I Finally Know Why I Suck At Making Scrambled Eggs
Don’t ask me why all adults are expected to know how to make scrambled eggs. I have no idea.
Maybe this is something that's deeply wrong about our society. We assume everyone should know how, but not everyone is teaching their loved ones how to make scrambled eggs. I’m no expert, but I suspect most humans don't exit the womb with some profound instinct for impeccable egg-scrambling.
There’s a difference between scrambling eggs and making good scrambled eggs. That thing where you crack a couple eggs right into the pan and stir them around as they cook because you didn’t want to dirty up a bowl to whisk them in—that’s not really scrambled eggs. You kind of have to know what you’re doing to make scrambled eggs well.
Up until very recently, I didn’t. I too had bought into this flawed notion that it’s such a simple dish that I should inherently know how to do this. Had anyone ever taught me? No. Had I ever sought to educate myself? No. So roughly every fifth time I made scrambled eggs, they turned out decent. The other four pans were generally disappointing—sometimes greasy, sometimes rubbery, sometimes wet and leaky, sometimes a weird combination of all the circles of egg hell. And I had no idea why.
Believe me, I have heard all the wisdom out there: Add a splash of cream. Don’t add cream, that weighs them down. Add water instead of cream. Don’t add anything. Beat them with a fork. No, use a milk frother, you fool! REALLY BEAT THEM LIKE YOU MEAN IT. Put plenty of oil in the pan. Barely grease the pan with butter. Cook them in a combination of oil and butter. Actually, ghee. Start them in a cold pan. Heat the pan first. Stir the eggs constantly. Stir constantly, but also slowly, using large strokes. Don’t season until the eggs are practically cooked.
Weird how one might struggle to grasp the concept, right?
I’d begun to suspect that perhaps current weather conditions had a strong influence over the success of my blind attempts at scrambled eggs. Thankfully, one of our test kitchen pros, Chef Robin Bashinsky, intervened and taught me his foolproof technique. Now, I’m not saying his method is empirically correct above all others. But the thing about this method is, it’s easy to grasp and if you follow it exactly, you’re going to get consistent results. And if you enjoy fluffy, tender eggs that taste like butter, you're going to love this method. Here’s how to do it:
- Crack however many eggs you wish to scramble into a mixing bowl. Add about 1 teaspoon of water per egg.
- Grab your handy whisk and first, before scrambling, bust up the yolks of your eggs—otherwise, it will take longer to scramble them. And the longer you whip, the tougher they get. Once the yolks are busted up a bit, proceed in whipping the eggs, sprinkling in salt and pepper to taste, until you have a uniform mixture of whites and yolks.
- Place an appropriately sized (for the number of eggs you’re scrambling) nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add butter, about ½ tablespoon for every 2 eggs, to the pan. Wait for the butter to melt completely and begin to foam.
- As soon as the butter begins to foam, add your egg mixture to the pan. The eggs will begin to set around the outermost edges; as they do, use a rubber spatula to work your way around the circumference of the skillet, pushing the set eggs to the center of the pan.
- As you do this, loose eggs from the center of the pan will flow outwards between the folds. Continue working your way around the outer edge of the setting eggs, pushing the just-set eggs to the center, and stirring in no other direction. You will quickly have a mound of mostly-set eggs gathered in the center of the skillet with just a bit of wet egg pooled in the creases, at which point you will want to do a flip-and-slip.
- Flip over the entire mound of eggs (you can do this with a fish spatula or, if you’re coordinated, by using momentum and your skillet) so the last little bit of loose egg hits direct heat, and then immediately slip the pile of perfectly scrambled eggs onto a plate. Boom. You did it!
(P.S. If you want to add any mix-ins, like crumbled bacon or chives, sprinkle those on right before the flip-and-slip.)
Easy enough? OK, to review, let’s quickly highlight what makes this method work:
Bashinsky explains that adding a splash of water is going to loosen your eggs to a consistency that allows them to emulsify with the butter in your pan which means no grease—just a stable suspension of buttery, eggy richness.
As noted above, when you have your eggs and that splash of water in a mixing bowl, you want to beat until you have an evenly dispersed, consistent egg mixture. And once you reach that point, there’s no need to continue beating the eggs within an inch of their life. Think about baking a cake: most recipes advise to add your eggs and mix until just combined, in order to prevent overworking the egg. Same principle applies here. The more you agitate that protein, the tougher your eggs will be.
The Nonstick Pan
Technically, yes, you could probably do this in a stainless steel skillet, but the whole process will be exponentially easier and less stressful if you go nonstick. Even if you don’t believe in nonstick cookware in any other context, if you are invested in making great scrambled eggs at home, go ahead and invest in a single nonstick pan. It can be your egg-scramblin’ pan. A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is your next best option.
The Gentle Heat
This is a biggie. Keeping the heat controlled is crucial to a successful introduction of your eggs to your butter. For one, you don’t want to develop any color on your butter as it melts. Bashinsky says that while brown butter is delicious in many applications, it’s not what you want for your scrambled eggs. In fact, you really don’t want any hint of color developing on your melted butter, as this indicates the structure of the fat is changing and that is what’s going to lead you to eggs that taste and feel greasy.
In other words, beyond giving you a bit more control over the cooking process, the relaxed temperature is what will ultimately allow the eggs (which, remember, we’ve loosened ever so slightly with water for this exact moment... because destiny!) and butter to emulsify, rather than resist one another. With moderate to high heat, your eggs would start sizzling and frying in the butter upon contact, not collaborating with it. Frizzled and frazzled is fine for fried eggs, but for scrambled, we’re looking for a synergistically buttery eggsperience.
Cool. There you have it. Follow these steps and keep the above principles in mind, and you’ll be facing a plate of scrambled eggs that are supple and airy with a rich body—like a classic French omelet, but scrambled. It’s a beautiful thing, and you know how to make it. You have the power. Feels good, doesn’t it?
So for the love of all that is holy, tonight when you go home, gather up the kids, tell them you love them, and teach them to scramble eggs, damnit.