Editor’s Note: Cook Like a Chef is a feature designed to help you master cooking techniques that will give your homemade meals professional style and carefully crafted flavor. Each month, a chef/instructor from Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College will walk us through a skill or recipe. For more stories and videos, see bendbulletin.com/chef.
Scrambled eggs is one of the first foods many people learn to cook, but plenty of people never master perfect, fluffy, custardy scrambled eggs.
Food writer M.F.K. Fisher wrote, “Scrambled eggs have been made, and massacred, for as long as people knew about pots and pans, no doubt.”
Chef Thor Erickson of the Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College will teach us the right way to make scrambled eggs.
“My mantra is ‘simple ingredients cooked well.’ That’s the key to great cuisine, and this is one of the prime examples of that,” Erickson said.
Erickson said the most common mistakes people make with scrambled eggs are cooking them too quickly over medium or high heat, cooking them in butter and adding milk, cream or cheese to the egg mixture.
In addition to having the freshest possible eggs, the most important things you need to make great scrambled eggs are a nonstick pan and a heatproof spatula, Erickson said.
“I have a 6-inch, All-Clad nonstick pan at home that I only cook eggs in. I cook nothing else in it. At the Culinary Institute, when we’re teaching students to cook eggs, the pans are locked in a cabinet. Each one is layered in a fresh towel to protect its surface. I do that at home and hide the egg pan away. Egg cookery seems simple, but having the right equipment is so important,” Erickson said.
Start your scrambled eggs by cracking the eggs on the counter and pulling the shells apart with your hands, dropping the eggs into a glass or metal bowl.
“Don’t crack them on the lip of the bowl. You run the risk of a piece of shell getting into the eggs. You get a much cleaner break when you crack them on the counter,” Erickson said.
Using a fork or whisk, mix up the eggs for a minute or so until they’re light and fluffy. Chef Erickson uses a fork for four eggs and breaks out his whisk if he’s mixing up six eggs or more.
“After the eggs are whisked, I sprinkle in a little bit of kosher salt. I like the texture and flavor of it. Iodized table salt can have a tendency to turn eggs a little gray in color and can have a little metallic taste. Don’t add milk, cream or water to the eggs. You may think, ‘I’m going to stretch the amount,’ but you can’t. They’ll just get soupy, and if you add cream, you’re making custard, and you won’t get that classic scrambled breakfast egg,” he said.
Put your pan over low heat and warm it up for two or three minutes, and then add a little oil to the pan, even if it’s nonstick.
“A little bit of fat isn’t going to burn, and isn’t going to add flavor to the eggs. My favorite medium is olive oil, but coconut oil is a healthy oil, and avocado oil works well too. A strong misconception is that scrambling eggs with butter is best, but whole butter burns,” Erickson said.
The next step is to gently pour the eggs into the warmed pan.
“I do not want to hear a sizzle. Watch the eggs, and when you see them start to coagulate in the bottom of the pan, this is where the real art of scrambling comes in. You aren’t going to step away from the stove at this point. It’ll take about five minutes, which seems like a long time, but it’s well worth it,” Erickson said.
Leave the pan on the burner. Don’t jiggle it around; don’t allow the eggs to move up on the sides of the pan.
“I’m going to move my spatula, starting at 12 o’clock, and scrape the outside eggs to the middle, and then I’ll start at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock and so on, and do the same thing, working my way around the pan. Don’t flip the eggs over. I’ll keep doing that motion, maybe six to eight times in that five-minute period, and slowly, all of the eggs are going to be cooked. You will end up with this velvety mass of perfectly cooked eggs,” Erickson said.
Since everyone’s stovetop burner heat will vary, from gas to electric, keep in mind that at low heat, if your eggs are done in two minutes, you’re cooking them too fast.
“You want these scrambled eggs to look like custard: soft, no browning on them, just this wonderful puddinglike texture. They shouldn’t be hard, but they shouldn’t be runny either. They should be solid and smiling back at you!” Erickson said.
Shut off the heat, and let the eggs sit in the pan if you think they need a little more time. Don’t put on a lid; you don’t want steam to accumulate moisture in the pan.
“Now’s when the magic happens. Add some freshly chopped chives on top, maybe a little pat of great butter. A turn of black pepper is so pleasant, and a great piece of toast and a cup of coffee. You can make something so basic so wonderful,” Erickson said.
If you like cheese in your scrambled eggs, Erickson suggests putting it on top when they’re done cooking.
“Don’t put cheese in at the beginning or halfway through. Sprinkle a little on top, but don’t buy crap cheese. You’re putting it on this thing you’ve worked so hard on. You only need a sprinkling of goat cheese or aged Gruyere. A little grating on top with chives and black pepper,” he said.
Perfect scrambled eggs are a result of a little practice with the right technique. Cooked correctly, this simple food becomes an inexpensive meal that tastes like a gourmet treat.
“The egg itself is, I think, one of the most perfect foods because it comes in this wonderful little package, and it’s got everything you need in there: texture, flavor, nutrients.
“But it can be easily abused, and just like anything else, if you take good care of it, and treat it nicely, the rewards will come back to you tenfold,” Erickson said.
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