The incredible, edible egg: versatile, affordable, low in calories but packed with nutrition, eggs are an essential element of a culinary repertoire and something any home cook can master. Eggs are easy and quick, but making great eggs is about managing time and temperature, and learning some basic techniques. Read on for our egg primer!
On the one hand, this means having everything ready at the same time. You don’t want your eggs getting cold because your grits still have 20 minutes to go! But it also means knowing how long to cook something, which means not just setting a timer, but also developing your senses by learning the look, smell, feel and taste of perfectly done eggs.
In the kitchen, time and temperature go hand in hand. Too hot or not hot enough cooking temperatures can make your eggs turn out rubbery, dull or dry. Putting the temperature of the pan, water or oven aside, there’s also the temperature of the eggs about to be cooked. Cold eggs can crack, curdle or may not take on as much air as room temperature eggs.
Whisking, folding, stirring, flipping and straining – the techniques used for preparing eggs apply to all kinds of other dishes. Use your wrist and make swift but gentle movements with your utensils.
Let’s put these into action with three basic egg preparations: Scrambled, fried and poached.
Done in less than 5 minutes. Whisk the eggs (and milk or other ingredients) enough that they are slightly foamy with uniform color. Heat the pan to medium high, add butter or oil (or a little of each) and when it starts to bubble, add the eggs. When the eggs are in the pan, stir slowly to form the curds and then lower the heat and gently fold the curds or shake the pan for about 30 second. Let cook undisturbed for a minute and they are ready to eat. Best practice: serve on a pre-warmed plate. They should look soft and moist, not gooey, dry, browned or pale. Use a wooden or silicone spatula.
Done in less than 5 minutes, as little as 2 minutes if you like your eggs runny. Pre-crack the eggs into bowls if you’re worried about shells in your eggs. Preheat the pan to medium low, add butter and a little oil, and wait until the butter just starts to foam. Add the eggs, one at a time. Once in the pan the whites will be set by the 2 minute mark. From there, it’s all about the yolk. Cover the pan to gently steam the yolk or flip the eggs to fry them. Test the yolk by gently poking it – the more give it has, the runnier the yolks will be. The eggs look full, bright and glistening, even if they are browned, not pale and shrunken.
Fill a medium saucepan with an inch of water, add a pinch of salt (and, some say, a splash of white vinegar) and set on high heat. Pre-crack the eggs into individual bowls. Once the water is just at a boil, swirl the water and gently add the eggs, one at a time. Simmer the eggs, undisturbed, 3-5 minutes. Just set a timer on this one. Less time means runnier yolks. A perfect poached egg holds together and looks like a little pillow: soft and a little fluffy.