Things You're Doing Wrong When Cooking Eggs
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Whether you're hoping to impress a new SO with breakfast in bed, or you're hangry and the only thing in your refrigerator is a carton of eggs, it's important to learn your way around this grocery store staple. However, while the egg is probably one of the least formidable foods to prepare, it isn't necessarily foolproof: one false move and they can turn into a sulfurous, rubbery mess. Here are some tips for making sure your eggs turn out failure-free, no matter how you prepare them.
Cracking the eggs into the skillet before it's hot enoughWhen frying an egg, the butter in the pan should be bubbly and foamy; if it's not, your pan isn't hot enough yet, and your eggs won't fry evenly.
Not covering the skilletThere's nothing worse than ending up with a perfectly runny yolk and viscous, undercooked whites. If you aren't planning on going the over-easy route, cover the skillet. This traps the heat around the egg, which ensures that the top of the whites firm up while the bottom remains crisp.
Pro tip: If butter isn't your jam, try frying eggs in extra-virgin olive oil; it's (somewhat) healthier and will create a crispy, lacy edge around the whites. Heat 2 tablespoons of the good stuff into a skillet over medium-high heat and let sit for 1 minute. Crack an egg into the center of the skillet; the oil should immediately start bubbling around the whites. Cook until the edges appear crisp and golden brown -- about 2 minutes. Season with fresh-cracked pepper and salt.
Not using enough waterThere should be enough water in your pot to allow the egg room to float freely -- usually about 3 inches deep. If you don't have enough water, the egg may drop to the base of the pan and separate; ample water allows the egg to remain suspended and set up as it cooks.
Pro tip: If you're into kitchen gadgets, consider purchasing a sous-vide machine, which allows eggs to cook in a circulating water bath at a precise temperature.
Overcooking the eggsIf you've ever ended up with dry, crumbly hard-boiled egg yolks that look greenish gray and emit a sulfurous odor, you've overcooked them. To prevent this from happening, heat them gradually in a saucepan covered by about an inch of cold water. Place the pan over high heat, and let them cook until the water reaches a rolling boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pan, and let the eggs stand for 10 minutes for slightly creamy yolks or 14 minutes for very firm but not overcooked yolks.
Skipping the ice bathIf you don't immediately transfer hard-boiled eggs to an ice bath, they will continue to cook, and they'll likely end up overcooked. The icy water stops the cooking process, and also causes the molecules that make up the egg to condense, which separates the egg membrane from the shell for far easier peeling.
Pro tip: For a foolproof alternative to boiling that yields evenly cooked, easy-to-peel eggs every time, try steaming the eggs. Fill a large pot with about an inch of water, place a steamer basket inside, cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Place whole eggs in the steamer basket, cover, and let cook for exactly 6 minutes for soft-boiled or exactly 12 minutes for hard-boiled. Immediately place eggs in an ice bath and allow them to cool for about 20 minutes before peeling.
Not stirring enoughEggs coagulate into curds as they cook; if you don't stir them enough, you'll end up with a chunky scramble with an off-putting, rubbery mouthfeel. To prevent this, keep the eggs in motion by stirring as they cook in the skillet; this helps to break down the curds so that they're smaller, softer, and decidedly non-rubbery.
Cooking over high heatEggs make for a great breakfast when you're short on time, but don't rush scrambling your eggs by kicking the burner up to high; you'll risk overcooking them. Scrambling eggs over lower heat increases the control you have over the eggs' consistency and ensures that they won't brown. Also keep in mind that the eggs will continue to cook through once they're removed from the heat, so be sure to cook them until they're just set (they should look wet, but not runny).
Seasoning too earlyIf you add salt while the eggs are still cooking, it will draw the moisture out of them and break them down, leaving you with a watery, sloppy mess. Instead, season them right before you serve them.
Pro tip: Skip the spatula or wooden spoon, and instead dig into the junk drawer to find a set of leftover chopsticks from the last time you treated yourself to a sushi delivery order large enough to feed a family of four; they make stirring scrambled eggs and breaking down egg curds extra easy.
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Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, as well as a freelance food photographer, food blogger at KailleysKitchen.com, and recovering vegetarian. Follow her at @KailleysKitchen.