Can Hard Boiled Eggs Go Bad?

A Sliced Hard Boiled Egg

Everyone’s gotten a little over excited with making hard boiled eggs. You boil a dozen – or two – with the idea of making a whole bunch of egg salad, but soon realize that there is a limit to how much you can eat. What should you do with those extra hard boiled eggs? Can hard boiled eggs go bad, and how long will they keep in your fridge?

Can Hard Boiled Eggs Go Bad?

Hard boiled eggs can go bad, and actually have a surprisingly short shelf life. In fact, hard boiled eggs actually have a shorter shelf life than raw eggs that are still in the shell. This is because boiling the eggs removes the protective outer layer that coats the shell, making the shell vulnerable to air, bacteria and other contaminants.

Though boiling the eggs will make the shells more porous, that outer layer of protection still helps to keep eggs fresh longer. The shelf life of a hardboiled egg in the shell is about seven days, though once the eggs are peeled, the shelf life is only around five days. To ensure the safety of the hardboiled eggs, they should always be chilled immediately after making. Transferring the eggs from the boiling water to a bowl of ice water, and then the refrigerator can keep the temperature in a safe range.

A Sliced Hard Boiled Egg

Image used under Creative Commons from Neeta Lind

How to Tell When Hard Boiled Eggs Go Bad

The most noticeable sign that a hard boiled egg has gone bad is the odor. If the hardboiled egg has any sort of unpleasant, sulfurous or rotten smell, it has gone bad and should not be consumed. If the hard boiled egg is still in its shell, you may have to crack it open in order to notice any odor.

Many people assume that when the yolk of a hard boiled egg is gray or green, that the egg has gone bad. However, this is not the case, and the color of the yolk actually has more to do with the cooking time. Perfectly cooked hard boiled eggs will have a deep yellow to golden color, and creamy texture. The longer the egg is cooked, the paler the yolk becomes in color, until it eventually turns greenish or grayish. The texture will become increasingly chalky as the color changes.

This gray tinge is actually caused by a chemical reaction that occurs within the yolk. The egg is still safe to eat at this point, though it may have a less appealing taste and texture than eggs that were properly cooked.

Can You Freeze Hard Boiled Eggs?

While you can technically freeze hard boiled eggs, it is not really recommended as a method to preserve whole eggs. The freezing process will change the texture of the egg whites, and they can become rubbery. If you want to freeze hard boiled eggs for an egg salad, or similar dish with chopped eggs, you should freeze the eggs separately without any of the other ingredients. Mayonnaise, spices and other seasonings can be added when the eggs thaw.

Freeze the eggs by chopping them or grating them into a tightly sealing container or freezer bag. Be sure to write the date on the outside of the container, as hard boiled eggs will only last for a month in the freezer. Thaw hardboiled eggs in the container overnight and consume within two days.

Another way you can preserve hard boiled eggs for longer than a week is to pickle them. There are many easy recipes available online for pickled eggs, just be sure to use a brine recipe that is high in salt or vinegar, to prevent unwanted bacteria growth. Pickled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four months.

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