All about Eggs~Part Two; How To Cook Eggs For Best Results
Click here to read All about Eggs~Part One; Practicalities which discusses how chickens are raised affects the quality of the egg, the benefits of pastured raised eggs, egg myths and facts, how to purchase and store eggs, and food safety. This post will cover the various methods for cooking eggs to get the best results.
Cooked in its whole form as the star of the plate, the options for eggs are virtually limitless. Some of the more popular presentations are listed below. For the best results, always start with the freshest eggs possible.
Fried– Sunny-side up, over easy, over hard, these are a few ways to fry an egg (see photo at top of post).
How to cook for best results: Heat a small sauté pan or cast iron pan. Add your choice of fat (butter, olive oil, even bacon fat) and get it sizzling. Crack the egg directly into the pan (or into a bowl first and then slide it into the pan). For sunny side up eggs, turn down the heat to medium and cook uncovered and without flipping until the whites are set and the yolk is still bright. For over easy, flip the eggs in the pan (or cover with a lid) for about 30 seconds and then serve. For a more set yolk (over medium or over hard, cook for another 45 seconds to a minute.
Sunday breakfast; scrambled eggs, bacon and toast.
Scrambled- whisked together whites and yolks, sometimes with the addition of water, milk, or cream, each yielding slightly different results. Adding a teaspoon of milk (or cream) per egg makes for creamer scrambled eggs. Adding the same amount of water yields fluffier eggs without the added calories (as the water evaporates, it causes steam, making the eggs fluff up, but also firmer).
How to cook for best results:
Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Heat a sauté pan, add a small pat of butter. Add the eggs and cook over medium heat, moving the eggs with a spatula. Cooking over too high a heat, too fast, will result in tough, over-cooked eggs.
Comfort food; soft boiled eggs and toast.
Soft boil- A soft boiled egg is one where the white is set and the yolk is still runny.
How to cook for best results: Bring a sauce pot of water to a simmer and gently lower the eggs into the water one at a time. Set a timer for 4-6 minutes (very cold eggs might take a minute or so longer). Remove the eggs from the water and place them in an egg cup. Use a knife to tap around the top of the egg. Eat the egg straight out of the shell with a small spoon or toast for dipping in the runny yolk. For safety reasons, soft boiled eggs should be cooked to order and served immediately.
Eggs hard boiled at 7 minutes (under-done), 10 minutes (perfect) and 15 minutes (green tinged and over cooked).
Hard Boiled- Eggs where both the egg white and egg yolk are cooked solid. Hard boiled eggs can be eaten right out the shell, chopped and made into egg salad, have their yolks deviled, or used as ingredients in salads.
How to cook for best results: Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Lower the eggs into the pot one by one. Set the timer for 10 minutes (a couple of minutes longer if the eggs are very fresh or very cold). Simmer for 10-12 minutes, drain, and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. If overcooked, the yolks will turn green.
Cook’s Tip: add a dash of vinegar to the boiling water so that if the egg has a small unseen crack, the vinegar will cause the leaking whites to coagulate and plug the leak.
Baked eggs with herbs.
Baked- Baked eggs are cooked in individual ramekins with a splash of cream or half and half and perhaps the addition of herbs and cheese. Eggs cooked this way come out with a rich and creamy consistency.
How to cook for best results:
Heat oven to 375 and place a casserole dish in it filled with about 1” of water. Butter individual ramekins (6 oz size for two eggs) and crack eggs into the ramekins without breaking the yolks. Top with a tablespoon of cream or half and half. Sprinkle with chopped herbs and cheese (Swiss, gruyere or sharp cheddar are good choices). Other ideas for additions to the ramekin (perhaps placed under the egg) include cooked spinach, sautéed mushrooms or bacon. Place the ramekins in the hot water bath and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the whites are set and the yolks are cooked to your preference.
Poached- There are several methods for poaching eggs. The first is to simply crack an egg into simmering water. This works, but often the white spreads out too much. Another option is to use an egg poaching form to lower the egg into the water, contained.
How to cook for best results:
The Vortex method: Fill a 4 quart pot with water leaving at least 3 inches from the top and bring to a simmer. Add a teaspoon of white wine vinegar. Crack the eggs individually into a small bowl. Stir the water in the pot, creating a vortex in the center. Drop the egg quickly into the center of the pot. It should spin around, but the most of white of the egg should stay concentrated together. Start a kitchen timer and cook for 4 minutes. When done, remove the egg with a slotted spoon.
Julia Child’s Method: Pierce the large end of an egg with a pin, about 3/8 inch to break the air bubble inside. Lower the egg into simmering water for exactly 10 seconds to help coagulate the whites. Crack the eggs into simmering water (with vinegar, as above) and the egg should hold together better than if it had been simply cracked in raw. Cook for 4 minutes.
My recipe for poached eggs with kale and bacon can be found here.
Poached eggs can be held briefly in warm water (no more than 120 degrees) if you need to cook a batch for breakfast. They can also be cooled in ice water, held in the refrigerator for a day or two, and re-heated in barely simmering water.
Omelets– Scrambled and folded over cheese, traditionally, with the possible addition of other ingredients.
How to cook for best results: Scramble 2-3 eggs in a bowl. Heat a sauté pan and melt a tablespoon of butter in the bottom tilting the pan over the heat to makes sure the butter is spread evenly around the pan. Pour in the eggs and allow them to cook for about 10 seconds. Tilt the pan over the heat to spread the eggs and using a fork or heat proof spatula, lift the edges of the egg to allow some of the raw egg to slip through. Add ingredients now, as the bottom begins to set. Tilt the pan and flip the front of the omelet back onto itself. You can fold the omelet in half or fold it over into a roll. The goal is to have the inside barely set and creamy and the outside yellow and not browned.
Tell me, what is your favorite way to cook eggs? Do you have a foolproof method not covered here?
The underboiled version of the hard boiled egg is what we in Denmark would call ‘smiling eggs’ 🙂 For me, that’s just right. 🙂
Angrboda- I like that name, “smiling eggs”!
I do hard-boiled eggs differently, though I will check out this method, too. I’ll test timing, also, since I am at 7K ft. elevation and that makes a difference to cooking time with most things.
I start the eggs in cold water, covered. When the water has reached a gently rolling simmer, I turn the heat off then set a timer for 18 minutes. When the bell rings, the eggs are drained and put into cold water. After a few minutes there, they go into the fridge. I usually get your ‘perfect’ eggs this way, and rarely have a cracked egg.
Thanks for your posts. And I especially love this kind of education! Keep ’em coming. 🙂
Kate-I’ve heard of that method as well, though I wonder if the timing would be the same at sea level. Also, I found that, when testing these timings, the freshness of the egg, and temperature of the egg played a determining factor in length of cooking time.
I love Eggs in Purgatory: eggs poached in tomato sauce with a little fresh basil and topped with Parmesan or Romano.
When I make scrambled eggs I separate the whites and yokes & cook the whites first, just until they turn opaque then add the yokes and continue. They come out buttery & smooth this way!
Interesting. I’ve never heard of that method. Is it really worth the effort?
For great scrambled eggs add a little milk and small pieces of cream cheese. As the eggs cook the cheese will melt and blend in.
I’ve come to prefer basted eggs… fried in more fat than for a regular fried egg, with the fat spooned over the top of the egg. The result is much like ‘over easy’, but the whites are more completely cooked and there’s often a crisp, lacy edge on the white.
There are also ‘Hamine eggs’. These are hard-cooked, but they cook for hours at a low simmer. Often, a few onion skins will be added to the water. They end up both coloring and lightly flavoring the egg. They originate in Sephardic cooking, but have become widely known in the Arab world.