Eggs are an educational experience while cruising. After leaving Isla Mujeres, MX, we didn’t see refrigerated eggs again until the major supermercados in Panama City, Panama, six years later. Planning ahead for eggs is an important consideration before you leave. Even if you’re cruising “civilized” places where eggs come in cartons refrigerated, having the right equipment on hand means you don’t worry about your eggs if you have a “pit” refrigerator like mine.
Egg 101 #1: The most important consideration for eggs aboard Winterlude unexpectedly has nothing to do with eating or cooking, but rather, anchoring. Anchoring? Yes, we have a “rule” that we don’t anchor closer to another boat than what we could throw an egg and hit their boat. We really appreciate it when other cruisers do the same. Although there have been many times when standing on the bow, we’ve had to politely explain the egg and anchoring rule. These days if the offending boat doesn’t get the message, we usually just re-anchor. It’s not worth the hassle and the stress to remain anchored next to someone who doesn’t understand the egg and anchoring rule.
Egg 101 #2: Depending on where you’re cruising, you’ll likely be able to buy unrefrigerated eggs. Don’t despair – look on this as an opportunity because often these eggs will be much fresher than anything you’ll buy in the US (unless you buy eggs directly from a farmer, of course, or raise your own – very difficult on a boat!). Usually you’ll need to bring your own carton because the eggs are usually on flats. You simply fill your carton and pay for your eggs. Some larger supermarkets have eggs like this as well, so you’ll need to take your egg cartons to the grocery.
Egg 101 #3: If you have fresh eggs, don’t wash them when you get back to the boat. Eggs are laid with a natural antibiotic coating that is washed off when you clean it. Washing removes the coating and increases the permeability of the shell. This shortens the time an egg can sit at room temperature. And if your refrigerator is like mine, not having to refrigerate eggs frees up a bunch of space! Don’t forget to wash the eggs before breaking or cooking them!
Egg 101 #4: A lot of cruisers keep eggs in “camping cartons”. These are usually red plastic and very durable. In fact, if you do refrigerate your eggs and you have a standard pit refrigerator, keeping them in plastic camping cartons ensures you don’t have to keep them level. Plus those cardboard cartons might contain some kind of bug eggs, so you’ll want to discard them anyway. We keep our eggs in the red camping cartons sitting in a cubbyhole behind the veggie chiller section of our refrigerator. The one downside to the camping style egg containers is you can’t buy jumbo eggs, they don’t fit and when you close the container you crunch them. Not good with raw eggs! But farm fresh eggs (read: not enhanced on some big chicken farm) are usually just the right size to fit, just be aware of the size limitations.
Egg 101 #5: How long will eggs last unrefrigerated? There are a lot of opinions on this subject, but I can safely say I threw away almost an entire dozen when we arrived in San Andreas, Columbia, because they were over a month old and I was suspicious they wouldn’t be any good. Turned out, after I dumped them overboard, they all SANK which would indicate that they’re still edible. Oh well, live and learn – especially while cruising! Keep in mind, eggs are laid by a chicken who likely anticipates the egg will hatch into a chick. This hatching process takes about 3 weeks, so if the antibiotic coating is still intact (i.e. not washed off the exterior), eggs will last at least 3 weeks without refrigerating.
Egg 101 #6: There are all sorts of egg storage ideas out there for cruisers. Some say to coat the eggs in paraffin or vaseline. This is obviously meant to help keep air out of the egg by helping the natural antibiotic coating out. I’ve never done anything special to my unrefrigerated eggs except to try to remember to turn them over at least once a week. Since the camping cartons lock top and bottom, this just means literally turning the entire carton over.
Egg 101 #7: In the deep tropics, the heat and humidity can be overpowering. I used my red camping egg cartons for years before we got to Panama in our cruising adventures. Then, I noticed my eggshells would begin to mold inside their plastic carton. I took my trusty icepick and punched holes in the bottom and top of each egg spot to allow more air to circulate and never had the problem again.
Egg 101 #8: How do I know if an egg is bad? Fill a glass with water and put the egg in the water. If the egg sinks and lays flat on the bottom, it’s fresh. As the egg gets older, more air permeates the shell, making the egg lighter. If the egg has one end touching the bottom but is upright, it should still be OK, just older. The yolk may not remain contained so while these eggs are edible, they’re better for baking, cooking, not eggs over easy! And if the egg fully floats in the water, it will most likely be bad. Once eggs get close to the three week rule, I always do the water test.
Egg 101 #9: No matter what, when I’m ready to cook with an egg, I always always break each egg in a separate container (usually the glass I’ve just used for the water test) before adding it to a recipe. If an egg is bad, the overwhelming odor will let your nose know before the egg even reaches the bottom of the glass. That’s when it’s time to thank goodness you’ve been so conscientious and get a different egg!
If anyone does it differently, please share by leaving a comment! THX! J