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Omelet

A SECRET INGREDIENT CREATES AN OMELET FOR TWO THAT’S LIGHT, NOT HEAVY

Asingle omelet is the perfect meal for two. Too bad almost everyone makes this dish incorrectly. To avoid the hassle of making two omelets in sequence, many cooks make a single super-size omelet with too many eggs and too much filling. This “more is better” approach loses the qualities that make omelets so appealing in the first place—their sophistication and their delicacy.

These mega-omelets also fail on a technical level. With so much stuff in the pan, the exterior becomes tough and overbrowned while you wait—and wait—for the interior to cook through. If you try to prevent excessive browning, you’re pretty much guaranteed a seriously runny (OK, raw) center.

Luckily, there is a solution to this dilemma—one that yields an omelet big enough for two that’s still light. The fluffy omelet is made with whipped eggs to achieve an impressive height that’s not just about appearance. The interior is airy, almost like a soufflé.

Many recipes call for whipping whole eggs but we find that whipping the whites is a better approach. Whipping the whites creates maximum volume so the omelet is extra tall and fluffy. And since the eggs are separated, we can add fat (in the form of butter) to the yolks for increased tenderness and flavor. (Since fat prevents a foam from forming you can’t do this when whipping whole eggs.)

Another appeal of this approach is the nearly hands-off cooking. Once everything is added, the hot pan goes into the oven. The all-around heat encourages maximum puff and cooks the center through. And because the heat is coming from all directions, there’s no risk of the bottom overcooking.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

A Little Acid Helps the Whites

Whipped egg whites are mostly air and quickly revert to their natural liquid state. Cream of tartar—a dry acid used in many baking recipes, such as angel food cake—delays the formation of the foam, which ends up creating a stronger network of egg proteins surrounding the air bubbles in the foam. In short, the acid makes for a more stable egg foam and a lighter omelet. What is cream of tartar? It’s actually the white powder that forms on the inside of wine barrels. No need to know a winemaker. Cream of tartar is sold in the spice aisle of the supermarket.

Fold, Don’t Beat

Once the eggs are whipped, the yolks (first enriched with melted butter and seasoned with a little salt) are folded in. Use a rubber spatula—not a stand mixer—for this part of the recipe. You want the egg mixture to be uniform but you also don’t want to beat all the air out of the whipped whites.

Spread Evenly

The eggs for a regular omelet are simply poured into the hot pan. In this recipe, the egg mixture is quite stiff so keep that rubber spatula handy and spread the eggs to ensure even coverage.

Fill Early

Many recipes fill the nearly finished omelet and then fold it in half. But this method means the filling never really warms through or meshes with the eggs. Filling the omelet at the outset (right after the eggs are added to the pan) means that every bite contains cheese and vegetables and the whole thing is piping hot.

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An unlikely ingredient creates a stable foam when whipping egg whites. This fluffy omelet is filled before it goes into the oven—so just fold, divide, and serve.

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Fluffy Omelet

SERVES 2

RECIPE DETAILS

Timeline

  • 15 minutes to preheat oven and make filling
  • 5 minutes to whip egg whites and combine with yolks, butter, and salt
  • 5 minutes to heat skillet and layer ingredients into pan
  • 5 minutes to bake omelet

Essential Tools

  • 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet
  • Electric mixer (preferably stand mixer)
  • Rubber spatula

Substitutions & Variations

  • A teaspoon of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice can be used in place of the cream of tartar.
  • A handheld mixer or a whisk can be used in place of a stand mixer, although the timing will be different.
  • Other grated or shredded cheeses can be used in place of the Parmesan; choose something potent so a little goes a long way. Good choices include Pecorino, fontina, Gruyère, and sharp cheddar.
  • The filling recipes have been specifically designed for this omelet. That said, you can use one of the filling recipes as a template for available ingredients. Vegetables and meats should be precooked to drive off excess moisture and fat and chopped small so they don’t tear the omelet. And don’t overstuff the omelet—¾ cup of filling is plenty.

The pan used to cook the filling can be wiped clean and used to cook the omelet.

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 recipe filling (recipes follow)
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup)
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk egg yolks, melted butter, and salt together in bowl. Place egg whites in bowl of stand mixer and sprinkle cream of tartar over surface. Fit stand mixer with whisk and whip egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy, 2 to 2½ minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff peaks just start to form, 2 to 3 minutes. Using rubber spatula, fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites until no white streaks remain.
  2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat bottom of pan. When butter foams, quickly add egg mixture, spreading into even layer with spatula. Remove pan from heat and gently sprinkle filling and Parmesan evenly over top of omelet. Transfer to oven and cook until center of omelet springs back when lightly pressed, 4½ minutes for slightly wet omelet and 5 minutes for dry omelet.
  3. Run spatula around edges of omelet to loosen, shaking gently to release. Slide omelet onto cutting board and let stand for 30 seconds. Using spatula, fold omelet in half. Cut omelet in half crosswise and serve immediately.

ASPARAGUS AND SMOKED SALMON FILLING MAKES ¾ CUP

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced thin
  • 5 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut on bias into ¼-inch lengths
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ounce smoked salmon, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice

Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add shallot and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add asparagus, pinch salt, and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer asparagus mixture to bowl and stir in salmon and lemon juice.

MUSHROOM FILLING MAKES ¾ CUP

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced thin
  • 4 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and ⅛ teaspoon salt and season with pepper to taste. Cook until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl and stir in vinegar.

ARTICHOKE AND BACON FILLING MAKES ¾ CUP

  • 2 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 shallot, sliced thin
  • 5 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, patted dry, and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice

Cook bacon in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, 3 to 6 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel–lined plate. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from skillet. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add artichokes, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer artichoke mixture to bowl and stir in bacon and lemon juice.

A Better Way to Whip Egg Whites

The first step to accomplishing this task is separating the whites cleanly from the yolks. This is best done when the eggs are cold because the yolks are more taut and less likely to break. Even a speck of yolk can interfere with the whites’ ability to create a stable foam, so we employ a special method for separating the whites that allows the cook to discard an egg if the yolk breaks.

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1). For cleanest break (and fewest bits of shell), crack side of egg against flat surface, rather than edge of counter or side of mixing bowl.

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2). Use 3-bowl method to separate eggs. Separate egg over first bowl, letting white fall into bowl. Transfer yolk to second bowl. If white has no traces of yolk, pour it into third bowl. Repeat process with each egg.

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3). Whip egg whites and pinch cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy. (A slow start creates more volume and acidic cream of tartar promotes stability.)

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4). Increase speed to medium-high and continue beating, gradually adding sugar in sweet recipes. Continue to whip whites to soft peaks (whites will droop slightly from end of whisk) or stiff peaks (whites will stand tall from end of whisk). If whites begin to look curdled or separated, you have gone too far and must start over.

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