All the Eggs, in Many Baskets
I cook eggs most days of the week. They are our go-to breakfast item because they’re inexpensive* and they’re quick to cook. But something I’ve realized is that I rarely cook eggs the same way every day. It’s mostly the same, but there are subtle differences each time. Sometimes I cook eggs really well, or sometimes I don’t remember to preheat the pan or the pan is too hot or the eggs are too runny or too dry. I’m constantly making adjustments and trying to achieve the perfect egg breakfast.
When I was thinking about all the ways I’ve attempted to cook eggs for breakfast, I started thinking about how many different opinions and techniques I’ve seen. I thought it would be fun to catalog some of my favorites here, and even more fun (for me) if I wrote commentary on each one.
First up, the way I make scrambled eggs most mornings.
Morris Family Eggs, Scrambled
I cook four eggs using olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper (sometimes). I crack the eggs into a bowl, then lightly scramble them with a fork. I don’t personally subscribe to the method of whipping the eggs for an extended period of time like you would for an omelet, I’m basically just breaking up the yolks and moving them around a little. Then I heat a skillet for a few minutes over medium heat, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and pretty soon after that I add about a tablespoon of butter. Once I’ve swirled the oil and butter around to make sure the skillet is covered, I lower the heat a bit and add the eggs, continuously stirring them with a silicon spatula as they cook. I get them out of the pan pretty quickly, after about a minute, because they’ll keep cooking as they sit. This is definitely not a dry scramble, if that’s what you’re into. After they’re out of the skillet, I add a little salt and sometimes pepper if I’m up for it. Black pepper tends to make things taste like, well, black pepper, so I’m not always feeling that first thing in the morning.
Fried Eggs, the Test Kitchen Way
My wife doesn’t like fried eggs, but I do, so every now and then I’ll fix myself a couple of fried eggs to throw on some toast. I love hot sauce on eggs, specifically Cholula, but I prefer hot sauce on fried eggs to scrambled. I tried a bunch of ways to fry eggs, but didn’t find one that worked super well until I read American Test Kitchen’s method. It is, of course, very specific and scientific, but it works really well. Here’s how it’s done:
- 2 teaspoons veggie oil
- 4 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons butter, cold
You’ll grab two bowls, and put two eggs in each bowl. This is going to help you get all those eggs into the skillet at the same time without making a mess. You’ll heat the oil on low for 5 minutes, then increase the heat to medium-high and drop in the butter. Get that butter melted fast and then put the eggs in, approaching from both sides of the skillet so you can drop all four in and have them meet amicably in the middle.
Here’s where it gets magical: Cover the pan and cook for ONE MINUTE ONLY, then snatch that covered pan off the heat and let it sit (45 seconds to a minute for really runny yolks, about two minutes for more “medium-set” yolks).
This is one of the only egg cooking methods I’ve ever gotten right on the first try, and they’re very good. I even used the stopwatch feature on my phone to ensure that my timing would be right, because I am a nerd.
Omelettes, the Pépin Way
If you’ve never watched this video of Jacques Pépin cooking omelettes, you owe it to yourself to stop what you’re doing right now and check it out:
The basic difference in the two omelettes the chef is cooking are that one browns a little more than the other. So if you prefer your eggs less creamy and more firm, you’re going to use go with what he calls the “country style” omelette.
Some things to note in this video to take with you on your journey to find your perfect egg cooking method:
- For omelettes, the chef suggests you really give those eggs a good beating to work the yolk into the white until there’s no visible difference between the two.
- You can use a plain ol’ fork to get all this done. No need to dirty up a whisk and a spatula.
- You’re probably too careful with your nonstick skillets. This man is using a fork to scrape the eggs off the side and then he bangs the damn thing on a cutting board. This behavior inspires me.
Scrambling Eggs, the Bourdain Way
Considering that in Anthony Bourdain’s delightful cookbook, Appetites, he specifically mentions Jacques Pépin (and perhaps is referencing the video above? Not sure.) I thought it fitting to include his prescribed method for scrambled eggs.
“Beat [the egg] lightly with a fork, dragging the yellow and white through each other. Heat whole butter in a pan. Pour in the egg and work your fork through. Not too vigorously; you want to gently pile the layers as they cook.”
Key takeaways from this method:
- Scrambled egg prep and omelette egg prep are different.
- Piling the layers will keep your scrambled eggs from being too dry (assuming of course that you don’t leave it in the pan too long).
- Scrambling eggs should be simple, and this method keeps it that way.
Scrambling Eggs, the Nosrat Way
Samin Nosrat wrote a fantastic book in 2017 called Salt Fat Acid Heat, which I’ve started to recommend to everyone who wants to improve their cooking. I haven’t even finished it yet and I’m evangelizing it like crazy. Anyway, Samin recommends cooking eggs like this:
“Crack 4 eggs into a bowl and season them with salt and a few drops of lemon juice, whisking thoroughly to break them up.”
OK, I know you got suspicious when she told you to put lemon juice in your eggs, but relax. I’ve tried this, and if you put a very few drops in there you really don’t taste it. It’s in there to help with the texture at the end (sort of, just go buy the book and she will explain this to you).
“Gently melt a little butter in a saucepan over the lowest possible heat and/or in the eggs. Continue to stir with a whisk or a fork, while adding 4 or more tablespoons of butter in thumb-size pieces, letting each be absorbed before you add the next. Never stop stirring and be patient.”
Goodness gracious, FOUR TABLESPOONS OF BUTTER? For four eggs? One tablespoon of butter PER EGG? I was tired/ashamed after adding about 2.5 tablespoons, but you do you.
Scrambling Eggs, the Waffle House Way
I’ve recently come to the realization that Waffle Houses are not in every city in America. This was definitely an assumption I had for most of my life. I’ll leave it to you to educate yourselves on the wonder of The Waffle House, but for now all you need to know is that it is a diner. At diners, there are eggs a-plenty. But at this diner, what you should be ordering are the “cheese eggs”.
A very straightforward list of ingredients: 2 eggs, 2 slices of American cheese. What is not specified in the ‘recipes’ I looked at was what brand of cheese, so I’ll help you out: you are not going to achieve the correct gooey texture if you use actual American cheese that you bought at Whole Foods. That stuff isn’t going to melt correctly. You need an American cheese that is cheese in name only; I’m talking about Kraft American Singles here. That stuff melts if you stand near it. This is what you want.
“While the eggs are cooking have two slices of real American cheese melting in a small cast iron skillet. Add the cooked scrambled eggs to the melted cheese. Mix thoroughly with a spoon.” — Found on Whats 4 Dinner Tonite
My two cents: if you do use Kraft Singles, you’re probably going to be able to do this in one skillet because you’ll be able to set the cheese slices right on top of the eggs and they’ll melt fine. If you got some bespoke American cheese and you need to make sure it gets melty (and hopefully just a tiny bit burned and crispy) then you’ll have to use the cast iron to get it done.
Scrambling Eggs, the Alton Brown Way
I love Alton Brown. He’s one of the few Food Network people that I can bear to watch cook. His recipe for scrambled eggs is as follows:
- 3 eggs
- Pinch of kosher salt
- A grind of black pepper
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
Whisk together all the things, then cook in a tablespoon of butter over high heat for a second then switch it to low, constantly stirring and folding the eggs over on themselves.
The recipe I linked to also has an important tip: don’t drop a piping hot pile of perfect eggs onto a cold plate. Warm that plate up a little to make sure your eggs don’t turn into a lukewarm glob of sadness before you get a chance to eat them.
I hope these various egg preparations have inspired you to spend the next few mornings perfecting your own method for cooking eggs. If you’ve got any recipes or tips to share, feel free to drop some knowledge in the comments.
*At the beginning I said eggs were inexpensive so just wanted to take a minute to explain myself. Even if you get the ‘ethical eggs’, which I do, it’s only like forty or fifty cents an egg, man. That means you can feed two people for about $2–3. That’s bonkers and even cheaper than Burger King, somehow. Also, yes, I am bragging about buying the fancy eggs, but I’m also trying to make everyone understand that they should be buying the fancy eggs too because otherwise you’re being really mean to the chickens and you should be nice to the chickens because God (and your Mom) said so.