Back to Basics: Scrambled Eggs

Activity-filled weekends mixed with the desire to sleep in don’t often leave much time for cooking in the morning.  On those mornings, I keep things simple.  Breakfast might be a little peanut or almond butter on toast, or maybe a cup of Greek yogurt topped with oats/nuts and a tsp of honey or homemade jam.  Sometimes, like this weekend, it’s just scrambled eggs.

Simple weekend breakfast of scrambled eggs topped with quick-sautéed cherry tomatoes with a slice of homemade whole-grain seeded soda bread
Simple weekend breakfast of scrambled eggs topped with quick-sautéed cherry tomatoes with a slice of homemade whole-grain seeded soda bread

Scrambled eggs are one of those things that are so amazingly wonderful when done the right way, but if you don’t know two little secrets they’re really easy to screw up.  You know what I’m talking about–the mealy, dry, crumbly yellow blobs that are the bane of every breakfast buffet.

You don’t have to experience that–and it doesn’t take a master chef to create perfectly moist, well-cooked scrambled eggs.  Just keep these two things in mind:

  1. Salt your eggs before you cook them.
  2. Keep them moving in the pan and only long enough to cook them.

So here’s the process, start to finish:

  • Heat a non-stick pan or small cast iron skillet to medium. Grab a whisk that you can use inside that pan–silicone coated works nicely.  If you don’t have one, use a wooden spoon.
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl or mug, toss in just a pinch or two of salt as you don’t need much, then whip them up with a fork until they’re a uniform consistency (20 seconds or so).  And no, you don’t need extra water or milk.
  • Toss a tsp or two of olive oil or butter into the pan and let it warm up for just a bit.  Butter should melt and just start foaming whereas oil should get a really shiny appearance to the top of it.  Neither should be scorched or smoking.
  • Pour the eggs into the hot pan all at once and start whisking/stirring.  Don’t stop.  No need to go crazy and worry about whether you’re stirring enough, just keep the eggs moving and don’t let any part of them sit in one spot too long.  This should only take a minute or two depending on how many eggs you put in the pan.  For our normal 2-3 eggs I find it takes about a minute and a half.  Of course, if you’re cooking a dozen, it might take more like 3-5 minutes.
  • When the eggs hold together loosely in a pile that easily spills apart, you’re done.

These might be looser than you’re used to, but trust me cooking too long is just a sad way to start the day.  Also, there’s science to back this up–the salt you added helps break apart water bonds in the proteins of the egg so that’s why these will seem less firm than what you’re used to.  The constant movement of the eggs in the pan does the same thing–preventing the proteins from seizing up tighter and holding onto the water.

Now, go grab a piece of your favorite toasted carby loaf and chow down so you can get on with your day.

Disclaimer:  I credit this knowledge to having read Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Lots of really good stuff in that book–one of my very favorite cooking references.

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