Hard-boiled eggs can be a simple and healthy snack, but they must be refrigerated and handled properly in order to prevent contamination. Consider the following information and safety tips next time you're wondering how long hard-boiled eggs can sit out. And if you're questioning whether your hard-boiled snack has already gone bad, play it safe and toss it in the trash.
The Risks of Leaving Hard-Boiled Eggs Unrefrigerated
Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse, but when left out too long, they carry certain health risks. According to the Food and Drug Administration, about 79,000 cases of foodborne illness are caused by consumption of rotten eggs each year.
Always refrigerate eggs as soon as you get home from the grocery store, recommends the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Hard-boiled eggs, if refrigerated, can sit for a week and stay safe to eat (peeled or unpeeled). Left unrefrigerated, though, the expiration deadline drops to about two hours.
If hard-boiled eggs are left at room temperature for long periods of time, bacteria will grow at a rapid pace. Salmonella is one of the most common risks associated with rotten eggs, according to the FSIS. Salmonella symptoms last between four and seven days, and it can spread through any contaminated food that hasn't been handled properly. In severe cases, salmonella can lead to dehydration and require a trip to the doctor.
When to Refrigerate Hard-Boiled Eggs
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should discard any perishable foods that have been left at room temperature for longer than two hours. In order to keep fresh eggs safe, store them at a temperature of 40 degrees or colder at all times. The same rule applies for hard-boiled eggs as well, both in and out of the shell.
Contrary to popular belief, hard-boiled eggs are not safer to leave out than raw eggs. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, hard-boiled eggs are actually more susceptible to bacterial contamination, as the cooking process damages a protective layer on the shell of the egg. Both raw and cooked eggs (and egg products) must be refrigerated.
Bad eggs do not always have a foul odor, so play it safe by practicing proper food safety. Before boiling, throw out any eggs that have cracks or imperfections in the shell, recommends the FDA. Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. If you serve a dish that contains hard-boiled eggs at a party, such as deviled eggs, place your serving platter on ice to keep the eggs cold during service. Set a timer to remind yourself to refrigerate the leftovers within two hours. If your eggs sit out longer than they should, play it safe and throw them out.