If you just learned that most of the rest of the world doesn't refrigerate their eggs, don't worry. You're not alone. It has recently come to the attention of many on the internet that Americans refrigerate their eggs while people from most other countries do not.
What may seem at first like a difference in preference, though, actually has to do with the way eggs are washed and treated. So hang on to your hats because you're about to get an interesting lesson in food safety.
It seems that Americans are baffled that others don't refrigerate their eggs while others find it insane that Americans do. But I swear, there is a reason for this.
And weirdly, one of the most comprehensive explanations about why this is the case comes from Maureen Sparrow, a TikTok user. While she does claim in her video that the U.S. is the only country to refrigerate its eggs (it's not), the rest of the video actually sums it up quite nicely.
In an effort to stop the spread of salmonella, eggs in the United States are washed before they are sold to the consumer. In fact, the USDA requires that eggs being sold in supermarkets must be washed and sprayed with a chemical sanitizer before being sold, according to Business Insider.
However, in many European countries, food safety organizations believe that washing eggs has the potential to transfer bacteria like salmonella "from the outside to the inside of the egg," so they are not washed at all.
Business Insider explains that there are two ways salmonella can infect eggs. The bacteria can be passed from an infected hen to the inside of the egg while it develops, or it can contaminate the outside of the shell by coming into contact with the infected hen's feces.
Because the U.S. employs huge laying houses, eggs are more easily contaminated than they are in Europe, where farms take a more free-range approach and are more concerned with keeping the eggs clean from the point they are laid rather than cleaning them later.
So yes, this does mean that if you personally have chickens and they lay eggs, those eggs do not need to be refrigerated, even if you are in the U.S. However, as Maureen points out in her video, once an egg is refrigerated, it needs to stay that way until you use it.
If you accidentally leave previously refrigerated eggs out all night, they're probably no good anymore. Because part of what happens once an egg is washed is that the outside layer of the egg shell, known as the cuticle, can get damaged. And once the cuticle is damaged, it becomes much easier for bacteria to get inside of a clean egg.
Keeping the egg at cooler temperatures keeps the eggs fresher, but it can also keep bacteria from growing. Now often, baking projects call for room temperature eggs. And that's generally OK. Refrigerated eggs should be treated like any cooked or cooled food and should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Until then, they'll generally stay safe to eat.
As far as which method is better, it's hard to say. Rafael Rivera, the manager of food safety and production programs at the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, told Bored Panda that "the rate of infection from eating undercooked or raw eggs is about the same regardless of whether it is refrigerated or not."
The best way to ensure that you don't get salmonella from an egg is to cook it thoroughly. But if you do that, you don't get that Instagrammable runny yolk people love so much. You just have to ask yourself if it's worth it.