How Long Can Hard-Boiled Eggs Sit Out?

Hard-boiled eggs are an excellent snack on-the-go. But once you pull the egg from the pot, how long is it good for? How long can hard-boiled eggs sit out?

Hard-boiled eggs can sit out for up to 2 hours at room temperature (68 to 77°F / 20 to 25°C). After 2 hours, they need to be refrigerated or consumed (or discarded if you cannot do either). This 2-hour recommendation is according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

If you store hard-boiled eggs in the fridge properly, you can extend their shelf life for a week. 

how long can a hard boiled egg sit out

Read on to learn more about how long hard-boiled eggs can sit out and how to keep them fresh for as long as possible.

How Long Can Hard-Boiled Eggs Sit Out?

Hard-boiled eggs can sit out for up to 2 hours at room temperature. After 2 hours, they need to be refrigerated or consumed.

According to The Washington Post, Americans eat about 279 eggs per person in a year. That is about 95 million dozen eggs nationwide! With all these eggs being consumed, it is important people know how long they can sit out.

Hard-boiled eggs can sit out for up to 2 hours at room temperature (68 to 77°F / 20 to 25°C). After 2 hours, they need to be consumed or refrigerated (or discarded if you cannot do either). This 2-hour recommendation is according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). [1]

If temperatures are above 90° F (32° C), hard-boiled eggs should sit out for no longer than 1 hour. So if you bring hard-boiled eggs as a snack, or on a picnic, pack them on ice in a cooler.

Bacteria that cause illness grows quickly at warm temperatures (between 40° F and 140° F).

How long can unpeeled hard-boiled eggs sit out? How long can hard-boiled eggs sit out in shell? For both peeled and unpeeled hard-boiled eggs, they should sit out for no longer than 2 hours. After 2 hours, put them in the refrigerator.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) says that you must consume properly stored hard-boiled eggs, both peeled and unpeeled, within a week after cooking. [2] Eggshells have a protective coating on them. But this coating is compromised during the cooking process, making it easier for bacteria to sneak through open pores and contaminate the egg inside.

But understandably so, peeling hard-boiled eggs can be a laborious task, especially if it is not just two eggs that need peeling. It sure is wise to cook and peel all the hard-boiled eggs you need all at the same time, as long as you have proper storage for them. We will get to that later.

PRO TIP: If you are cooking a big batch of hard-boiled eggs, one way to ensure all the eggs are consumed within one week, as per USFDA advice, is to write the eggs’ boiling date on the shell or the egg carton. This tip can help remind you about the time you cooked and prepared them.

For pre-peeled eggs, the timeline is much shorter. Always check the expiration date, not just for pre-peeled eggs, but also for any type of store-bought goods. For example, packages of pre-peeled hard-boiled eggs from Great Day Farms are labeled ‘best consumed within 2 to 3 days from opening.’

how long can cooked eggs sit out

Store-Bought Pre-Peeled Hard-Boiled Eggs

There is an increasing number of stores selling pre-peeled, ready-to-eat, hard-boiled eggs, it actually begs the question, “Is it better than cooking your own?” Here are some pros and cons of pre-peeled eggs:

PROSCONS
Saves you cooking and peeling timeCan be very expensive (twice as much as raw eggs)
Competitive shelf life (can be up to a week) May contain preservatives (to extend shelf life)
No green discoloration around the yolkMay taste different (due to preservatives)
Great for snackingMay have a different texture (due to being factory-prepared)

Pre-cooked, pre-peeled eggs may taste different as they are prepared way ahead of time in a factory. Some say these eggs have a less than fresh, kind of stale taste, but others swear there is no difference. So if you are particular with the taste of the eggs you eat, it is still best to go for freshly boiled eggs.

As for its texture, pre-cooked, pre-peeled eggs have drier, firmer yolks than freshly cooked hard-boiled eggs, which may have yolks that are a little less “done”. But in the end, what matters is personal taste and preference. You can choose which type of hard-boiled egg you want and what works best for you, just as long as you know how to store them properly.

How long can cooked eggs sit out that are pre-peeled in the store? Any cooked eggs can sit out for a maximum of 2 hours. This includes cooked eggs bought at a store or that you make yourself at home.

Soft-Boiled Eggs vs Hard-Boiled Eggs

It’s really a whole new ball game when it comes to soft-boiled eggs. The whole point of cooking soft-boiled eggs is to enjoy the creamy, runny yolk. However, it also means you’re more prone to foodborne illness due to Salmonella. And because it will not take a week for these creamy and oozy yolks to spoil, it is best to consume them right after cooking.

While it is okay to refrigerate soft-boiled eggs, you can only do so for up to two days, or else the eggs will spoil. But why would you want to do that anyway? The magic of soft-boiled eggs is in the hot, runny yolk inside it.

We’ve answered the question, “how long can hard-boiled eggs sit out?” and in general, “how long can cooked eggs sit out?” Next, let’s look at some ways on the proper storage of hard-boiled eggs.

How to Properly Store Hard-Boiled Eggs

To properly store hard-boiled eggs, it is best to dry them out and cool them for a little while right after cooking. Only after then you can refrigerate them. The timing is crucial here – you must refrigerate hard-boiled eggs within two hours from cooking. In other words, don’t leave them at room temperature for more than two hours.

PRO TIP: Leave the shells on when you put hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. The eggs keep their optimal taste and quality if you leave their shells on. Only peel when you are minutes away from eating them to enjoy their best taste.

If you forgot to put the hard-boiled egg in the fridge after two hours, I suggest you prepare yourself a meal and incorporate the hard-boiled egg into your meal. After all, the best time to consume a hard-boiled egg is when it is freshly cooked.

You may be thinking, wouldn’t it be harder to peel later on if you refrigerate the egg after cooking? No need to worry if your hard-boiled eggs are hard to peel. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the harder it is to peel eggs, the fresher they were at the time of boiling.

PRO TIP: Older raw eggs are better when making hard-boiled eggs. The reason is that the air cell (found at the larger end of the shell between shell membranes) tends to increase in size the longer the raw egg is stored.

how long can boiled eggs sit out

To Freeze or Not to Freeze?

Hard-boiled eggs, in their entirety, are not very freezer friendly. The egg whites tend to become rubbery and have a really unpleasant texture once defrosted. However, it is totally okay to freeze cooked egg yolks. The American Egg Board advises boiling the yolks again without the egg whites before freezing them.

Here is a detailed chart from the USDA on the different timelines you can store egg products:

ProductRefrigeratorFreezer
Raw eggs (in shell)3-5 weeksDo not freeze
Egg whites (raw)2-4 days12 months
Egg yolks (raw)2-4 daysYolks do not freeze well
Raw egg (accidentally frozen in shell)Use immediately after thawingKeep frozen and then refrigerate to thaw
Hard-boiled eggs1 weekDo not freeze

How to Know If Hard-Boiled Eggs Have Gone Bad?

The sure-fire way to know if hard-boiled eggs have gone bad is to smell them, especially when you know they are past the one week mark. Hard-boiled eggs already have a distinct, strong smell, so any unusual smell coming from your refrigerated batch is surely an indicator that the eggs have gone bad.

Another indicator is egg discoloration. If the egg white, egg yolk, or both have dark brown, green, or black spots on them, it means they have come in contact with some type of bacteria. And as with any contaminated food, these eggs are not safe to eat and should be discarded right away.

Green Ring Around the Egg Yolk

Discoloration is a sign of rotten eggs except for one thing. Sometimes, there is a green ring around the yolk of a hard-boiled egg. This color is due to the natural reaction between the iron in the yolk and the egg white’s hydrogen sulfide content. When this happens, it means the egg has been overcooked. An egg like this is still edible, although not pleasing to the eyes.

PRO TIP: Always use your sense of smell before discarding discolored eggs. Overcooked eggs can be perfectly edible too!

Conclusion – How Long Can Boiled Eggs Sit Out? How Long Can Cooked Eggs Sit Out?

At room temperature, newly cooked hard-boiled eggs can sit out for a maximum of two hours. They must be refrigerated for later use but only up to a week.

Basically, you need to cool down the newly boiled eggs first before putting them in the fridge. If you have no plans of eating the hard-boiled eggs right away, here are handling and storing tips you can follow:

  1. Write the boiling date on the eggs’ shell or the egg carton to remind you of the date you prepared them. Once the date exceeds the one week mark, you can be sure that the eggs have started to spoil if not already rotten.
  2. Do not peel newly cooked hard-boiled eggs; refrigerate them with the shells on. Leaving the shells on will ensure that you get the hard-boiled eggs’ best taste and texture.
  3. Older raw eggs are way better when making hard-boiled eggs. They are easier to peel and are generally easier to handle than newer eggs.
  4. To know if hard-boiled eggs have gone bad, use your sense of sight and smell. Throw them out if they have an unusual smell along with a discoloration that is different from the usual green film seen on overcooked eggs. 

As an easier guide, here again, is the USDA chart for storing eggs:

ProductRefrigeratorFreezer
Raw eggs (in shell)3-5 weeksDo not freeze
Egg whites (raw)2-4 days12 months
Egg yolks (raw)2-4 daysYolks do not freeze well
Raw egg (accidentally frozen in shell)Use immediately after thawingKeep frozen and then refrigerate to thaw
Hard-boiled eggs1 weekDo not freeze

In the end, we can agree that eggs are quintessential staple food not just in the United States–but also in countries around the world. The reason is that eggs are very versatile, relatively cheap, and easy to buy and cook. Moreover, you can use them on any type of cuisine or snack. They’re even great on their own! Lastly, eggs are one of the best sources of protein with many health benefits.