There are two types of people in the world: those who keep their eggs in the fridge and those who think room temperature is best.
Each camp is convinced of its own common sense – and regards the other lot as cracked.
The controversy has raged for years, and the Daily Mail has commissioned a scientific study to provide the definitive answer to this vexed question.
The answer may surprise you. But first let’s remind ourselves of the arguments on both sides of the debate.
IN THE FRIDGE
On one side are those who think that unless eggs are put in the fridge – which has a plastic rack for the purpose – there is a risk of food poisoning.
According to the British Egg Information Service. The only place to keep food cool and avoid temperature fluctuations is the fridge, ‘hence the advice on egg packs’.
This view is backed by two experts at Bristol University’s School of Veterinary Science, Dr Rosamund Baird and Dr Janet Corry.
Who say that if an egg is contaminated with the bacteria salmonella. Storing it at room temperature allows the salmonella to multiply.
Worryingly, they say, you won’t be able to spot any change in colour, smell or consistency. “Salmonella will not multiply in the fridge,” they say. And warn that “imported eggs are much more often positive for salmonella”.
Rachel Khoo, TV chef and presenter of The Little Paris Kitchen, and Simon Rimmer, chef and presenter of Sunday Brunch, have declared themselves to be fans of chilling eggs.
They also have the support of kitchen scientists from across the Atlantic.
In a U.S. study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture last year. Investigators subjected eggs to a battery of tests to assess their quality. After they had stored more than 2,000 of them at various temperatures for up to four weeks.
The study reported that egg quality was found to deteriorate at four weeks in temperatures of 7.2 c or above (room temperature is normally taken to be 20 c).
The optimum temperature for lengthy storage, said investigators from Texas A&M University’s department of poultry science, was between 0.6 c and 2.2 c.
A fridge’s temperature is typically between 1.7 c and 3.3 c – but obviously you can adjust it to fit your chosen parameters.
Other U.S. scientists are even more cautious. The highly respected Mayo Clinic recommends you throw away eggs if they have been left out of the fridge for more than two hours.
IN THE PANTRY/CUPBOARD
Utter nonsense, say the ‘warm eggers’, who insist that refrigerating eggs is not only futile in terms of safety. But also ruins their flavour and causes baking disasters because a cold egg does not bind with other ingredients.
Tim Hayward, who presents the Food Programme on BBC Radio 4 and is a restaurant columnist for the Financial Times, says: “A fresh, free-range egg should last beautifully at room temperature for at least a week.
“The racks in the fridge door are the worst place to store eggs.
The constant shaking thins the whites and the flavours of other foods can penetrate the shell.”
The fridge shunners have also won support from an unlikely source – the Royal Navy’s Trident submarine force.
Michael Perkins, a former Navy man from Fareham, Hampshire, revealed in a letter to a newspaper that when he served on nuclear submarines in the Nineties, “the bulk of the eggs would be stored in the sonar electrical compartment. In relatively warm ambient temperatures, and would remain perfectly edible throughout the long voyage”.
Eggs in Boxes
The only precaution the crew took was to turn over the boxes every few days, in order to prevent the yolks settling.
Mercifully there were never any mishaps, which must be reassuring for anyone who worries that Britain’s nuclear strike-deterrent might get laid low by a rum bunch of eggy soldiers.
Warm eggers have support, too, from celebrity chefs.
Raymond Blanc declared that “people have got into the habit of refrigerating absolutely everything when often there is no need.”
In similar vein, Fay Ripley, the actor and author of What’s For Dinner, says she leaves eggs out of the fridge because “it makes them better for cooking”.
The anti-fridge brigade points out that our supermarkets keep eggs in the middle of the aisle, completely non-refrigerated.
But according to the pro-chilling British Egg Information Service, “For optimum freshness and food safety, eggs should be kept at a constant temperature below 20 c.
Most modern supermarkets are kept below 20 c so it is not necessary for retailers to store them in a fridge.”
The risk of eggs going off is increased mostly by significant changes in temperature, says a spokesman, “for example, eggs being moved from a fridge to a hot car after purchase”.
Likewise, it adds:
“To avoid the typical temperature fluctuations in a domestic kitchen. We recommend that eggs are stored in their box in the fridge” – so, not in the purpose-built racks.
SO WHICH IS RIGHT?
That’s a lot of conflicting advice, so we have taken the scientific route to settle the matter.
The Mail commissioned FoodTest Laboratories to compare batches of Lion eggs bought from Tesco – similar to Coles or Woolworth in Australia.
FoodTest provides the food and drink industry with government-approved laboratory analysis to ensure the safety.
Quality and legality of their products.
The company kept two batches of eggs for a fortnight, one at room temperature. The other at a typical fridge temperature of 6 c.
Samples from both batches were regularly tested for nasties such as E.coli, the superbug staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter.
The results, taken at the start point of the test. At the end of the first week and at the end of the second week, were all the same.
There was no difference whatsoever between the two batches. Both remained bacteria-free.
Jay Tolley, the operations and quality manager at FoodTest, confirmed that where safety is concerned. “there is no advantage in keeping the eggs refrigerated as opposed to storing them at ambient room temperature.”
The results of our admittedly small-scale but highly scientific test show it seems perfectly OK to keep your eggs outside the fridge.
So there you are – we’ve cracked it. The only question that remains is: what will you do with the fridge space you’ve now liberated?