Egg salad is one of the classic make-ahead dishes, whether you’re planning for lunch, brunch, or just to have a delicious and satisfying snack on hand for those times when hunger strikes.
Also, as a relatively easy to make dish, egg salad usually will result in plenty of leftovers for future meals or snacks—which is great if you want to simplify meal preparation later.
Because of its ingredients, though, you want to make sure that any egg salad that you make is prepared within the best possible time frame to ensure that it is still safe to eat without getting you or others sick.
How Long Will Egg Salad Keep And Still Be Safe To Eat?
If stored properly and made with fresh ingredients, egg salad will keep and be safe to eat for up to five days. When you are making the egg salad, including a little lemon juice or vinegar as a natural preservative can help the egg salad reach its maximum five-day storage life with a higher probability of safety.
Typically, though, egg salad is safest and still at its peak for flavor and nutritional benefits up to three days after it has been prepared. The same time frame of three to five days applies to most salads or dishes made from a mayonnaise base, such as tuna salad, ham salad, chicken salad, and macaroni salads.
If egg salad is left at room temperature, it will only keep for a couple of hours, or even less on a hot day. If you are transporting egg salad in an insulated lunch bag or cooler, be sure to include a fully-frozen ice pack. This will help keep the egg salad safe to eat for about five to six hours.
What Is It That Causes Egg Salad To Go Bad?
- The same ingredients that form the delicious base of egg salad—the chopped up hard-boiled eggs and the milk-based mayonnaise—are the two components of the egg salad most likely to develop the types of bacterial growth that spoil food. These growths can include pathogenic bacteria, such as salmonella, which can grow in a temperature between 40-degrees and 140-degrees Fahrenheit and which can cause foodborne illnesses. They also include spoilage bacteria, such as Listeria monocytogenes.
- Fresh eggs, before they are boiled for use in egg salad, will keep in their shells if refrigerated for three to four weeks, and commercially-made mayonnaise, when refrigerated and sealed in the jar will keep even longer because of the presence of vinegar in the ingredients. It would be best, then, to keep the ingredients separated and the egg salad itself unprepared until the day, or day before, you will serve it.
How Should Egg Salad Be Stored To Keep It Safe To Eat?
If egg salad is left at room temperature for just two hours, it will likely develop contaminating bacteria and no longer be safe to eat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, then, egg salad should be promptly refrigerated at between 36-degrees and 40-degrees Fahrenheit. This zone will keep the ingredients fresher longer and it is just below the development temperature threshold for most forms of both spoilage and pathogenic bacteria.
To further reduce the likelihood of bacteria developing on the egg salad, it should always be refrigerated in a sealed, airtight container that does not contain any other foods or liquids. If the egg salad is kept in an open container in the refrigerator, it will spoil within a day or two. To store sandwiches that have egg salad in them, wrap the sandwich in foil and seal it tightly before putting into a sealable, airtight container or bag and refrigerating it.
Avoid eating egg salad directly from a storage container itself as bacteria transferred from the mouth to the egg salad in the container by the utensil can quickly spoil any egg salad left in the container.
Do not freeze and then later thaw egg salad as the thawing process will greatly increase the likelihood that the food will attract dangerous bacteria.
What Are Some Of The Signs That Egg Salad Has Gone Bad?
- One of the clearest signs that egg salad has gone bad will be the odor that it gives off. As the bacteria develops, the egg salad will start to take on a sour and eventually rancid smell, similar to sulfur. The smell might be very faint at first, but it will quickly grow stronger. And, of course, if visible discoloration, mold growth, or other signs of spoilage can be seen, the egg salad should be discarded.
- The absence of a smell or visual cues, however, is not itself an indication that egg salad is no longer safe to consume. Certain forms of food-borne bacteria, particularly those that can develop on refrigerated foods over time, leave little or no evidence of their presence. If the egg salad is older than five days, you should assume that bacteria has begun to form and that it should be discarded, even if you do not smell or see anything.
What Are Some Of The Dangers From Eating Egg Salad That Has Gone Bad?
If you’ve eaten egg salad that has gone bad, you will know about soon. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms of food poisoning from eating egg salad that has gone bad typically appear between thirty minutes and 48 hours after eating the contaminated food, and they will last anywhere from four to eight hours.
These symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, nausea, fatigue, and abdominal cramps. If you or someone you know display these symptoms, you should consider seeking medical assistance. You should certainly contact a doctor if symptoms persist longer than eight hours, as this can be a sign that a more complicated condition may be developing.
While most cases of food poisoning from eating contaminated egg salad will clear up on their own and require only time, rest, and fluid replacement, some more severe responses may require hospitalization.