"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Scrambled Eggs Are Supposed to be Easy

by Julie on April 11, 2012

in Breakfast, Good Ideas Gone Bad

scrambled eggs

Not bad. Just not right, exactly...

Eggs are still on my mind.

I have made some underwhelming scrambled eggs in my day, wholly unaware of how much better they could be. Indeed, before I knew better, I took a certain pride in even being able to make scrambled eggs at all. Look! I can cook a breakfast! And I’d whisk a few cold supermarket eggs in with some milk and throw them into a hot pan with some butter and cook them up in a minute flat.

The resulting eggs were often dry AND somewhat burnt; either over-seasoned or too bland, depending on factors ranging from my mood to my level of caffeination to the depth of my hangover.

But eggs and how to best make them keep popping up lately. So lately I’ve been trying to make better scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs as they should be.

You shake your head perhaps. But it’s not as easy as it sounds! Not if you’re me.

Eggs and how to prepare them have been popping up everywhere lately. On Facebook, where various friends are debating whether eggs count as “dairy” or not (I say no). To cooking magazines, where I read something about how you can tell a lot about a cook’s skills by the way he or she makes a simple omelet.

I’ve always liked that idea – that there are several very basic, very simple meals every home cook should be able to do well. Scrambled eggs are one of them.

I’ve been reading Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First (which pretty much nails the case for my being an official foodie) and he writes about making his son scrambled eggs in the French manner, cooked very slowly with lots of butter.

I decided to try this. I scrambled some eggs in lots of butter, cooking them more slowly than usual, and throwing down a nob of butter right before they’re done. They looked good to me. I served them to the boy, who asked me not to cook his morning eggs in so much butter next time.

“But this is the French way,” I told him.

“I’m English.”

The Drama Teen didn’t like them either. The next morning both kids asked for scrambled eggs followed quickly with the request that I not make “French eggs.”

So that backfired.

I kept trying.

I found this totally great post on how to make the best scrambled eggs by one Mr. Breakfast. He acknowledges the varied scholarship out there. But in the end, it just left me more confused.

Here is the excellent Kitchn post I followed to try and make the kind of custardy deliciousness I was going for. I tried — twice — and both times my eggs cooked far more quickly than the 15 minutes she says it should take.

During the first attempt, my lovely ex showed up that afternoon with coffee, ringing the doorbell just as I threw the eggs into the pan. He followed me back into the kitchen to watch. I explained the idea behind slow cooking.

“Oh, that’s how I make my eggs.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, ask the boy how I make my eggs. He loves them.”

I thought about the boy’s reaction to my French eggs and scowled.

“How come I didn’t know this? You never made me eggs like that.”

“Yes I did. You just don’t remember.”

“So but what you’re saying is you know how to make excellent scrambled eggs.”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Not like yours.”

Just throw that gauntlet down, right there on the kitchen floor, mothaf%$#@!

I stirred the eggs. Luke watched over my shoulder. “Are you going to let that middle bit get thick? Stir it!”

After five minutes and some deep, cleansing breaths, the eggs were looking pretty fluffy and done, so I took them off the heat.

scrambled eggs in iron skillet

Little fluffy clouds

These were decidedly better eggs than I usually make, but they weren’t the custardy lovelies I was going for. Also, I forgot to season them. How typical. Luke gave them one thumbs up. Feh.

The next day I tried again. This time with a different pan that was not an iron skillet. Perhaps an iron skillet gets too hot too quickly?

How low can you go?

Once again, however, they cooked up in just about five minutes, and were once again the fluffy-not-custardy texture.

Still not right

At least I remembered to season them this time.

Tasty, if not what I was going for

Now I’m annoyed. If everyone else can make these why can’t I? I’m not done eating eggs. Not by a long shot.

And my final question: Are chives and the green part of a spring onion the same thing?

STAY TUNED!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

the Minty April 11, 2012 at 10:22 am

Are you using eggs straight from the fridge? I usually warm mine up by running hot water on them and letting them sit out for a bit. The real French way is the eggs would have never been in the fridge– probably freshly gathered from chickens in the back yard.

Then I season them before they go into the pan- just a little salt and pepper. I know some add milk or use butter but I don’t eat dairy at home.

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Dawn B April 11, 2012 at 10:48 am

“Not like yours.” – nice.

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Haylo April 11, 2012 at 10:56 am

Great post! I’m always baffled with cooking perfect eggs and still cannot make an omelet to save my life. One thing I have learned is steaming eggs gives them such a fluffy and light texture- they are delicious. No butter necessary unless you want it but I used non stick spray in a metal bowl which is placed over a boiling pot of water. Might not be of the custard variety but damn good.

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Julie April 11, 2012 at 11:11 am

Thanks Haylo! Yeah it’s these simple things that screw me up all the time. These were perfectly good scramblies…but I could not for the life of me get that custard thing down…there’s a secret I’m missing….arg!

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chris April 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I follow the Mae West School of Culinary Arts on this one (among other things): “Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.”

So, low heat. Also, add a tablespoon or so of water (not milk, which alters the taste); the steam helps keep the eggs fluffy. And ditch that wooden spoon in favor of a spatula with a flat edge; use it to turn the eggs gently and often, so you get thin fluffy layers. Remove from heat before they dry out. Add salt and pepper. Chives if ya got ’em. Or wrap them in a tortilla with a splash of hot sauce.

I’ve also tried little dabs of butter in the beaten eggs before cooking (forgot where I read that — Gopnik? Bittman?) but they can easily get too rich. Bon app!

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Julie April 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Chris this is awesome! I NEED that kind of detail…Wrapped in a tortilla? OMG…I might have to make them again tonight….thanks!! @Minty – I’ve been getting farm eggs that don’t need to be refrigerated at all…SUCH a difference in taste!

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AntoniaBologna April 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Julie, just had to say that I made eggs the other day… but I always saute onions, then add diced potatoes (in this case it was new potatoes) and then I cook that for about 10-15 min. over med-low heat, while I prepare the eggs. I “try” to let them come to room temperature (it does seem to affect their texture, somehow), then I crack them into a bowl (I do add a splash of milk, and yes, it does change the flavor) and whip. Season in the bowl before I add to potatoes (which for the record are being cooked in olive oil, not butter, but somehow we like that flavor combo now). Once they are added, I stir and raise the heat to med. and then just hover over them. This is a one pot meal, which we then stick in tortillas with a splash of hot sauce. Custardy? Meh. Who needs that headache when you have a one pot meal! BTW I love my iron skillet for eggs, by themselves or not…

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Ann Spivack April 11, 2012 at 6:36 pm

So what Jacques Pepin says is pour in a little whole milk just before eggs are done and stir. Supposedly that makes them creamier. THAT has never worked for me. What does work is stirring in some cubes of cream cheese just before the eggs are done. I’m with you; perfect eggs aren’t easy but they’re not easy outside of the house either. How often do you get breakfast eggs that are cooked exactly the way you wanted?

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noel April 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm

that absolutely works for us too! cream cheese in eggs rock.

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Julie April 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I’ve heard about that…but how do you get the cream cheese that same consistency…can you just melt it in the pan? (That’s what I would try…having chopped it up into chunks….oh the blog fodder!) ??

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Gabriel Orpilla April 12, 2012 at 8:39 am

Hello. I’m no expert at cooking, but eggs is one of my specialties. When I make my scrambed eggs i simply start out with two eggs and cracking them into a bowl to whip,with a fork.I add a little less than a tablespoon of milk and whip until they are yellow. Then i add the seasonings i want salt, pepper, and some dried basil. If you do want to add some veggies or other ingredients you can sautee them. when or if you do add these sauteed veggies i normally wait until they cooled down so that they don’t start to cook the eggs when you mix them in. then with a little less than a quarter of the butter stick already melted in the pan you can pour in the eggs. I normally wait until i see that the eggs have started cooking when i slowly start to stir the eggs at a medium heat until they are done. i usually try to flip the eggs over to try and cook the uncooked part of the eggs. somtimes this does require you to lower the heat to low, but just as long as they don’t start to get to a golden brown burn you should be fine. When i make my eggs they always come out perfect.

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Julie April 12, 2012 at 10:28 am

Hmmm. Those sound yummy, Gabriel!

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Julie R April 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Some folks say not to add salt until the end of cooking or they make the eggs tough. A friend of mine swears by a silicone spatula to stir the eggs. & definitely slowly does it for scrambled or omelettes. Ann & Betty’s in Berkeley purposefully undercook thier eggs to get the custardy effect. I think room temp does make a difference. And chives aren’t the same as the green ends of onions (were you serious?) but green onions are a fine substitute.

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Bonnie McCarthy April 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I love well-done scrambled eggs. I hate them undercooked or runny…can hardly bear to think about that actually. So, if they are a little more crisp (i.e. burned?) I don’t usually mind…my kids don’t know any better and I will continue to keep them in the dark about the possibility of ‘good’ or ‘creamy’ scrambled eggs. I’m thinking that’s where you went wrong…sometimes ignorance is bliss. Not to mention criticism will earn them a box of cold cereal…

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Liz Haynes April 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Had to weigh in as I made scrambled eggs for dinner tonight. In the home stretch of the kitchen remodel so I cooked them on the BBQ’s gass burner in the back yard. But they came out yummy. Guess why? Because I used a silicone spatula, tablespoon of butter, good nonstick pan and low-medium heat. No. Well, these things may have helped, but what made them so yummy was the 1/4 package of Boursin cheese I threw in when they started cooking. The cheese gets all melted, like cream cheese, but so much more flavorful. Plate when ever so slightly underdone, then sprinkle on kosher salt and a touch of pepper. Delish!!! PS: Usually I saute veggies first and add the eggs and Boursin. My go to veggies in these eggs are mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, asparagus, and califlower. But I’ll use whatever veggies I have on hand. Try it. I promise you will make it again.

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