weak or inferior quality.

Should cracked eggs be refrigerated?

Yes, proper refrigeration is important for any cracked eggs you plan to cook and eat. Keep cracked eggs chilled at 40°F or below to prevent bacterial growth. Store in the main refrigerator compartment rather than the door.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, eggs with cracked shells can still be safely eaten if handled and cooked properly. Take precautions like:

  • Discarding eggs with large cracks, leakage, or damage
  • Cooking cracked eggs thoroughly until firm
  • Refrigerating promptly after cracking occurs
  • Avoiding leaving cracked eggs or dishes made with them at room temperature

While not ideal, eggs with minor shallow cracks along the shell can still be consumed by following basic food safety guidelines. But when in doubt, throw cracked eggs out to avoid any risks.

Leave a Comment