“The French don’t refrigerate their eggs”. Really?

I heard this on the “Good Eats” television program broadcast last night. The host, Alton Brown, was talking about the perfect omelet and all the steps it took in bringing it about.

As he was going through them all, he stopped on one particularly interesting instruction, a ‘pre-warm your eggs so they won’t take as long to cook’ line, and while looking at the camera with a bit of a smirk, said, “Incidentally, if you were in France, you wouldn’t need this step, as the French don’t refrigerate their eggs”.

Huh? Did I hear that correctly?


Are the French really that… Do the French really ignore the common American practice of refrigerating their eggs?

Why? Isn’t that unhealthy?

And finally, what is it with the French, and Europe in particular, with refrigeration? It’s not like it’s a new technology or anything.

This is correct CnoteChris, we don’t refrigerate our eggs. This is because eggs, like beef or game, benefit from being left for a week or more at ambient room temperature. It allows some of the molecules to start breaking down, and it enhances their flavour. How long eggs are left to mature is down to personal preferences. Most people in France like them matured for about a week, but some swear that they reach their peak of flavour after around 20 days. the process is known as faisandage. Personally, I find that eggs left out this long have a somewhat overwhelmning taste. Some of the flavours resulting from estherification inside the yolk can give the egg a strong aftertaste rather akin to sauerkraut, which some would argue is an acquired taste.

Next time you buy some eggs, try leaving them on a shelf in your kitchen for 6 to 8 days before eating them. Just soft boil one so as not to corrupt the egg’s own inherent flavour with any other tastes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

As for the more general question about refrigeration, you have to bear in mind that electricity distribution is not as widespread in most of Europe as it is in the US. In France for instance, only 42% of households are hooked up to the national grid, according the a 2001 report by Electricité de France, the state-owned power provider.

I hope this helps.

We dont refrigerate eggs in England either. Well I dont.

The American fashion for refrigerating eggs is because salmonella wont reproduce at fridge temperatures. Maybe French eggs are better quality? Or the better taste of unrefrigerated eggs is worth the risk to the gourmet?

Its certainly not because the French dont have fridges.

Even the original Joy of Cooking – about as American a cookbook as you can get – told its readers to keep their eggs at room temperature (they usually referred to it as 70-degree eggs, to indicate the temperature in Fahrenheit they should be kept).

As to unhealthy – your eggs probably sat at room temperature a few days between the poultry farm and the grocery (you think they make daily pickups?). Salmonella is an issue, but if you’re using eggs in a recipe, it’ll probably be hot enough to kill any bacteria.

I would love to see a cite for that stat !
5 years here and I have yet to find a house that isn’t powered by the national grid.

CnoteChris I’m Irish living in Paris and in my family in Ireland we don’t stick them in the fridge either. I can’t really say why but it’s always been the way we’ve done it at home. In France I have rarely seen anyone store their eggs in a fridge. I know that if you bake you should take them out for 10-15 minutes before you use them but wouldn’t explain for me why you would always leave them out.

This egg producer’s site claims that eggs ought to be kept refrigerated, but I never do and don’t know anyone else who does either.

The best quality British eggs have a best before date printed on the shell.

Good Eats is one of my favorite programs. In any case, I thought we Americans generally didn’t refrigerate eggs because we buy so many of them at a time. I think it was on Good Eats in fact that I was told a room-temperature stored egg ages a week for every day a chilled-egg would last.

In any case, salmonella isn’t present in a whole lot of eggs. I think you’re statistically equal to winning the lottery (sorry, no real cite). And then it’s only really a problem if you have a weakened immune system. Look at all the runners who drink raw eggs, or all the fat people who eat a lot of key lime pie (which I love, by the way).

That said, I keep my eggs in the fridge. Down in Mexico, eggs are not sold in the refrigerated section at the grocery stores (e.g. Super Wal-Mart) or at the markets. Well, the parts of Mexico I know, anyway – I’d hope they refrigerate them in the desert north during the summer. Hasn’t killed me yet, but you can’t change my 31 years of being conditioned to refrigerate them. :slight_smile:

Don’t forget that people ate eggs for millennia before refrigeration. If you live close to farms and use eggs daily, they will always be fresh when you eat them.

Refrigeration is more of a need when you buy a dozen eggs and have them for a week or two before they are used up.

I will pick up the gauntlet and post in the defense of refrigeration:


So the upshot:
(a) More chickens have salmonella in the Northeastern US than in most other places, hence our panic
(b) Around here, if you aren’t careful, you have a 1 in 50 shot of eating a contaminated egg each year
© That risk rises dramatically in situations where food is prepared in bulk (i.e., a restaurant/cafeteria scrambling 500 eggs a day in one giant batch, making their mayo, etc.)
(d) More salmonella bacteria = more risk of sickness, so anything you can do to keep their numbers down before ingesting them is good (i.e., a contaminated egg kept cold might only have a few thousand bacteria, which your body/cooking might be able to kill; if those thousand bacteria are allowed to run hog-wild in a room-temperature egg for a week, you’re going to swallow a lot more of them, and may not kill them all off before some can make you sick)
(e) Thorough cooking could remedy some/all of the bacterial proliferation induced by room-temp. storage, but no one (esp. the type of picky chef who insists on storing eggs at room temp. for days) seems to like doing this, as it means you can never have anything but hard-cooked fried eggs, hard-boiled eggs, and very dry scrambled eggs/omelets.

So how do the French buy eggs then? A couple at a time?

Or are they not into cartons, either?

Interesting. Thanks Zorro.

Still, it just seems wrong to me to ‘age’ eggs. I was always taught that eggs were bacteria farms, just waiting to take advantage of my sloppiness.

Sigh. Sorry for the boldface nightmare. What I meant to say was:

In the US eggs are sold in cartons of multiples of half a dozen. But as you know, France has used the decimal system since the Revolution, and it is illegal to sell eggs in other quantities than multiples of ten. So they come in 10s, 20s, 50s and 100s. I have never seen them in 30s or 40s, although there’s no theoretical reason why you couldn’t.

As for packaging, they come either in the sort of flimsy square cardboard boxes that you buy cakes in, packed in straw, or in thin wooden baskets, also packed in straw. Also bear in mind that about a third of French households are self-sufficient in eggs and poultry as keeping chickens is a widespread practice. We used to have 9 layers and a cockerel, but they were all killed one night when a lynx broke into their coop.

You’re not just pulling my leg here, are you Zorro?

A third of the population keeps chickens?

Europe has a long history of leaving perfectly good food out in the dirt to “Age” it.

Especially Norway.

Here in Ireland, the eggs are not refrigerated in the supermarkets either. Personally, I keep them in the fridge because there are only two of us in the house and we don’t eat a lot of eggs, but most people don’t.

About a third yes, according to the department of the Ministry of Agriculture that deals with domestic poultry, the Office National de l’Elevage Avicole de Subsistance. Just have a look here for more information. Click on the little British flag in the top right hand corner for the English language version.


Interesting - I’ve been living here in France for a while, and I never paid any attention to this. I just go to the market, buy a carton of non-refrigerated eggs, bring them home and stick them in the refrigerator…

Pretty pointless, I guess.

My mother taught me to enjoy large portions of tasteless, but very hygienic food. People round here sometimes think I’m a delicate finicky barbarian, but we generally agree to disagree. Meats cheeses etc tend to be considerably “stronger”, people serving food often handle it directly (no gloves), fish and meat may be served raw (tartare), eggs barely cooked etc.

Still, it’s not like there’s a huge food poisoning problem, so I’m not really sure which way’s better. It may ultimately be more a matter of culture and mindset.

Hey, if you really want to challenge your immune system, try chawarma - middle eastern, spitted mystery meat that often has a lot of flies buzzing around it !

Zorro, is it true the UK’s refusing to come on board for the European 10 day week ?

mmmm 1000 year old eggs, lovely jubbly. Unfridgerated eggs haven’t done me any harm.:slight_smile:


Five-day weekend? Sign me up.

A lot of visiting Americans are surprised that Australian supermarkets have their eggs just sitting out on a shelf (sometimes they are refrigerated in the larger places). We tend to refrigerate our eggs in our homes though.