My mother never cared for cheap Easter candy, but she loved to eat the dyed eggs. As a child, this shocked and perplexed me, and not just because I preferred chocolate. It simply did not seem sanitary to me, the child who had found the eggs and picked them up with her sticky little child hands. But Easter eggs can be safe to consume, as long as you time it right.
The window for eating a room-temperature hard-boiled egg is two hours, which leaves you plenty of time to decorate — but people don’t usually boil eggs, decorate them, and immediately hide and hunt for them. At least in my childhood home, eggs were cooked and decorated the day before, then stored in the fridge until Easter morning, at which point my parents would hide them.
This is where things get a little complicated. According to the USDA, the safety of the eggs hinges on where you hide them, how quickly they’re found, and how gently they’re handled:
Hunting Eggs: We do not recommend using hard cooked eggs that have been lying on the ground, because they can pick up bacteria, especially if the shells are cracked. If the shells crack, bacteria could contaminate the inside. Eggs should be hidden in places that are protected from dirt, moisture, pets, and other sources of bacteria. The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not exceed 2 hours. The “found” eggs must be washed, re-refrigerated and eaten within 7 days of cooking.
In addition to hiding eggs in fairly clean spots, washing them, and discarding any that are cracked, make sure you use a food-safe dye — or use actual food to dye them — if you plan to snack on the found eggs. Or you can just use those plastic eggs, put candy inside them, and eat the candy instead. You’ve got a lot of good options, is what I’m saying.