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An egg has two membranes. The inner membrane encases the white and yolk, the outer membrane lines the shell. When an egg is laid, it cools and a small air sac forms between the two membranes at the large end of the egg.
The egg shell is porous (it has thousands of pores) which allows an exchange of air and moisture. As the egg ages, the air sac, or air cell, becomes larger. So an easy test of the freshness of an egg is how buoyant it is. The older it is, the more air, the more it will float in water.
If you have ever forgotten how long your eggs have been in the fridge, or you raise your own eggs and want to be able to ensure they are fresh, there is a simple way to test the age of the egg.
Fill a deep bowl or pan with cold water. Have (uncooked) eggs in the shell ready to test.
Gently put the egg in the cold water to see if it sinks, floats or something in between.
If the egg is very fresh, it will lay on its side at the bottom of the container. (See bottom egg in image above)
If the egg is not fit for human consumption, it will float with part of the egg out of the water. (See top egg in image above)
There are inbetween qualities, too. If the egg sits on the bottom upright, not laying down, it is still a good egg but just not the freshest. These are the best to use for hard boiling. The air sac that has developed between the membranes will make this egg easy to peel.
An egg that is a bit touch and go on touching the bottom could still possibly be used for baking. It is advisable to break the egg open to check that it still smells and appears edible.
A second test for freshness involves cracking open the egg. A fresh egg will have a prominent stand-up yolk. The white will be thick and closely surround the yolk. An older egg has a flattened yolk and an uncontained white that spreads out.