A Curious Friend’s guide to the perfect scrambled egg
A Curious Friend’s guide to the perfect scrambled egg
Thomas Keller, legendary chef and owner of the French Laundry believes there’s not a right way or wrong way to scramble eggs. He says:
”You should eat your eggs however you like your eggs.”
I don’t agree at all, Chef Keller.
Until last year, I never liked scrambled eggs. I always thought I didn’t have the taste for them. In my experience, scrambled eggs were rubbery, dry, and tasted kind of…well…flabby? As it turns out, the problem stemmed from the way that the eggs were cooked. Now that I’ve realized the difference, I simply can’t believe that eggs can taste so heavenly.
Scrambling an egg, much like making a perfect French omelet, is the classic test of a young chef’s merit. As someone who professes to love food, I knew that I needed to correct my assumptions about scrambled eggs.
Here’s what I wanted in my eggs…
As a manifesto (egg-ifesto?), here’s how I envisioned the perfect plate of scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs should
- Be light and fluffy.
- Be moist, but not wet.
- Have a depth of flavor that surprises your palette.
- Be adaptable to new flavors, or other flavors alongside the plate.
- Be fast to make, and should, at worst, be relatively easy to make for a brunch crowd.
Over time, I was able to develop a method that checks all of these boxes. And I must say, these eggs are good. It’s a modified version of a Gordon Ramsay recipe, as his videos first led me to believe that eggs could be delightful and not disgusting. This recipe takes minutes to cook, and it’s very hard to mess up.
Here’s how to do it.
Before you begin cooking, assemble your ingredients. It’ll help you avoid mistakes and allow you to cook faster while keeping your workspace clean. Although this feels like a small thing, it’s the easiest way to feel more control over your kitchen and the cooking experience. Chefs have a name for it — “mise en place,” which loosely translates to “everything in its place.”
Here’s what you’ll need to prepare:
- A stove (obviously). I have an electric stove, but a gas stove is better. I’ve found it easier to regulate the temperature of the burner on a gas stove.
- A small non-stick saucepan (yep, a saucepan!)
- A rubber spatula
- A small metal whisk or fork
- A mid-sized bowl
- A ¼ inch thick chunk of butter
- 3 Eggs
- 1/2 tbsp of creme fraiche (store-bought or home-made)
Turn a burner up to medium, just to get it hot. We’ll come back to it in a moment. Bring the saucepan and all of your ingredients to the counter. Let’s assemble.
Cut your butter into six 1/4-inch cubes and drop them into the saucepan.
Crack the eggs into the larger bowl, one at a time. If any bits of shell fall in, don’t panic! Use half of an eggshell to fish the offending spec out.
Working slowly at first, then building in speed, whisk the eggs in a loose figure 8 using your whisk or fork. We’re blending the yolks and whites together before moving to the stove. It’s a little thing, but I’ve found that mixing the egg prior to cooking helps it coagulate better on the stovetop. They’ll be totally Instagram-able, so it’s worth the investment. Once mixed, pour the eggs into the saucepan.
Bring your spatula, saucepan and creme fraiche to the stove.
The science behind what’s about to happen.
Perfect Scrambled Eggs
- Drop the butter into your saucepan.
- Whisk to combine the eggs and add to the saucepan.
Cooking the eggs
- Turn a burner on to medium-low and let it get hot.
- Use the spatula to stir until you start seeing the eggs cook.
- Once you do, alternate stirring 10 seconds on the heat and 10 seconds off.
- Repeat until you have something that looks like scrambled eggs!
- When the eggs are scrambled but still look moist, turn off the burner and add the creme fraiche.
- Season with salt and pepper
This part happens fast, so it’s important to pay attention. Until you’re very comfortable with this method, don’t multitask. Eggs are super delicate and cook very quickly. They are eggs, after all.
The secret to perfect scrambled eggs is temperature control. Eggs contain a fair amount of water. As they cook, the water vaporizes and floats away like a bunch of little Casper the Ghosts. Longer cooking times over higher heat results in ultra-dry (uhm…gross) eggs. Folding the eggs on top of themselves while cooking helps to trap this vaporization, allowing us to maintain more air in our eggs for longer. This is how we’ll create that beautiful fluffiness.
Even over controlled heat and with a lot of folding, it’s likely the eggs will get so hot that we’ll struggle to control their cooking. As the air vaporizes, the proteins in the eggs tighten and solidify, leading to dense and chewy eggs. This is where the butter comes into play. These little warriors play a defensive role in our battle for the perfect breakfast.
Butter is mostly water and fat. While melting, the water that is released will help lower the temperature of the cooking environment, and the fats in butter will help to maintain the temperature. This will give us more time to massage our eggs before the heat of the saucepan has its way with their proteins. The fat, as we learned from Paula Dean, also adds an enormous boost in flavor! Fat coats the tongue so that other flavors can stick to it better.
Okay, enough of that. Let’s cook some eggs!
Place the saucepan on the hot burner. Using your spatula, begin to move the eggs and butter around in a figure 8 (chefs love this pattern). After a few seconds, you should see the eggs beginning to firm up. Stir for 5 more seconds, and then move the eggs off of the heat, and continue stirring for 15 seconds.
Return the eggs to the burner and let them cook while figure 8-ing for 10 seconds. By doing this, we’re trapping the moisture in our eggs before it has a chance to fully evaporate and disappear. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in a figure 8 pattern for 10 more seconds. Repeat over and over again.
After a few cycles, you’ll start to notice some beautiful (albeit, kind of wet) eggs. They won’t be perfect yet but should start looking familiar. Stir for a few more seconds to help them take a bit more shape.
Another science moment
At this point, the internal temperature of the eggs alone is high enough to continue cooking them. In fact, they’d continue to cook even if you moved them to a plate! We need to halt this cooking and rebalance the moisture in the eggs in a non-destructive way. We can do this by adding more fat (like butter), or by removing the eggs from the stovetop before they’re actually done, so they reach the yum-zone while sitting on your plate.
We’re going to accomplish this by using a bit of creme fraiche. The water it contains will lower the internal temperature of the eggs enough to stop the cooking, while the fats will add extra moisture. Don’t have creme fraiche? Use Greek yogurt or two more cubes of butter.
Back to the eggs…
Turn off the burner and remove the saucepan from the heat.
Add the creme fraiche to the eggs, and sprinkle in a big pinch of salt. As you stir it together, you should see the creme fraiche melt into the eggs almost immediately, leaving behind almost no residue. Your kitchen should smell crazy delicious, and yeah, you’re hungry.
The eggs are glistening and silky. Go on, taste a little bit.
Does it need a little more salt? Add some. Is it too salty? Add a tiny bit more fat. Need some heat? Add some freshly ground pepper. Or skip all of this and just tip the scrambled eggs onto a plate and dig in.
And that’s it! That’s how to make crazy yummy scrambled eggs in minutes.
What could be improved?
My stomach has a weak composition, so I try to avoid dairy. I’ve found eggs made with creme fraiche to
be the most flavorful, but I usually finish mine with a few cubes of butter instead.
At its root, cooking is all about managing salt, fat, acid and heat (I literally stole that from my new favorite book…). Without creme fraiche, our eggs possess everything but the acid. Squeezing a few drops of fresh lemon juice or stirring in some kimchi prior to serving will add a depth of flavor that’s seriously eye-popping.
Eggs are also great at carrying other flavors. Experiment with different spices to see how this recipe changes! I particularly love to stir in some chopped tarragon or a pinch of Garam Masala.
In the end, Thomas Keller was right; you really should eat your eggs however you like them. Life’s too complicated to feel bad about how you prefer your eggs. I, for one, will be cooking mine like this forever.
How do you like your eggs? Do you have a special way of cooking yours, or see something you’d change in my approach? Let me know in the comments below!
And if you try this recipe, please let me know how it goes!