In the beginning there was food and the food was fresh. But if it’s edible it degrades and since fresh tastes best you get to eat better when you know the signs.

So here are a few good-to-know tips for eating fresher and getting the tastiest experience from the food you buy. Have any more tips up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments.

1. How to tell if your eggs are fresh or rotten

Fresh egg test

The classic kitchen magic trick! You’ve got some loose eggs lying around and you think they’ve been there a rather long time. Should you cook them or throw them out?

To test whether your eggs are fresh or have gone off, fill a bowl with water and place your eggs at the bottom.

If they…

  • …stay at the bottom on their side then they’re fresh and great for all kinds of cooking.
  • …tilt onto their tip then they’re on their way out. They won’t be so good for frying but perfectly fine for scrambling or baking and actually perfect for hard boiling as the shell peels easier.
  • …float to the top of the bowl then they’ve gone off- throw them out!

The test works because although the eggs’ shells look solid, they actually let air in through tiny pores over time. When enough air collects inside the shells to make the whole egg float to the top (imagine putting a table tennis ball in water), that’s when you know the egg’s been sitting around for a little too long a time.

Eggs can still be ok after the expiration date on the carton so this is a good test to know to check if you can keep your eggs for just that little bit longer.

Storing eggs: to fridge or not to fridge, that is the raging debate that has divided a generation. The short answer is it probably doesn’t make that much difference, but whichever camp you fall into try and keep it at a consistent temperature.

2. How to tell if your coffee is fresh or stale

Fresh coffee test

Did you know that coffee goes stale?

Coffee actually starts getting stale from the moment it leavers the roaster and gradually loses flavour for every moment it’s exposed to air (in a process of oxidisation, similar to how rust forms), becoming more and more bitter. The fresher the coffee, the better the taste.

A tell-tale sign of fresh coffee is in the ‘bloom’ when you pour hot water over the grinds. Blooming is where the coffee grinds appear to expand in contact with hot water. It’s caused by trapped carbon dioxide being released, and the fresher the coffee, the more carbon dioxide there is still trapped in the grinds and the bigger the bloom.

Another method, if you have time and really want to get to the bottom of it, is to seal your coffee in a ziplock bag overnight. If in the morning the bag has expanded with gas, that’s a good sign. This will generally only work if the coffee is still in whole bean form.

Storing fresh coffee: keep it in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place. Buy your coffee as whole beans if you can (ground coffee is much more exposed to air and so oxidises much quicker) and grind them yourself at home as close to making your coffee as possible using a hand grinder.

3. How to buy fresh fish

Fresh fish test

Fish is one of the most perishable of all foods. Unlike humans and livestock, fish are adapted to living in cold environments so they degenerate quickly in typical air temperatures.

When buying fish look out for…

  • …a clean smell. We talk a lot about ‘fishy’ smells but fresh fish should remind you of the sea, not fishy fish.
  • …bright, transparent eyes. When a fish’s eyes turn cloudy, that’s a sign that the fish is getting old and passing its prime.
  • …a glossy body. Fresh fish gleams like well polished metal and if it has dulled or looks patchy then it’s getting old.
  • …a wet, slippery feel when you touch it (but not slimy). Also, press lightly and look out for a firm, rubbery feeling. Don’t go for soft fish if you can help it.

Another classic rule of thumb is not to buy fish on a Monday because fishermen tend not to fish on Sundays.

If you’re wondering why fish begin to smell fishy, it’s a result of bacteria releasing amines from the fish’s natural amino acids. People often serve fish with lemon, which is because the citric acids in the lemon reacts with the amines and neutralises the fishy taste in fishy fishes.

Storing fresh fish : keep it on ice, even in the fridge and eat it within a couple of days of buying. If you don’t want to eat it straight away, it’s perfectly fine to freeze your fish.

4. How to buy perfect avocados

Avocado fresh test

Don’t buy avocados that are hard, right? Well, that depends.

Avocados don’t ripen on the tree, they ripen after they’ve fallen from the tree so it’s perfectly fine to buy those firm, bright green avocados if you don’t intend to eat them for a few days.

Perfectly ripe avocados should feel soft when pressed gently but not squishy. They start off looking bright green and gradually turn darker until they become that graphite purple colour we’re familiar with. Bright green avocados tend to be around 5 days from ripe, and once they’re ripe they lose all their green.

Look for even textures and colouring when you buy your avocados. If you’re not used to checking for ripeness, you can quickly become the person your friends affectionately call the avocadominator by buying an unripe green avocado and getting a feel for how it changes from day to day.

Storing avocados: you can slow the ripening process of avocados by keeping them in the fridge. And you can accelerate the ripening process by storing it next to certain other fruit like peaches and bananas that release high levels of the ripening hormone ethylene. By the same token though, be careful not to store your avocados with ripe peaches and bananas as they’ll quickly become overripe and mushy.

5. How to tell if your mushrooms are fresh

Fresh mushroom test

Why do supermarkets often provide those brown paper bags for mushrooms? Because mushrooms hate moisture and the paper helps to absorb any moisture around.

For the standard white and chestnut mushrooms you get everywhere, look at the part where the stem meets the cap.


  • …the bottom of the cap is completely sealed and you can’t see inside the hood, then it’s perfectly fresh.
  • …the edge of the cap is beginning to separate from the stem then it’s beginning to age.
  • …the cap and the stem have totally separated and you can clearly see the gills underneath the cap, then the mushroom is no longer fresh and you should cook it pronto.

When you buy mushrooms they should smell neutral or faintly of soil. Avoid mushrooms that feel moist or have a slimy texture.

Storing mushrooms : the trick is to keep moisture away, so keep them in those paper bags if you can. Store them in the fridge but avoid keeping them near other smelly foods as they’ll sponge up the odours. Mushrooms are good for up to about a week after you buy them fresh.