The egg offers endless possibilities in the kitchen – from enhancing a slice of avocado toast to elevating a simple green salad to rounding out a bowl of umami-rich ramen. It’s a go-to breakfast for me, where my morning mood dictates how the contents of my plate look. They’re also an easy addition for meal prep before my work trips, giving me a complete meal sans-meat. Most importantly, it’s a cheap way to perfect different cooking techniques and has become a hobby in itself while restaurants were shut down during the COVID crisis. I’ll walk you through my favorite ways to prepare them and share a few best practices so you can pull them off like a pro.
Before we start though, a few rules:
- Contrary to popular belief, DON’T add any milk, cream or water to your beaten eggs. They won’t make your eggs any fluffier or creamier – they actually just dilute the eggs.
- DO add a healthy pinch of kosher salt beforehand though. Salting before cooking will ensure your eggs are seasoned evenly throughout, while also breaking down proteins to make the final product more tender.
- DO use only a non-stick pan for non-boiled variations. This is vital for getting your eggs out of the pan in an appetizing manner.
That’s it! Let’s get started. Today, we’ll tackle:
- french omelet
- poached scramble
I grew up eating hard scrambled eggs, but have recently come to appreciate the texture and flavor that a softer scramble provides. They turn out fluffy and moist, but are substantial enough to easily transfer them to a biscuit or tortilla.
- Crack two eggs in a medium bowl. (Don’t forget to salt! See rule #2.)
- Now, whisk the eggs: there are two schools of thought about whisking. Give each a try and see which you prefer:
- Whisk vigorously to create a homogenous mixture with no color variation until small bubbles form. The idea here is that the longer you whisk, the more air you introduce into the eggs (bubbles as evidence), thereby making your end result fluffier.
- Whisk just enough to break the yolks, but not so much that you can’t see ribbons of white and yellow throughout. This is how the late, great Anthony Bourdain recommends, cautioning against over-whisking – although my brief internet research only shows it as a method for color variation, without much impact on texture.
- Immediately after whisking, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon or two of butter.
- We prefer salted in our household, but go with whatever feels right for you. Keep in mind if you do go with unsalted butter, you may want to add a touch more salt to your raw eggs.
- Once the butter begins to foam, add your eggs to the pan.
- Resist temptation to touch them! Allow them to set for about 10 seconds, until you see a pale, yellow ring forming around the edge of the pan.
- Once the edges have started to set, use a heat-proof rubber spatula to make a few passes at the eggs.
- These should be gentle, sweeping motions that incorporate the outside ring into the middle of the pan, as opposed to stirring all over.
- Let the egg mixture cover the pan again and settle. Once the outside ring begins to form again, make another round of passes.
- You may need to repeat this a 3rd or 4th time, depending on how fast your eggs have cooked/if you’re preparing a larger portion.
- Once the eggs look mostly done, turn off the heat.
- Yes, I know they still look like they could go a bit longer, but resist the urge. Because of the residual heat, they’ll continue cooking in the pan and on the plate.
- Transfer to your plate, top with pepper and dress up how you want to. Enjoy!
The word “poached” makes a dish sound a lot fancier and more complicated than it actually is. Essentially, it just means “boiled” and is actually a very healthy way to cook food, as it’s heated in liquid instead of a fat like butter or olive oil. I love poached chicken breast because it stays incredibly tender and juicy, but you can even poach fruits & vegetables – really, the sky’s the limit.
- Fill a medium saucepan with 4-5 inches of salted water and bring to a simmer.
- Set a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl and crack an egg into it. Leave it to sit for a bit, allowing the runny whites to drain into the bowl, then transfer to a small bowl by itself.
- You can skip this step if you want, but note that the runny parts of the whites will loosen themselves from the egg in the water, creating ribbons of egg white throughout. There’s nothing wrong with these; I just find they get in the way of the egg and make it harder to scoop out the egg at the end.
- Repeat this with a second egg in a separate bowl.
- Once your water is simmering, take a spoon and gently stir the water in a circular motion until you create a whirlpool. Gently tip the first egg into the swirling water. Repeat with the second egg after 10-15 seconds.
- Let eggs cook for 2.5-3 minutes, making sure to monitor the water, keeping it at a simmer and not allowing it to boil.
- This is just enough time to let the white set properly while still keeping the yolk runny. Cook for longer if you prefer a harder yolk.
- Carefully lift the eggs out one at a time using a slotted spoon or pasta spider and transfer to a plate. Use a paper towel to carefully blot excess water, if necessary. Season with salt & any other desired seasonings. Eat right away!
For me, the perfect fried egg has lacy, crispy edges and a runny yolk – a satisfying juxtaposition of texture. The amount of fried eggs I’ve mutilated while attempting to flip them isn’t a source of pride, so I prefer cooking methods that allow me to leave it unflipped. Here is my go-to technique, with two slight variations.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour in enough olive oil to sufficiently cover the entire bottom of the pan. This will seem like a lot of oil, but trust.
- When the oil is smoking, crack the first egg directly into the pan. Allow it to set for a few seconds, gently shaking the pan to keep it from sticking.
- Repeat with a second egg. The pan is very hot, so the process from here happens quickly.
- Allow eggs to continue to cook in pan one of two ways:
- Tilt the pan and use a metal spoon to baste both eggs all over with spoonfuls of oil. Continue doing this for about a minute or so. The whites should begin to bubble and somewhat cover the yolks. Remove from heat and continue basting, until the whites are completely set, about a minute more. About 2-3 minutes in total for a runny center, or cook for longer for a harder set one.
- Alternatively, put about a tablespoon of water into the pan and cover with a lid, ideally glass so you can see what’s happening. This will hybrid steam-fry your eggs, causing the whites to gradually expand and cover the yolk. Again, this whole process should only take 2-3 minutes for a set egg white with a runny yolk. Cook for a minute or two longer for a harder yolk.
- Slide the eggs onto a plate or use a spatula to remove them from the pan. Season with salt and pepper, or as desired.
The boiled egg leaves plenty of room for variation depending on what you’re going for. At home, a soft to medium boil is king, with its luscious, jammy center as the perfect topping for soups & Asian dishes. On the road though, it’s a lot easier to travel with hard-boiled eggs. I used to think I didn’t like hard-boiled eggs, but then I realized it was just the school-lunch-deli style hard-boiled egg I detested. Seeing those made me think that hard-boiled meant a dry, chalky, grey-ish center with a rubbery white. Eww. But it doesn’t have to be this way! With boiling, a timer is your most important tool, giving you complete control to create the yolk of your dreams.
- Fill a pot or large saucepan with 4-5 inches of salted water.
- The salt here doesn’t do anything flavor-wise, but it does help your egg white to solidify quicker, helping you to avoid a mess if the eggshell cracks while boiling.
- When the water is at a rolling boil, carefully lower each egg into the water one at a time.
- Eggs that are room-temp mean more predictable cooking times and help prevent eggshell cracks. Hold them under running room-temp water for a bit to help bring them to temp if you forgot to take them out of the fridge earlier.
- Let cook uncovered:
- 6-6.5 minutes for soft-boiled
- 7-7.5 minutes for medium-boiled
- 10 minutes for hard-boiled
- While your eggs are cooking, put some ice and water in a medium sized bowl to make an ice bath.
- Once your eggs have finished cooking, use a slotted spoon or pasta spider to transfer them to the ice bath. Let them sit for 2-2.5 minutes. This stops them from cooking further.
- Alternatively, you can run them under cold water in the sink.
- Take them out of the bath and gently crack against the counter all over the shell. Start peeling at either end of the egg.
- Tip: getting a little of that cold water under the shell will help it to release easier from the white.
- Once peeled, season the outside of the egg with salt. Cut in half and season the inside. Serve with whatever floats your boat!
- french omelet
There are a couple ways to prepare a completely successful and satisfying omelet, but today I’ll take you through how to make the simple, ever-classic French omelet. This is quite different from the American omelette you probably grew up with in a few ways. First, it takes on no additional color or browning and should remain a solid, pale yellow throughout – unlike the omelette we eat stateside with the signature golden brown crust. Second, it is rolled into a cylindrical shape or folded into thirds instead of being folded in half. Finally and most notably, there are no toppings whatsoever – not even cheese! The end result is so creamy and custardy that it tastes like it has parmesan in it, but is just the result of small curds and plenty of butter. So without further to do, let’s get to it!
- Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat and add a couple tablespoons of butter. Allow the butter to melt and gently foam.
- Generally, the rule is one tablespoon of butter for each egg, but you do you.
- Meanwhile, crack 3 large eggs into a small bowl, add a generous pinch of kosher salt, and thoroughly whisk. The eggs should be a homogenous yellow and slightly bubbly. This may take 20-30 seconds to properly combine.
- When the butter is foaming, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add in the whisked eggs and, using a small rubber spatula, stir eggs constantly in the pan. You’ll notice them start to set and harden.
- Continue stirring throughout, breaking up the curds, until you notice they’re almost set (the egg won’t fall back over the pan as easily or be as liquid-y.), but still plenty moist. Shake the pan to allow the egg to evenly cover the bottom to allow it to finish setting.
- Turn off the heat when they look almost cooked all the way through, but not quite (they’ll continue cooking in the pan as we fold it!).
- Use the spatula to carefully loosen the edges of the egg all around the pan. Then, holding the rubber spatula in your dominant hand and the pan handle in the other, gently tip the pan to a 45 degree angle.
- We’re going to make three careful folds, like a letter. Keeping the handle side closest to your body, start there and use the spatula to gently fold a third of the way down the pan. Now, holding the pan over your plate, carefully fold/roll the first section towards the remaining unfolded bit. I use gravity to kind of roll it out of the pan and onto my plate.
- This folding method is tricky and takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right away! Eggs are a cheap food to practice with, and the omelet will still taste delicious broken on the plate.
- Season with flaky sea salt and pepper. Serve with toast for breakfast, or with a simple green salad for a humble lunch/dinner. Bon appétit!
- poached scramble
Lastly, I thought I would introduce a completely new way to prepare eggs. I recently discovered this one from Daniel Patterson in Food52’s Genius Recipes cookbook, and it definitely lives up to the cookbook’s name. You get the super fluffy texture of a scrambled egg without having to clean a caked on egg pan at the end. They call it the 40 second egg since, outside of waiting for the water to boil, that’s really how quick it cooks! Here’s how it works.
- Put a medium saucepan with 4 or 5 inches of water over medium heat. Salt water generously and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
- Taste it before it gets hot! It should taste like the sea. If it doesn’t, add more salt. Seasoning the water ahead of time here ensures the eggs are evenly seasoned throughout for the final product.
- While the water heats up, crack an egg over a fine-mesh sieve to let the watery whites drain out into a bowl or the sink, just like we did for the poached method. Transfer to a medium bowl and repeat with a second egg.
- Beat both eggs in the same bowl until homogenous yellow throughout and slightly bubbly, about 20 seconds.
- When the water reaches a gentle boil, use a spoon to stir the water in one direction, until a whirlpool is created (again, just like we did with the poached method).
- Pour the eggs in the center of the whirlpool, cover the pot, and count to 20.
- Turn off the heat and uncover the pot. The eggs should be floating in the water. Using a spoon to hold the eggs back, pour the water down the sink.
- Pour the eggs into a sieve and drain, gently pressing on the eggs to release any excess water.
- They retain more water than you think, so don’t skip this step.
- Transfer eggs to a plate, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky sea salt & pepper. Enjoy!
Hopefully all these different methods to prepare eggs have inspired you and given you confidence to use a variety of cooking methods on anything you’re cooking, not just eggs. Comment below with your favorite way to eat & cook eggs and if you learned anything new while reading!