Whether you like ’em loose, hard, or luxurious, get your scrambled eggs down pat
A platter of two eggs “any style” always seems like a safe diner breakfast bet. But what about at home? Even if you’re a person who loves to make scrambled eggs, this might be trickier to recreate than you think. Sure, folks fret about poaching (it’s easy, you just drop eggs in liquid and set a timer) but achieving the scramble of your dreams takes some consideration and finesse. These tips will get you scrambling toward breakfast nirvana.
Set yourself up for success by using a nonstick pan for all your eggs, even fried. If you want to show off, you can use a double boiler for a fancy scramble, but in most cases a 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet is an egg’s best friend. You’ll want to use one that’s the right size for the job. Only scrambling two eggs? Go ahead and use the 8-inch. If you go bigger, you’ll have more heat and surface area than you’ll need. For four eggs or more, the 10- or 12-inch is a good choice. Then, grab a heat-safe spatula and a whisk, salt and pepper, a plate and a fork. This all happens pretty fast and you’ll want to be ready for dismount.
You’ll need and want some fat in your eggs (otherwise you’d just poach, right?). How you get there is your call. Butter adds a hint of sweetness and a bit of body to the eggs but olive oil works just fine. I would say, however, that if you want to finish with butter you should start with it, too.
Once upon a time I posted a picture of four farm eggs and one supermarket egg in a bowl together. Many of us know and believe that local and smaller is better but even I was surprised at what I saw. I invite you to conduct this experiment on your own. Go to your farmer’s market and pick up a half dozen or more eggs and then buy some at a big grocery store. Crack one of each into side-by-side bowls and take a look. I promise you’ll be surprised. Perky golden yolks and clear egg whites are the sign of excellent eggs. Pale, saggy yolks and cloudy whites? Not so great. Yes, you can scramble both and yes, they’re both good sources of protein but just promise me you’ll do the exercise and think about it, if only for your own self-improvement. Knowledge is power.
OK, PSA over. Regarding quantities: bet on at least two eggs per person. Going forward, let’s pretend we’re cooking breakfast (or dinner!) for two because that’s more fun, so imagine we’re doing this with four eggs, got it? OK, let’s go.
Go ahead and crack those eggs swiftly and confidently into a medium bowl. Fish out any shrapnel if necessary and whisk those eggs like crazy until they’re pale yellow and homogenous. If you want to get super cheffy you can whisk them in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. The egg will fall through in strands, ensuring a pristine and lump free scramble—which is très important if you like your eggs all puddingy.
Are you on a boat? Dreaming of eggs and caviar with a side of laid-back luxury? Then these scrambled eggs are for you. What you’re going for is actually more of an egg custard with tiny curds suspended throughout. You’ve strained your eggs and seasoned them lightly with salt and white pepper (no black flecks, please). Now for the setup.
Some classically trained chefs cook their eggs in a double boiler, which is just a fancy name for a bowl sitting on top of a pot. Fill the pot with about an inch of water and bring it to a simmer. Pick a bowl that sits comfortably in the pot but not one that’s so tall or narrow that the bottom’s going to touch the water. Think: medium pot, medium bowl. Butter the bowl by swiping the stick of butter around in there to grease it up. Grab your strained eggs and add them to the bowl.
Now, watch your heat. You can always remove the bowl from the pot if things get too hot, but you want to keep a film of egg crust from forming. If that happens, remove the bowl from the pot and lower the heat. Using a spatula (even a large spoon will work), stir the eggs constantly until they just begin to thicken. Then, switch to the whisk and go for it. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to hold its shape. You can now add little bits of butter or a splash of heavy cream—about a tablespoon of either for two eggs is just luxurious enough. Use the spatula to scrape the custard onto a plate and grab the Osetra.
The Soft Stuff
The soft scramble is the mama bear of breakfast. And while you’ve probably been getting away with making eggs however you’ve made them, here are a few pointers to elevate your game.
First off, lose the whisk. I know I just told you to use it, but an immersion blender is the restaurant secret to those pillowy folds of egg you get at your favorite brunch spot. Prep cooks use one because it makes it fast and easy to blend up a whole service’s worth of eggs lickety split. But the immersion—or regular—blender whips a significant amount of air into the eggs resulting in a lighter fluffier scramble. Now that I just said all of that, you don’t have to use one, but if it’s gently pleated eggs you’re after, give the blender a try.
For a soft scramble you just need a nonstick skillet. Heat a little bit of butter (or olive oil, your choice) over medium heat. Season your eggs lightly with salt and a little cracked pepper if you like. Add the beaten eggs to the skillet and immediately, using your heat-safe rubber spatula, start moving the eggs around in sweeping motions. Start around the circumference of the skillet, then come back and sweep across the bottom, away from you, in about three motions. Continue like this—around, across, across, across—until the eggs are just set but still a little runny on top. Transfer gingerly to your plates (you had them at the ready, right?) and season to your taste.
The Hard Stuff
Do you have a fear of uncooked egg? Me too. It’s cool. All you have to do is keep scrambling as above, but with the added motion of breaking up the large folds of egg. This will expose more egg to the surface area of the skillet and help firm up the proteins. Just remember that all proteins continue to cook even after you take them out of the skillet, so unless you like them really dry, aim to pull them off the heat just before they reach your ideal state.
I am a cheesy-scramble person. I love pockets of melted cheddar throughout my eggs. But whatever it is you like to add to your eggs—cheese, sausage, tomatoes, or just herbs—some rules apply. Cheese should be either grated or crumbled and added toward the end of cooking—a touch earlier if it needs to melt (cheddar) or stirred in right at the end if it doesn’t (feta or ricotta). Anything cooked that you’d like to add—bacon, say, or potatoes—needs to be cooked first before being incorporated at the end. If you’re really smart (and/or hungover) you’ll cook up the sausage or bacon, then cook the eggs in the drippings in the same skillet. And I beg of you, if you want to add anything with a high water content (like vegetables) these, too, need to be cooked before adding. No folding in spinach right at the end. That’s a salad, not a scramble. Herbs are easy. Use them sparingly inside the eggs if you must, be I recommend using them as a bright, fresh garnish after the fact.
The Quick Fix
Need eggs stat? Heat a bit of fat in a nonstick skillet, then crack two eggs directly into the skillet—no pre-beating necessary. Use that spatula to break up the yolks and use a soft-scramble swooping motion to massage them until the whites are set and the yolks almost set. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Breakfast served, in about 30 seconds.
There you go. Scramble managed.