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Scrambled Eggs

THE FASTEST WAY TO MAKE A MEAL

Nothing cooks as quickly—and tastes so satisfying—as an egg. A proper dish of scrambled eggs should tumble out of the skillet into soft, creamy curds. But great scrambled eggs require finesse. In fact, scrambled eggs might just be the easiest dish everyone gets wrong. The first mistake is assuming that nature knows best.

Just because an egg contains a set ratio of whites to yolks doesn’t mean you should follow suit. Whites are rich in proteins (which help turn liquid eggs into a semisolid when cooked) as well as water, while yolks provide the fat and the flavor. We found that adding a couple extra yolks not only enriches the egg flavor, but also helps stave off overcooking, because the extra fat and emulsifiers in the yolks raise the coagulation temperature. For the same reason, we prefer half-and-half instead of the usual milk. More fat means less chance of overcooking the eggs—and richer flavor.

The right technique is just as important. Most novice cooks use too much heat and the eggs turn out tough and watery. Excess heat actually wrings moisture out of the eggs (much like a sponge), leaving tough curds in a sea of unappealing liquid.

That said, a blast of heat is essential to convert some of the moisture in the eggs to steam. (It’s the steam that makes scrambled eggs fluffy.) We recommend starting the eggs over medium-high heat and then turning the heat to low. If working on an electric stovetop, use a second burner (heated on low) to create scrambled eggs that will be a revelation, even to seasoned cooks.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

Crack Cleanly

There’s nothing worse than bits of shell in the finished dish. Don’t crack eggs on the rim of a bowl. A flat surface, such as the counter, ensures the cleanest break.

Scramble Thoroughly But Gently

Many cooks mistakenly think that “scrambled” refers to the cooking method. In fact, the eggs are scrambled (to combine the whites and yolks) before they go into the pan. Don’t bother with a whisk or mixer, which will overbeat the eggs; a fork is the simplest and best tool for the job.

Small Nonstick Pan + Butter

You could make scrambled eggs in a conventional pan (cooks did for many centuries), but nonstick makes it so much easier. A well-seasoned cast-iron pan can work and is the best alternative if you don’t use nonstick. For eight eggs, we use a 10-inch pan—crowding the eggs in the pan traps steam and ensures fluffy results. Use an 8-inch pan when cooking four eggs (or less). Whatever the pan material or size, don’t bother making scrambled eggs unless you’re willing to use butter.

The Right Fold

Despite what you might think, the eggs shouldn’t be stirred constantly while they cook. Instead, fold them with a rubber spatula into a tidy (and high) pile that traps steam. More steam means more volume. So, for light, tender eggs, be gentle and use a rubber spatula.

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Overbeating will make the eggs tough so combine the yolks and whites with a fork. A nonstick pan guarantees an easy release but you still need butter for flavor.

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Perfect Scrambled Eggs

SERVES 4

RECIPE DETAILS

Timeline

  • 5 minutes (including prep)

Essential Tools

  • 10-inch nonstick skillet
  • Fork
  • Heat-resistant rubber spatula

Substitutions & Variations

  • If using extra-large eggs, reduce the number of whole eggs to seven.
  • If using jumbo eggs, reduce the number of whole eggs to six.
  • If you don’t have half-and-half, substitute 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons milk plus 4 teaspoons heavy cream.
  • Most electric stovetops do not react quickly enough for the change in heat level (from medium-high to ow) as directed in the recipe; instead, preheat a second burner on low and slide the skillet onto the cooler burner at the appropriate time.
  • If you like, dress up these eggs by folding in 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, chives, basil, or cilantro, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill or tarragon, after reducing the heat to low.
  • Use the recipe with smoked salmon as a template for turning scrambled eggs into a hearty meal. Replace salmon with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, sautéed peppers, crisp bacon, or browned sausage rounds.

It’s important to follow visual cues, as skillet thickness will have an effect on cooking times. If using an electric stovetop, heat a second burner on low and slide the pan to the cooler burner for the final cooking time over low heat.

  • 8 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • ¼ cup half-and-half
  • Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Place 4 heatproof plates on rack.
  2. Beat eggs and yolks, half-and-half, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper with fork until thoroughly combined and mixture is pure yellow; do not overbeat.
  3. Melt butter in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (butter should not brown), swirling pan to coat. Add egg mixture and, using heat-resistant rubber spatula, constantly and firmly scrape along bottom and sides of skillet until eggs begin to clump and spatula leaves trail on bottom of skillet, 1½ to 2½ minutes. Reduce heat to low and gently but constantly fold eggs until clumped and slightly wet, 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately transfer eggs to warmed plates and season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

PERFECT SCRAMBLED EGGS FOR TWO

Use 4 large eggs plus 1 large yolk, 2 tablespoons half-and-half, ⅛ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper, and ½ tablespoon butter. Cook eggs in 8-inch skillet for 45 to 75 seconds over medium-high heat and then 30 to 60 seconds over low heat.

PERFECT SCRAMBLED EGGS FOR ONE

Use 2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk, 1 tablespoon half-and-half, pinch salt, pinch pepper, and ¼ tablespoon butter. Cook eggs in 8-inch skillet for 30 to 60 seconds over medium-high heat and then 30 to 60 seconds over low heat.

SMOKED SALMON SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH CHIVE BUTTER

Mash 3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter with 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives. Toast 4 (1-inch-thick) slices rustic white bread, then spread with 2 tablespoons chive butter. Cook eggs as directed, first melting remaining chive butter in pan. Immediately spoon eggs on top of buttered toasts, top with 3 ounces smoked salmon, and serve. Garnish with extra chives if desired.

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