Perhaps you follow the old proverb of waste not want not or maybe you look at the rising food costs and food shortages with concern. In either case, making sure to use everything we buy or produce is important. So when you buy eggs in the store and accidently bring some cracked eggs home, or you go out to the chicken coop to gather eggs and find that some of them are cracked, one asks themselves what to do with cracked eggs. In this blog, I will explore options.
How to determine if eggs are cracked
Although a person could make this determination as soon as the eggs are gathered I choose to wash my eggs first in clear water to remove any of the surface dirt because it makes determining if eggs are cracked a little easier and the process cleaner. I soak the eggs first and for years I then washed by hand. But as of late, I have been using an egg washer called The Little Egg Scrubber. The Little Egg Scrubber has been a tremendous time savor and does an amazing job.
Determining if eggs are cracked seems like an obvious thing to determine. And in some cases, that would be true as cracked eggs can usually be easily seen and felt.
But there are also instances where a visual inspection can not determine if an egg is cracked. This is where candling becomes important to ensure the quality of the farm eggs you are selling, refrigerator storage for your own use or if you plan to water glass the eggs.
Candling is where the egg is placed over a light source to illuminate the inside of the egg so that you can see blood spots, size of air pocket and cracks. There are commercial egg candlers available, but a flashlight will work as well. You do need something to focus the light just under the egg otherwise it is extremely blinding while you do it, especially if you are candling a large number of eggs. I did use a flashlight for quite some time, but to make this easier for me I built myself a counter top homemade egg candler using an old metal coffee can, a light socket, a piece of cardboard, a piece of toilet paper roll and a 60 watt LED bulb. It is not pretty, but it works like a charm.
To learn more about candling eggs and how I built a homemade egg candler, be sure to subscribe to get notified when the blog How to candle eggs with a homemade egg candler comes out.
After you finish candling all the eggs, the washed perfect eggs are separated for storage in the refrigerator for up to 8 weeks, for long term storage through water glassing, or for farm egg sales. But what to do with the cracked eggs?
What cracked eggs are safe to eat?
The short answer to this age old question is it depends. If you are buying eggs from the store, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends not buying cracked eggs. But if you crack them on the way home, they recommend cracking the egg into a container and using within two days. Health Canada makes similar recommendations, click here to read those recommendations. As we don't know how old the eggs are from the store or what conditions the eggs were stored, I can understand this recommendation. However, if you are like me and you have a few hens or a few hundred hens, you are guaranteed to end up with some cracked eggs due to hens not getting comfy prior to laying the egg, the hens having a party in the nest, or the eggs freezing. And yes, even the person gathering can crack and/or break them.
When a chicken lays an egg, the final step in the process is to put a bloom(also called a cuticle) on the egg to protect it from salmonella and other bacteria that might enter through the pores in the shell and ultimately harm the yolk of the egg. It is nature's way of protecting the possible chick and in doing so it protects us. A Sept 9, 2020 report from the US- Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) indicated that there is next to no incidence of transfer of bacteria to a freshly laid egg and that the white of an egg has natural microbial properties that inhibit Salmonella growth. Click here to read that report. Additionally, although I can find information on the web stating that the Center for Disease Control(CDC) estimates that 1 in 20,000 eggs or 0.005% contain salmonella, at the time of this blog, I can not find supporting documentation from the CDC to support that claim. That being said, although there is little chance of infection from a freshly laid egg in a clean hen house, it could still be possible and safety precautions are recommended.
When the egg is cracked in the coop, it allows a portal for any bacteria to enter the egg and multiply. Because I gather eggs twice a day, the opportunity for things to go bad are greatly reduced. During gathering I still look at the eggs to be sure they are not broken. If they are broken or have a hole in them where a hen pecked at the egg, I discard the egg. But if they are cracked, I will use them. After all, waste not want not.
I generate a lot of eggs with around 250 laying hens and so I have decided that leaky eggs will also be discarded just because they are messy in the carton and drip on other eggs when washing them. However, If they make it through the washing phase and I have a use for them right away, I will keep them separate and use them.
But, are cracked eggs safe to use?
To answer this question one must remember that heat kills most things that can make us sick. Salmonella is no different. Salmonella is killed at 160F (71 C), so using cracked eggs by completely cooking them, boiling, or baking with them ensures the internal temperature is well past the crucial temperature for killing salmonella. For this reason and the reports of the USDA and FSIS, I continue to use up the cracked eggs I deem useable.
What can you do with cracked eggs?
- Make omelettes or scrambled eggs
- Make pickled eggs
- Hard boil and feed to your chickens or other animals
- Crack, scramble and freeze
- Make portioned omlets for the freezer
- Egg salad
- Egg noodles
- Feed raw to the animals
- Give them to other bakers
Although I generate a lot of perfect eggs for sale as farm eggs that I could also use in my home or for water glassing for long term storage (check out this great tutorial on water glassing eggs), I have decided to not use these eggs but rather use the cracked eggs. Due to the nesting box design and my egg handling, I can generate a few cracked eggs and so coming up with ways to deal with them is paramount. After all, throwing them out is such a waste of what is otherwise a perfect food.
I do a lot of baking and use the cracked eggs all the time - everything from butter tarts, slices, cookies and cakes are made with cracked eggs. When I have large quantities of cracked eggs, chifons and angel food cakes are sure to be made. All the baked goods are stored in the freezer for when I need them to take out for unexpected guests, dainty sale trays, donate to fund raisers or just to take to a friends house. Because all of the baked goods are cooked to well beyond an internal temperature of 160F (71 C), any salmonella that may have contaminated the eggs is killed and so I am not worried at all about having used the cracked eggs.
Meal time with cracked eggs
I use cracked eggs the same way I use regular perfect eggs. I use them in omelletes, boil them up for egg salad, and fry them as a normal. The key to using the cracked eggs in this manner is that everything is fully cooked, thereby ensuring the cooked temperature exceeds 160F (71 C). I prefer my eggs hard cooked so this is not a problem for me, but if you like them sunny side up, I would suggest avoiding using cracked eggs as a fried egg and to rather hard boil them or make them into an omellete.
The making of homemade egg noodles can also be done using cracked eggs. The cooking of the noodles in the boiling water (water boils at 212 F or 100 C) will certainly take the noodles well over the crucial temperature of 160 F (71C).
Freezing cracked eggs
Freezing any egg, cracked or perfect, can cause the consistency of the yolk to change and so the recommended method is to scramble the eggs and then pour into a freezer bag or freezer container. Portioning out the scrambled eggs for your favorite recipe or adding extra ingredients for a ready to cook omellete are great ways to use up your cracked eggs. Prior to freezing be sure to write on the container the number of eggs in the container and the date. To use, simply thaw the liquid eggs in the refrigerator prior to cooking up. Because the use of these frozen cracked eggs will fully cook the eggs, the cooked temperature will be above 160 F (71 C) and so are safe for consumption. If you want to check out a great article on freezing eggs, click here.
Make pickled eggs with cracked eggs
Pickled eggs are a go to method of using up perfect eggs. But they can also be a great way to use up cracked eggs. As with perfect eggs, the first step is to hard boil the eggs. Although there are many ways to hard boil eggs, I tend to add the eggs to a pot, cover with water and bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes. This is where using cracked eggs gets interesting. During the boiling process, the shell may expand and allow some of the egg to leak out and immediately cook outside the egg. Although It makes for some funny looking eggs, the eggs will be safe because you are hard boiling the eggs in boiling water (water boils at 212 F or 100 C) thus taking the internal temperature well past the 160 F (71 C) temperature necessary to kill salmonella and other bacteria.
After you have boiled the eggs and cooled them in cold water, peeling the eggs is necessary. This is where the cracked eggs are nice because they usually peel very easily. I do find that completely cooling the eggs in the refrigerator helps with this.
The eggs are now ready for your favorite pickled egg recipe. I vary it up a bit by adding various herbs and changing the vinegar but my base recipe is rather simple. After placing the hard boiled cracked eggs into a sterilized jar layered with onions I mix up enough brine to fully cover the eggs. The brine recipe I boil together is:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup vinegar (Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar or half and half)
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1 tsp pickling spice
- 1 tsp salt
I put the lid on the jar, write the date on the lid, then leave it sit on the counter for about 3 days. After that I put it in the fridge where it will sit for months. I have had pickled cracked eggs that are over 6 months old and are absolutely fine in texture and taste.
Hard boil and feed to your chickens or other animals
Not only is the feed costs for human consumption rising, the costs for animal feed is also rising and so every little bit can help offset those costs. By hard boiling up the cracked eggs then cooling them, this can be an effective way to supplement the chicken's feed. After all, the egg is deemed the perfect food so why not for the chickens as well. It also gives them some added calcium from eating the shells. But rest assured, in feeding the hard boiled cracked eggs to my chickens I do not find that they eat the freshly laid eggs. But I will tell you that they go nuts over the cooked eggs. It is actually funny to watch.
I always boil up a large pot of cracked eggs and store them in the refrigerator so they are at the ready for feeding. I choose to only feed hardboiled cracked eggs once a day and I ration it to one gallon for about 180 birds to ensure that they clean it up and don't totally go off of their normal chicken feed.
I have tried using a potato masher to crush the hard boiled cracked eggs but have found it is too fine and the chickens don't eat it as well. Crushing the egg in my hand so it breaks apart works the best. The chickens love it.
Feeding raw cracked eggs to animals
There are many schools of thought about this, but I regularly feed raw cracked eggs to my dog as their digestive systems are equipped to handle it. After all, just think about what a dog eats sometimes. It is a great supplement to their diet and most dogs love it. I even know of some people that feed the shells as well for the deworming properties of the shell and the extra boost of calcium contained in the shells.
I have also fed a raw egg a day to my horses, mixed with their grain ration. It took them a moment to get used to it, but once they were used to it, they ate their ration as normal. I did not do this for long as it proved to be a pain with my feed set up, but if you are interested in this research check out this article..
Give cracked eggs to other bakers
With the number of eggs I gather in a day, my percentage of cracked eggs is increased and sometimes, I have more cracked eggs than I can timely use. But I have put together a list of bakers that are more than willing to take the cracked eggs for their own use. I don't charge them for the cracked eggs as I am just happy they are not going to waste and that someone is benefitting from them.
How long will cracked eggs store
Unwashed eggs will last on your counter at room temperature for about 2 weeks or more depending on the temperature and they will last for up to 3 months if stored in the refrigerator from day one. Once you wash the egg, the bloom is removed and washed eggs should immediately be refrigerated. I have left washed eggs on the counter for a couple days with no issues other than the air pocket getting bigger (indicating an older egg). Once refrigerated, washed eggs will last around two months. But how long will the cracked, washed eggs last?
Obviously, the sooner I use up the cracked eggs the better. However, sometimes there are just too many eggs to deal with and so they don't get washed right away, remaining unwashed at room temperature. Once washed and candled, the cracked eggs are stored in their own carton with the date on them in the refrigerator. I date all my eggs, cracked or perfect, with the date they were laid so I know exactly how old they are. Even with the less than favorable process, I have stored cracked eggs for as long as six weeks with no problems. On occasion, I will get a spoiled egg in these older eggs but cracking each egg in a bowl prior to using them lets you assess the egg on its own for freshness and/or spoilage and avoids contaminating what you are making.
Dealing with cracked eggs, and farm eggs for that matter, boils down to management. Although improving my nesting boxes and egg handling would definitely decrease the number of cracked eggs I get, making sure to always be using the older eggs first will all but eliminate spoiled eggs. That is where the date of lay on the carton is so important. I will say that I find I am using my newer cracked eggs for baking and meals and using up the older ones for animal feed. It works well for me.
I hope you have found this to be of some interest and help dealing with your cracked eggs. Obviously your own comfort level will dictate what you do, but I am wondering what you do with your cracked eggs? Please be sure to join the My Boreal Homestead Life community and follow along as we explore this Homegrown, homestead life in a modern world.