Once, on Top Chef, the QuickFire challenge was all about cooking eggs, and Padma admitted that the mention of eggs strikes fear in the hearts of even the most seasoned chefs.

I am a big fan of l'oeuf. I will admit that I probably eat two eggs a day, most days. My cholesterol is ridiculously low, so I have some leeway in the egg department. Plus, now that I got the d'betes, eggs (along with a few other proteins) will take on an even more prominent role in my life.

Cooking an egg perfectly is very tricky, in most cases. Boiling them is often a gamble - too much, you get a weirdly textured, grey yolk; too little, the yolk is underdone, which usually freaks people (although I'm willing to admit kinda prefer it that way). Frying them, over easy or medium, requires a steady hand and an eye for temperatures - and close attention to the egg and not the burning bacon or blackened toast under the broiler.

Last night, my friend Moxie admitted that in trying to make an omelet for her main squeeze the day before, she'd wound up with a pile of eggs and veggies, a la somewhat- scrambled eggs. And, what about scrambled eggs? Those suckers can get dry or rubbery or weird in a heartbeat.

Never fear. I'm here to help. I have been practicing my egg techniques and have come up with few mostly foolproof ways to cook a decent egg, even if you have poor technique or an old pan.

Rule #1: Low heat. Do not rush the egg.
Rule #2: Either use nonstick or be ready with the grease to non-stick your stainless pan. Rule #3: WATCH CLOSELY. Do not step away from the egg. I repeat: do not step away from the egg.

Eggceptional Hard Boiled Eggs:

I always start with eggs that are not the freshest. I know, I know. But very fresh eggs are notoriously hard to peel. If I am doing Easter eggs or deviled eggs, for example, I buy them about 5 days in advance and let them sit for a few days before I attempt to boil and peel them, because peeling a reluctant egg makes me want to cut myself.

Put your eggs in a saucepan and more than cover them with COLD water. I also usually add a tablespoon of vinegar and a dash of salt, which helps in the case that they crack. Put the lid on and bring them to a rolling boil, and keep boiling for about a minutes. Then turn off the heat and let them sit for about 10 to 12 minutes. Then drain off the water, and run cool water over them to stop them from further cooking. Peel and eat right away, or put them in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Eggcellent Eggs Over Easy:

While I do think I have finally mastered the art of flipping and cooking an egg over easy, I still prefer my mother's method of cooking what we called as kids "dip eggs". She bastes them, and they're perfect, and more fool proof than the flipping technique.

You need a pan with a lid, or at least a lid from another pan that sort of fits.

Adequately grease your pan. If you're doing butter, do it over low heat, and be patient while it melts. Warning: the butter will make it taste very good, but it will also cause browning that some people find disturbing. I usually use non-stick spray for a more "pure" looking egg. And, I don't have to wait for it to melt.

Turn your burner to medium-low, and crack your egg onto the prepared surface. It's okay if your skillet is not pre-heated. In fact, I prefer to start from cold. (I am alone in this theory, btw. Real chefs will tell you to start with a heated griddle or pan.) I have more control that way. My name is Megan and I am a control freak.

When the egg starts to look more white than translucent, but not cooked through, (about 3 minutes), sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of water over the top, and put the lid on the pan. Now wait. In about another minute, the egg will have formed its own "skin" over the top of the yolk and the whole thing will be perfect. If you like it over medium, just leave it a little longer and let the yolk continue to cook. I sometimes use chicken broth or even some melted butter as my basting liquid - for extra flavor. Salt and pepper.

Note: to convert your perfectly beautiful basted egg to a "Toad in the Hole", just cook the egg inside a lightly toasted piece of bread with the center cut out.

The Eggstravagant Omelet:

Of all the egg-cooking methods that make most peoples' palms sweat, the omelette is usually the most terrifying. I promise, though, that if you take a deep breath and follow a couple of simple steps, you'll impress your family and then you'll regret it because they'll stop taking you to Wheatfields for breakfast and insist you make eggs at home.

Step 1) Decide what you want in your omelet, and mise en place ahead of time. This is key. Have your veggies chopped, your bacon cooked, your ham diced before you start cooking the eggs.

Step 2) Crack your eggs into a bowl, and add 1 tablespoon of milk per egg. Salt and pepper to taste. I also sometimes add a dash of Cavendar's Greek Seasoning to my mix, for a little extra sumpthin'. Beat it up with a fork or whisk.

Step 3) Saute your meats and veggies. If you like your onions cooked through, be sure you do it here, and don't wait to let them cook inside your eggs. Get everything to its desired warmth and texture separate from the eggs. Simply place it into your omelet at the last minute.

Step 4) Here is where I depart from conventional wisdom. Most professional chefs would tell you to use a small frying pan for one omelet. I find this hard. I use the biggest skillet I have. I know they'll say it will spread out too much, but to that, I say "Bring it on!" I added that much milk to the egg mixture so it would be even runnier than usual. I want my egg base to be thin and large.

Step 5) Pour the whole egg mixture onto a pre-greased, medium high pre-heated skillet - the biggest one you have. If you have one of those cool stovetop griddles, this would be a great application, but I don't have one, because no one loves me enough to buy it for me. I try to make the shape sort of long and narrowish. Think plate-sized in length.

Step 6) The eggs will cook fast, so in about a minute (or less - keep your eyes on the prize) you can plop your fillings and cheese about 1/3 of the way in. If the eggs aren't quite done it's ideal. All the way done=dry. Use a flat spatula (I like a thin metal one for this) and flop the first third over the fillings. Then use your spatula to turn the whole thing one more time to make that third "wrap". If your pan is big enough and greasy enough, and your eggs thin enough, this should be easy peasy. It will be the most professional-looking omelet your friends have ever seen. Plop some shredded cheese and salsa or sour cream or both on top, salt again lightly, and serve.

Remember: eggs get cold fast. If you are cooking eggs for a number of people, insist that they eat as they come off the stove, regardless of manners and propriety. This is a no-waiting situation, your mother's sorority rules be damned.

Also, I don't want to hear any crying about your cholesterol, because eggs provide GOOD cholesterol, and aren't to be feared like they told us in the '80's. Eat up, buttercup!


lazz 13 years, 1 month ago

great column! you're right about eggs-perts disagreeing with you on a lot of points, but i'm a big believer in tom king's peerless kitchen advice: whatever works for you is what's best. but heck, i can't stand not to crack a coupla eggs me own self, so: i do think it's a bad (well, not bad as in evil, but as in perhaps not helpful) idea to use spray-on non-stick stuff in a cold pan; i'm pretty sure i read somewhere that the stuff doesn't work right unless it's applied to a pan that's at least warm, and then the spray oil also has to warm up before the food is added. i most definitely agree with the eggs-perts on using a small pan for omelets; i had always used a big one, as do you, but when i tried it this way i never looked back. also key: use that pan for eggs and only eggs and NEVER anything else. man, that was about the best advice i ever got, in the realm of eggs, anyways. I read a bunch of fancy magazine articles ranking the best damn egg pans ever, and then i went to target and bought a little pan for i think six bucks and love it love love it. i definitely dig the idea about luquidy omelets; in which case, however, forget the milk. go french style. just fork-whip a coupla eggs, add some pepper, dash of salt, maybe a tiny dash of garlic powder or whatever you dig, drop it in the pan, push it back and forth a few times, add some diced tomatoes ... oooh lala ... (ps: "the fork whips" would be a great name for a punk band, wouldn't it?) And --- i have been lately going for Baumann's eggs from their Douglas County farm, at the merc. Good heavens the difference between those eggs and the regular cheap stuff at the supermarket is just ... well, it's like the difference between fake food and real food ... truly. It is money well spent. to say nothing of supporting a local farming family.

So, now that I'm done with my preachifyin', can i ask a question of you and your faithful (and otherwise) readers? How 'bout some Eggs For Dinner ideas?? I've lately been dropping a fried egg on top of a little 50-cent microwave burrito ... make a delish, quick dinner. Anybody else??

amyglester 13 years, 1 month ago

  1. I must disagree with the boiling technique. One minute of rapid boiling plus 10-12 minutes of sitting equals over-done eggs. I pull them the minute they start the rapid boil and let them sit for 7 mins. Perfect every time, although I like my yolks bright yellow and the least bit soft.

  2. How did I not know that this is how Mother fried an egg? Never heard of the basting method before. Will try.

  3. I can't fry an egg without my Williams-Sonoma egg rings. Lube 'em up on that flat stove-top griddle that you must acquire, cook half-way, then flip. Perfect on top of biscuits or english muffins. Make your own Egg McMuffin! Or Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit!

  4. Check out PW's post regarding fried eggs, salsa, cheese and a flour tortilla from last week. Divine. Quick, everyday breakfast.

  5. Eggs are the perfect food.

Megan Green Stuke 13 years, 1 month ago

With the small pan, I'm only able to fold it in half. My way, I can fold it up into sort of a wrapped burrito. That's why you want your egg mixture really runny - so it will be thin enough to fold and fold again. I learned it from the short order breakfast cook at work, who makes me the best omelet, to order, every day. I'll never go back to the little pan!

that_will_do_pig 13 years, 1 month ago

I've been eating a lot of eggs lately, as part of the easiest answer to my gluten-free diet I'm struggling with, and this has become one of my favorite new dinners:

I put a fried egg or two on top of fried polenta cakes (or one big cake, as it were), and put both of these on top of a bed of crushed tomatoes, sauteed onions and garlic, and fresh basil (cooked together in a skillet to make a quick, chunky sauce). And occasionally, I throw in some mozzarella or gruyere cheese. I eat this for dinner at least once a week. I swear by it. Also, I have started buying garlic & basil polenta pre-cooked in a roll from the Merc. I just slice off pieces like you do from pre-made cookie dough rolls and fry 'em up in olive oil, or even in whatever you're frying your egg in.

My friends and I also use the fried polenta-egg combo in lieu of english muffins for eggs benedict with a good hollandaise sauce.

I'm getting very, very hungry now. Guess I know what i'll be making for dinner...

Megan Green Stuke 13 years, 1 month ago

Eggs for dinner (or breakfast, or lunch): Also a good diabetic fixin'...

From Ina Garten:

I've made these several times, with some variations. I don't use heavy cream, I use whatever herbs I have on hand, and I just toast some wheat bread. Maybe someday I'll make it "right" for company, but it's pretty amazing in my watered-down version.

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh garlic 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan 6 extra-large eggs 2 tablespoons heavy cream 1 tablespoon unsalted butter Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper Toasted French bread or brioche, for serving

Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat. Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and Parmesan and set aside. Carefully crack 3 eggs into each of 2 small bowls or teacups (you won't be baking them in these) without breaking the yolks. (It's very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking.) Place 2 individual gratin dishes on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon of cream and 1/2 tablespoon of butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Quickly, but carefully, pour 3 eggs into each gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place back under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are almost cooked. (Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren't cooking evenly.) The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread.

feeble 13 years, 1 month ago

when frying using butter, consider substituting half the butter for olive oil (or your preferred high smoke point oil). Clarifiy before adding oil for a better quality fry.

Best way to learn to fry an egg is making eggs in a nest. Delicious and absolutely terrible for you.

amyglester 13 years, 1 month ago

I forgot about Ina's fancy eggs! I bought gratin dishes just for that recipe. Love, love it, especially with fresh herbs from my garden. But then, I never met an egg I didn't like.

Kelly Cline 13 years, 1 month ago

Thank you SO much for the egg ideas. I have ducks in my backyard that have started to lay, so I'm getting at least 3 eggs per day. Funny thing with duck eggs (which, by the way, taste like a fresh chicken egg ;-), they don't seem to boil as well as chicken eggs. A layer of white stays attached to the shell when boiling. But from what I have just read, I'm going to try older eggs and let them sit a while longer. I boiled some the other day right outta the backyard. Didn't work so well. And I love boiled eggs. Gonna have to try to figure it out. Everyone has such different methods for boiling!

bloozman 13 years, 1 month ago

Cavenders is a great seasoning for eggs -- and pork chops or steaks. Good call!

How about shirred (baked) eggs. My mom's recipe: cupcake papers (not foil) in cupcake pans. Crack in an egg, unbroken yolk. Season as you like, then top with a few drops of milk or cream. Bake at 325 for 15 or so minutes, then add your favorite melting cheese until it melts. I have better luck removing the the finished eggs from the paper if I use nonstick spray before baking. I've also added some precook onions and peppers.

My own recipe improvement: Use big rounds of Canadian bacon or proscutto stuffed into the sprayed cupcake pan instead of cupcake papers. Pretty tasty.

momgreenreno 13 years, 1 month ago

Yes, I have "basted" an over-easy egg now and then because that's the way MY mother did it. It always worked best if you had fried bacon in the pan before doing the eggs. She also taught me to put a tight lid on the pan and the egg yolks would coat themselves. Either method is better for me--I always break the yolk if I try to turn them over. Me, I prefer the yolk hard and mixed with the white. The egg in the hole is fun--the kids love it. I used the pioneer woman's photos to help me the first time. White potato bread toasted in butter in the frying pan is the best. When grandpa is gone I usually fix myself an egg sandwich of some sort--I have the rings which makes for a great muffin sandwich. (He likes eggs, but no thank-you to a plain egg sandwich. Will try Ina's recipe very soon.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.