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You’re Doing It Wrong: Scrambled Eggs

Should you use white or brown eggs for scrambled eggs? It doesn’t matter.

Photo by PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images

You will find more conflicting information about scrambled eggs than about any other culinary entity. Among the tips you may receive:

Cook over medium-high heat. Cook over very low heat.

Melt the butter in the pan before you add the eggs. Add the butter to the eggs cold. Stir in more butter after you’ve cooked the eggs.

Beat as much air as possible into the eggs before adding them to the pan. Don’t even think about beating the eggs before you add them to the pan.


Stir constantly. Stir only every thirty seconds.

If you were to look at every scrambled egg recipe in the world, the only common threads would be that they contain eggs and involve some kind of stirring. Even the stovetop isn’t a given, thanks to the foolish phenomenon of “microwave scrambled eggs.”


In general, scrambled-egg pundits fall into two camps. Ignoring subtlety, I will dub these the European camp and the American camp. The European camp—exemplified by this delightful video of a chef with an outstanding French accent—holds that you should break eggs into a cold pan and scramble them over low heat (perhaps even over a double-boiler), stirring constantly. Taken to an extreme, European-style scrambled eggs are as smooth and silky as Ella Fitzgerald’s voice and are therefore, essentially, savory pudding. (Take note: Savory pudding is not necessarily a bad thing. After a long, hard day, savory pudding might be exactly what you want to eat for dinner. But savory pudding is not scrambled eggs.)


The American camp—so called because this is how you will find scrambled eggs cooked in most red-blooded American diners—maintains that eggs should be beaten thoroughly before added to a hot skillet, cooked over relatively high heat, and stirred relatively infrequently so as to allow large curds to form. At worst, American-style scrambled eggs have actually been allowed to brown in the skillet and resemble nothing so much as a very dry omelette torn to large shreds.


The right way to make scrambled eggs is a happy medium. (Call it the mid-Atlantic approach.) Everything about it is medium, in fact. You use a medium skillet. You cook the eggs over moderate heat. And rather than adding milk (too bland) or heavy cream (too rich), you add half-and-half (just right).


You do want to beat some air into the eggs before you add them to the skillet to give them a lighter texture. Some chefs swear that adding salt to eggs before cooking them changes their texture, but I’ve noticed no difference between eggs that were salted before cooking and those salted after. So go ahead and season before. Once the eggs are in the pan, you should stir them often, but not constantly—leaving them undisturbed for 20 seconds at a time will let curds form, as they should. Most importantly, take the skillet off the heat when the eggs are still slightly wet. They will continue to solidify in the ambient heat of the pan. If you wait until the eggs are fully cooked, they’ll be hard by the time you get them to the table.


Scrambled eggs done this way are the best of both worlds: moist but not soupy, fluffy but not dry, custard-like but with distinct, delicious curds. They should be served with your favorite bread, toasted and buttered. But that should go without saying, since if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that toast is mandatory with scrambled eggs.


Parmesan Scrambled Eggs
Yield: 2 to 3 servings
Time: 10 minutes

2 tablespoons butter
6 large eggs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons half-and-half
Salt and black pepper

1. Put the butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Break the eggs into a medium bowl, add the Parmesan and half-and-half, and season with salt and pepper. Beat vigorously for about 1 minute.

2. When the butter melts, add the egg mixture to the skillet. Cook for about 20 seconds, then stir gently. Continue to cook, stirring every 15 to 20 seconds, until the eggs are mostly thick and pale yellow but not fully cooked, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, still stirring gently; the eggs will continue to cook from the heat of the pan. Serve immediately.

Previously in You’re Doing It Wrong:
French Toast
Cinnamon Rolls