Saturday, February 28, 2009

How do I make good scrambled eggs?

Just about anybody will take on scrambled eggs in the morning. They are a very simple dish; but in the kitchen simplicity does not always translate to ease. So while anyone can scramble eggs, few can scramble them well. With a few steps that are “easy” one can fine-tune their breakfast into the perfect egg-sperience.
Before anything, and I can’t stress this enough, you have to find good eggs. Given that this dish has essentially one ingredient, quality is key. A better egg will make a world of difference in the final product. I happen to love Ronnybrook eggs if you can get them, otherwise go to your local farmers market. Past that you will have to weed your way through the barrage of marketing terms: Organic, Vegetarian, Free Range, Cageless etc. etc. They’re all labels that don’t add up to much in terms of taste. So just test to find your favorite egg.
Now that you have the right egg, let’s scramble! When you crack your eggs, use a flat surface like a cutting board, not the edge of a bowl, which has a tendency to push bits of shell into the egg. If you do find yourself chasing a piece of shell around the bowl, try using the shell of the egg to scoop it out. The fragment will not run from the shell like it does your finger.
Beating them is the next step, a whisk is best for this. As opposed to a fork, the whisk does a better job of working air into the eggs. Referencing Pythagoras: If air is what makes them fluffy and fluffy is what makes them yummy; then air is what makes them yummy. Using a brisk circular motion, whip the eggs until they are a solid yellow color and frothy bubbles cover the surface. You can use an electric mixer for this if you like, however it IS possible to over-whip the eggs, so be careful. Also do NOT add salt to this mixture. Salt prevents the protein bonds from forming that retain the air you just worked so hard to put in there.

Now comes the hot part, but not too hot. Low heat is the key to preparing good scrambled eggs. Put a medium non-stick* skillet over a small flame and allow the pan to warm. I like good butter for plain scrambled eggs, it compliments the richness of the yolks. Toss in a pat of butter, enough to barely coat the surface of the pan. If your butter sails across the pan leaving a wake of spattering grease, then your pan is too hot. The pat should simply relax and form its own Jacuzzi without browning.
Pour out the eggs into the pan, they should begin to solidify without popping and bubbling. Take a rubber spatula and, using constant motion, scoot it along the bottom of the pan, lifting the eggs and gently turning them over onto themselves. Breaking them up as you go. Salt and pepper them to your taste as they finish.

I prefer my eggs a little underdone, but if you like them a little more cooked it is important to keep in mind that you should remove them from the heat just before they’ve arrived at the desired temperature as they WILL continue to cook once they are out of the pan.
You might have seen this when you put perfect looking eggs on your plate and a minute later they have turned into a piece of rubber floating in a puddle. With the heating process, the protein molecules formed bonds to retain the water and air in our mix. If the eggs overcook those bonds can tighten up and squeeze out the water and air. This is why slow heat and careful finishing are essential.

That’s all yolks!

* I own one non-stick skillet and I only use it for eggs at low temperature. Poly(tetrafluoroethene) or Teflon, while stable at room temperature, begins to deteriorate at 392 F. Not a good thing considering it will actually kill your canary if it’s close by. If it begins to chip off, throw your pan away, it’s definitely not good to consume.
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