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- Most people are comfortable cooking up a quick serving of eggs in their kitchen.
- We spoke with a variety of chefs to figure out how to cook eggs like a professional.
- From too much heat to lack of seasoning, here are some common mistakes you might not even realize you’re making when cooking with eggs.
A total kitchen staple, eggs count among the first dishes most at-home cooks learn how to prepare. They’re cheap, versatile, and easy … at least, that’s what many of us assume. But, in fact, egg-cooking mistakes happen constantly, resulting in unappealing textures and questionable flavors. Luckily, these snafus can be avoided with a bit of know-how.
Insider consulted a panel of chefs to learn the most common egg-prep errors and how to get around them.
When it comes to cooking eggs, “low and slow” does the trick
To make eggs correctly, plenty of patience is required.
“Folks often turn the heat up to cook their eggs faster, but that will severely affect the taste,” cautioned Susan MacTavish Best, the chef and planning guru behind The Party Whisperer.
NYC chef and restaurateur Donatella Arpaia (Prova Pizzabar) agreed: “The biggest mistake when cooking eggs [involves using] a high heat and overcooking them. The key to perfect scrambled eggs is ‘slow and low’.”
Using the lowest possible heat setting on your stove-top prevents the eggs from seizing and burning, allowing you to achieve the perfect consistency.
If your scrambled-egg preferences favor a looser texture, Executive Chef Michael Reich of the JW Marriott Chicago advised removing the pan from the hot burner and allowing the residual heat to do its thing.
“To avoid overcooking eggs, you should remove the pan while [the eggs] are slightly softer [than you want them] and still wet. They will then firm up as the eggs continue to cook,” Chef Reich told Insider.
Don’t add liquid to your eggs before they’re in the pan.
Adding a splash of milk or cream is a scrambled-egg strategy so common that many home cooks don’t even think to question it … but according to Bon Appétit Food Director Carla Lalli Music, we absolutely should.
“People love to add liquid to eggs before scrambling them and believe that a splash of milk, cream, or even water makes them more tender. Not necessary! To scramble eggs, beat the eggs with a fork until completely smooth, then season with salt. Cook in butter over medium heat, stirring constantly if you like a fluffy, finer texture, or only occasionally for velvety ribbons,” Lalli Music told Insider.
But you should be seasoning with salt ASAP.
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If you really want to amp up the silkiness of your scramble, seasoning with salt should happen as early in the process as possible.
“Salt can have quite a drastic effect on how eggs cook,” Celebrity chef and nutritionist Ariane Resnick told Insider. “When eggs cook and coagulate, the proteins in the yolks pull tighter and tighter together as they get hotter. When they get too tight, they begin to squeeze liquid out from the curds, resulting in eggs that weep in a most embarrassing manner. Adding salt to the eggs well before cooking can prevent the proteins from bonding too tightly by reducing their attraction to one another, resulting in a tenderer curd and lower likelihood of unattractive weeping. Adding salt immediately before cooking helps, but if you want the full effect, the salt must have time to dissolve and become evenly distributed through the mixture. This takes about 15 minutes-just enough time for you to get your bacon cooked or your omelet fillings ready!”
Get your oven in on the sunny-side-up action
A tried-and-true diner staple, sunny-side-up eggs are beloved for their un-fussy simplicity. But while bells and whistles aren’t required here, it’s still surprisingly easy to mess up your sunny-side-up breakfast plate.
“A big problem with sunny-side-up eggs happens when they still have some uncooked and raw white around the yolk,” says Chef Ricardo Barreras of Pilar Cuban Eatery in Brooklyn.
Fortunately, Chef Barreras uses a yolk-setting technique at Pilar that’s easy to replicate in a home kitchen: “In a small Teflon pan, warm olive oil over medium heat, carefully crack two eggs, and cook for roughly 30 seconds. Next, place the pan in a 400-degree oven on the top rack. Let the eggs cook for 4 minutes until all the raw egg white has cooked. Take the pan out of the oven and immediately remove the eggs from the pan before the yolks start to cook.”
Make your eggshells work for you.
Anyone who makes eggs at home knows the struggle: you crack your eggs into a bowl and start whisking, only to discover shards of eggshell floating among the whites and yolks. We’ve all tried to scrape out the shell bits with our scrambling forks, only to end up making an eggy mess on our counter-tops (with the sneaky bits of shell still somehow eluding capture).
Chef De Cuisine Nick Tamburo of Momofuku Nishi in NYC uses a clever recycling trick to navigate this problem, and he’s willing to share: “If there’s a piece of shell in the cracked egg, use a larger piece of eggshell to scoop out the tiny shell pieces. It’s such an easy trick that most home cooks don’t know and it works every time.”
Want perfect hard-boiled eggs? Don’t overdo it.
Overcooking isn’t just an issue for scrambled eggs. When it comes to the hard-boiled variety, leaving your eggs in the pot too long can have a catastrophic effect.
“Overcooking hard-boiled eggs results in what I call the “Death Star Effect,” brunch master and Brooklyn restaurateur Nick Korbee of Egg Shop told Insider. “This is where the egg is so abused by boiled water that it comes out looking like the imposing gray symbol of the Evil Empire. Not only are these eggs hard to look at, but the texture of the yolk is dry and chalky, and the flavor is something akin to the overly-sulfuric aroma of chronic flatulence. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS TO YOUR EGGS.”
To escape this horrifying fate, Chef Korbee recommended a three-step process for impeccable hard-boiled-egg prep. “Rule One: prepare an ice bath first so you are ready to cool the eggs down as soon as you have boiled them for the appropriate amount of time. Rule Two: boil your eggs for an appropriate amount of time. I like an egg boiled for 9 minutes with a slightly-fudgy yolk for salads or eating on their own, and the 11-minute mark is my go-to for deviled eggs. Please don’t wing it. Use a timer. Rule Three: boil the water first, then add the eggs, carefully making sure they are submerged by an inch or more. This ensures even cooking.”