Scrambled egg is often the first dish we learn how to make, yet for many it’s one of the hardest dishes to master. While everyone has a different ideal of what scrambled eggs should be like, I can’t help but smile when I’m served a plate of tender golden yellow curds that somehow manage to defy contradiction by being light and fluffy, yet rich and decadent.
Over the years, I’ve seen all kinds of tricks suggested to get fluffy scrambled eggs. Some rely on additives such as baking powder, while others tell you to whisk the eggs until they are foamy and full of air. While both these techniques will incorporate air, they work a little too well and make your scrambled eggs spongy rather than fluffy. I don’t know about you, but if I wanted to eat spongy eggs I’d go eat a sponge cake!
The trick to getting fluffy eggs isn’t about what you add, or how you beat them; it’s about how you cook them. When the water in eggs come in contact with a hot pan, it heats up and evaporates; this naturally creates tiny bubbles of steam in your egg. Voila! Fluffy eggs! Simple right? Well that’s how it works in theory at least.
In practice there’s a little more to it. The tiny air pockets formed during cooking are fragile and will burst if you don’t treat the eggs properly. Here’s what you need to know to make perfect scrambled eggs:
- Be gentle, if you manhandle your eggs by scrambling them vigorously, you burst the bubbles and the steam escapes. You want big smooth curds of egg that look more like chunky ice cream than granola. Scrambling eggs is really more about gently stirring than scrambling, but “gently stirred eggs” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
- Temperature also plays a part in whether your eggs turn out light and fluffy or dense and rubbery. When eggs cook, the proteins in the egg form a web of bonds. As the temperature goes up, the bonds tighten and the web becomes denser (think of it like a sweater shrinking in a dryer). A denser web means the eggs will be firmer, and the tighter knit also squeezes out water and air, making the curds dry and dense. That’s why it’s important to cook the eggs gently over a medium low heat so you’re not driving out all the moisture and air.
- Time is the last key component to making fluffy scrambled eggs and it goes hand in hand with the temperature. Cooking at a lower temperature allows you to cook the eggs more evenly, but the pan and eggs trap heat and will continue to cook the eggs after you’ve turned the heat off. That’s why it’s important to get the eggs out of the pan just a touch before you think they’re done. I like my eggs on the soft side, so I take them out of the pan when there is no runny liquid left, but the surface of the curds are still glistening and wet.
On adding cheese, many recipes tell you to grate the cheese and add it in with the eggs, but I like having veins of recognizable melted cheese intertwined with my scrambled eggs. That’s why I use a vegetable peeler to thinly slice the cheese and add it in when the eggs are nearly fully cooked.
You can make the sandwich pictured in the photos by cutting a croissant open, toasting it, then adding a layer of smoked salmon, your scrambled eggs, and some thinly sliced avocado. It’s decadent, but makes for a protein packed start to a day.
Other Perfect Eggs
- Put the eggs, cream and salt in a bowl and beat with a fork until the whites and yolks have just combined. It's okay if there are some bubbles on the surface but you don't want foam, so avoid using a whisk.
- Add the butter to a non-stick frying pan and heat over medium low heat and melt the butter evenly around the pan. You want the pan to be evenly heated, but you don't want it to be too hot. You can tell when the pan is ready when the butter starts to sizzle.
- Pour the egg mixture into the center of the pan, and let it spread out on its own. Don't stir it yet. You'll notice that as the bottom layer of egg cooks, it goes from translucent to opaque. When the bottom layer of egg has firmed up, it's time to stir. Use a heatproof silicone spatula, and gently gather up the curds, allowing the upper layer of uncooked egg to flow under the cooked egg.
- Wait again for the egg to start looking a little opaque again, then stir and add the cheese, this time continuing to stir. Remove the eggs from the pan just a bit before you feel like it's done. Personally I like my eggs on the soft side, so I take them out of the pan as soon as the cheese melts, the eggs are still glistening, and there is no runny egg left.