by Jennifer Sartell of Iron Oak Farm
Scrambled eggs are a relatively simple meal. If you eat eggs, chances are you’ve had them scrambled. Even the most amateur of cooks can usually master something resembling scrambled eggs right, so why write a post about them? It’s true that when it comes to eggs, scrambled is probably the easiest way to cook an egg. Fried eggs? there’s the flipping thing to get right without breaking the yolk. Hard boiled? there’s the flawless peeling challenge. Poached? there’s the whole loosing the egg in the water and preventing a displaced egg drop soup…and omelets are on a whole different scale.
In defense of the humble scrambled egg, it has it’s own charm that none of the above mentioned contain. There’s a heartiness to scrambled eggs. A good, down home-messiness that makes you remember breakfast at the dinner table in one piece footed pajamas. It’s a comfort similar to sloppy, gooey macaroni and cheese. They might not look fancy, but they sure do taste good.
Eggs have a pretty delicate flavor and so a simple thing like cooking style, utensils, even the pan used can really change things up. Ever notice that scrambled eggs taste different from place to place? Your’s? Your Mom’s? The corner diner? The breakfast bar at Best Western? So for something as simple as whipping eggs and cooking them, there must be notable differences in technique that subtly change the outcome. I hope to un-scramble the many flavors of this favorite egg dish and hopefully give you a road map to finding your perfect scrambled egg.
Texture is a huge component of good scrambled eggs, maybe even more so than flavor. For example, if you start with a good, fresh, sunshine-and-grass type egg…the egg flavor will take care of itself. But how you treat that egg is a whole ‘nother story.
The more you whisk scrambles eggs the fluffier and dryer the finished eggs will become. This is because the whisking process adds miniature bubbles to the eggs spreading the surface area of the liquid eggs thinly over the bubbles. This thinner mixture cooks faster and traps the bubbles between the layers of cooked eggs giving them lift. Adding a fat like whole milk, half and half, or cream will keep the eggs creamy and moist during the cooking process. A low fat milk will add some moisture, but won’t make them as creamy as a full fat dairy.
Less whisking will result in a denser, flatter egg. If you like your eggs with a bit of texture you can crack the egg in an already heated pan and start the whisking process as they cook. This will give the finished result a mottled effect with bits of white and yolk cooked separately then mixed together and may taste more like a well done fried egg.
Choosing the Pan
Nonstick vs. Regular, Choosing a Size, and All that Jazz
Nonstick will make your life easier when cooking eggs. It’s hard to deny the ease that eggs slide over that miracle-alien technology surface. However, personally we are trying to phase out non-stick surfaces in our cooking at home. If you use a regular pan, add a bit more fat to lubricate. And if something sticks, let it stay on the bottom of the pan and scrape the un-cooked eggs away from the cooked surface.
Choose the right size pan: Give yourself some room to move the eggs around, but not too big of a pan because the eggs will spread out and cook too fast. For a two egg scramble, a 6-7 inch pan will work great.
Choosing the Cooking Fat
Walk directly to your fridge and pull out the package of butter. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. USE BUTTER! Butter, butter, butter! Don’t use vegetable oil, or margarine, and God forbid don’t use that butter/hairspray-smelling aerosol stuff that comes in a can. If you don’t have butter in your house then you have more to worry about than how to cook scrambled eggs. (Just kidding…but seriously, use butter)
It might seem like I’m being obsessive here, but what you use to move the eggs around in the pan can make a difference. In the cooking process, the eggs are scraped from the bottom of the pan and flipped, turning the cooked side up and exposing the next layer to the heat. There’s a few things you can use, but the wooden, flat headed spoon is my favorite, go-to scrambled egg cooking utensil. The flat surface scrapes the pan thoroughly so you don’t get lines of over cooked eggs while you’re scraping. And unlike a metal scraper with a sharper edge, (think pancake flipper), it’s gentle to the eggs, (yes, that’s right I said gentle). A metal scraper works too thoroughly at removing the cooked eggs from the bottom, (and can sometimes scratch the surface of your pan). As I said before, if a layer of eggs want to stick to the bottom of the pan…leave them on the bottom, you’re interested in the lightly cooked fluffy part.
Scrambled eggs are meant to be light and delicate and over-cooking is going to ruin that beautiful flavor.
To begin, crack your desired amount of eggs into a bowl, add a splash of cream and a pinch of salt and whisk with a fork just till the eggs become a uniform creamy color. (If you like your eggs fluffier, see above.)
To cook: throw a tablespoon of butter in a cold pan of choice. Place the pan on medium heat and let the butter melt. (You don’t want to brown anything) Using a wooden flat headed spoon move the melting butter around till it coats the bottom of the pan. When the butter is almost all melted, add the whipped egg mixture. Immediately start moving the eggs from the bottom of the pan and sort of “pile” them up in the center. I work my way all the way around the pan working like slices of pie from the outside- in. When I get all the way around I tap out the “pile” in the center, move it around a bit, and go around again until the eggs are almost cooked through. Then I remove the eggs from the heat and let the them finish cooking off the fire from the residual heat from the pan. This way I never over cook my eggs.
Scrambled eggs are a blank canvas and invite all manner of flavors to accompany. You can’t go wrong with cheese. Soft cheeses like goat cheese, or brie will melt and blend beautifully into scrambled eggs giving them a rich and creamy cheese flavor. Harder cheese like Sharp Cheddar will add flavor and texture, lending delicious morsels of cheesy goodness mixed throughout.
All sorts of meats, vegetables and herbs can be added to flavor scrambled eggs. Here is a list of some of my favorite combinations:
Ham, broccoli, Cheddar cheese
Bacon, chives, goat cheese
Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, basil
Green peppers, Monterrey Jack, sweet Italian sausage
Feta, olives and Salami
And on, and on, and on…
Note: The time it takes to cook scrambles eggs is usually too short of a duration to thoroughly cook meat and vegetables. So unless you want raw onions or a chunk of hard carrot in your finished eggs, it’s best to saute your ingredients before hand.
Which is why Leftovers make wonderful add-ins for scrambled eggs! Use steamed asparagus from dinner the night before, sauteed mushrooms, roasted tomatoes…be creative!
Salt and pepper go a long way if you’re out to enjoy the simplicity of the egg, but to give scrambled eggs another layer of flavor they taste wonderful lathered in all kinds of things. To name a few:
Sausage gravy, milk gravy…heck, any kind of gravy!
creamy soups like cream of mushroom or cream of broccoli
Omelet, the Scrambled Egg’s Stuck-Up Cousin
Ok, ok, so omelets aren’t necessarily stuck up, but they do have a reputation for being fussy. Omelets are similar to scrambled eggs in that they start with, well…scrambled eggs. But an omelet is different in the way it is cooked in the pan. The eggs are not agitated as much throughout the cooking process and are cooked in a sunny-side-up manner with the bottom layer staying put and upper layer steaming through till finished. Toppings are then added to the center like cheese, veggies, meat, and the omelet is flipped over itself, wrapping around the ingredients like a burrito. Omelet’s get their fussy reputation because they are tricky to get right. The bottom is often over-cooked in the wait for the top to firm up. But even a well-cooked omelet will give the cooked side a more well-done flavor that personally, I don’t care for. Scrambled eggs on the other hand, are moved about throughout the cooking process which keeps the flavor fresh and delicate.
Why do Restaurant Scrambled Eggs Often Taste Different?
Ever visit your favorite breakfast buffet and wonder why Mom’s eggs just don’t taste the same? It might not be Mom’s fault. If you just can’t re-create the flavor of your favorite diner scrambled eggs it might be because you’re lacking batter. Some restaurants add a bit of the pancake batter to their scrambled eggs. This gives the eggs a fluffy texture and a hearty biscuit-like flavor.
How do you like your scrambled eggs? Got any delicious tricks that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below or visit the Community Chicken’s Facebook Page!
I second Leslie’s ‘coconut oil’ for cooking scrambled eggs… Yummy! Gives a delicious flavor and healthy, too! (We also use organic Ghee sometimes). Make it even better by topping plain scrambled eggs (fresh from the ‘girls’) with homemade strawberry freezer jam! This is a sweet surprise– better than savory eggs, IMHO!
Thanks for your article. It’s true: not all scrambled eggs are created equal.
Embarrassingly, I only recently mastered truly great scrambled eggs — which seems like the simplest of kitchen tasks. The root of my problem was that I am a fried egg kind of girl, so I’m used to cooking my eggs on medium-high or even high heat. While your method (cook over medium heat and removing from heat to finish cooking) works well to avoid overcooking, so does cooking over a medium-low or low-heat.
Another tip: My father in-law convinced me to try making my eggs with coconut oil instead of butter. He swore up and down that they’d be the most delicious eggs ever, and I really wanted him to be wrong…. but he wasn’t! I encourage everyone to give it a try.