Delicious, nutritious eggs: How to make perfect eggs from scrambled to fried to poached

March 17, 2021
Here, we see fried eggs on a baguette with ham for this article about how to cook eggs.
Fried eggs sunny side up on a French baguette with ham and arugula. However you like them, eggs are delicious and an excellent source of protein. Photo: Getty Images.

Given the popularity of high-protein diets, the egg is ideal eating — and not just hard-cooked after an Easter egg hunt. The albumin (or white) of an egg delivers close to six grams of protein. Because we tend to eat eggs in pairs, that’s a good amount of protein. And the yolk is no longer the cholesterol bogeyman that it once was; it’s got fat, sure, but “good fat,” plus a host of vitamins and minerals, so don’t shun it out of hand.

The old marketing slogan still holds: the egg is incredible.

Ode to Egg

By Bill St. John

O Egg, how I love you, and in your several ways.

 

In hollandaise and mayonnaise.
As frittata and crème anglaise.
Sign of spring,
And that Easter thing.

 

Se habla huevos, Egg.
Parlez croque monsieur.

 

We poach you and fry you,
Scramble and boil you.

 

Coddle you and stuff you,
O you devil you, Egg.

 

As sabayon or Benedict,
Custard or meringue.
In aioli and omelet,

 

You’re best
When set.

 

You’re edible, incredible,
Just as they say.

 

Do you mind the way you come to be,
Set softly in the hay?

Still, cooks find it difficult to prepare properly, or to their liking, what’s essentially a delicate foodstuff. Both Passover and Easter are egg-centric, so this is a good time to pass on some tips on how to cook eggs.

Scrambled eggs:

It doesn’t matter whether you desire big, fluffy or little, creamy curds, always begin scrambling eggs the same way. Crack up to six eggs into a bowl and add a half-teaspoon of kosher salt and two tablespoons of milk (2% is OK; whole is better; half and half is best).

(Always crack eggs on a solid surface (such as a cutting board or the kitchen counter. That prevents pieces of the shell from breaking into the uncooked egg. Cracking on the edge of a bowl heightens the risk of a small piece of the shell ending up in the mixing bowl.)

Vigorously whisk the mix until it is creamy and frothy, about a minute. You want the whites to be broken down. Now let the whisked eggs sit in the bowl for at least 15 minutes; the eggs will darken slightly, but the egg proteins will have been broken down by the salt.

As a result, they won’t cling so tightly together, so that, when over high or medium-high heat, they won’t squeeze out the egg’s water and cause the scrambled eggs to be dry or to “weep” their water.

For extra-creamy scrambled eggs, add a tablespoon of cold butter or two tablespoons heavy cream immediately after you introduce the eggs to the heated, buttered skillet.

Fried eggs:

I like cooking fried eggs the way my father did, using a trick that he learned from my mother who was from Europe and used a way to fry eggs common there. It avoids the need to flip the eggs and allows you to cook the eggs as much as you want: either “over easy” or “sunny side up” or “over medium.”

First, break the eggs that you’re going to cook into a bowl. Use a well-seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Heat equal parts of olive oil and clarified butter or ghee (about three tablespoons total) until the butter is melted. Slip the eggs into the oil and immediately tilt the pan so that the oil pools to one side.

Get more great recipes and tips from Bill St. John.

Using a large, heat-safe spoon, take the oil and spoon it over the eggs, the whites more than the yolks, for a minimum of 30-45 seconds. Then, keep spooning the oil over the eggs, shaking the skillet to keep the flats of the eggs from sticking, until you get the yolks the way that you want them: very runny, just runny, set a bit, or set well.

If cooked more than runny, the whites might be slightly crisp, especially at the edges, but that’s part of their deliciousness.

Poaching eggs:

in how to cook eggs, here is show how to drain the white between the fingers before poaching
Drain away the thin, watery white from an egg before poaching by letting the whites slip between your fingers. Photo by Bill St. John.

People shy away from cooking poached eggs because they think it’s both too messy and too tricky or difficult. Well, poaching is tricky, but it’s not that difficult.

Bring two to three quarts of water and two tablespoons kosher salt to a rolling boil in a large saucepan or high-rimmed frying pan. Lower the heat to the lowest possible flame. No need to add vinegar to the water, but don’t forget the salt.

a poached egg cooking in a pot.
In the simmering water, a poached egg should have little or no feathery wisps of white. Photo by Bill St. John.

Here’s the first trick: Before getting the egg into the hot water, you want to separate away the thin watery white that surrounds the thicker firmer white, that itself surrounds the yolk. That should result in a very pretty poached egg with a yolk that’s still a bit runny but safely heated through, sitting inside a well-set white, with no scraggly, feathery white that looks like lace curtains fluttering in the wind.

in how to cook eggs this perfect poached egg is laid on a piece of wheat toast.
The runny yolks of poached eggs make a delicious “sauce” for whatever they accompany. Photo by Bill St. John.

Do that by cracking the egg into a small bowl or ramekin, then either slipping it into your upturned closed hand, letting the thin white drip through your almost-closed fingers (careful: it takes only a couple of seconds) or placing the egg in a fine sieve and letting the thin white drip through. Slip the “cleaned” egg back into the small bowl or ramekin.

Then carefully lower the egg into the hot water, out over the edge of the small bowl or ramekin, gently swishing it or even turning it over with a slotted spoon or wire “spider,” slowly, so that the white sets but the yolk still runs, four to five minutes total.

Poached egg, done.

Frisée au lardons

I found this salad years ago at Le Vieux Bistro in Paris, now sadly shuttered after a long life. Whenever I make it for dinner parties at my home, two nice things happen: happy memories and many oohs and aahs. Serves 4.

Ingredients

4 large eggs

4 slices thick bacon, cut into 1/4-inch “matchsticks”

1 small clove garlic, peeled and crushed roughly

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 head frisée (young curly endive), washed well, dried and torn up

3 tablespoons salad oil (vegetable oil or a mix of vegetable and olive oils)

Directions

Lightly poach the eggs in slowly simmering water. When the eggs are set but not hard and still somewhat runny, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in clean, tepid water. Set aside.

In a separate pan, sauté the bacon pieces until they are crisp but not dried out. (If you wish, you may briefly blanch the bacon pieces beforehand in simmering water. This will remove some of the smokiness and salt.) While the fat is still hot, stir in the crushed garlic, mustard, vinegar, sugar and pepper. Stirring, let the sauce boil up quickly, then immediately remove from the heat. Set aside.

Place the frisée in a large salad bowl and toss until thoroughly coated with the salad oil. Add the reserved sauce and lardons, toss again well and distribute the salad onto 4 plates, making sure there are equal portions of bacon pieces. Place a poached egg atop each salad.

Note: Frisée used to be difficult to find, but not anymore. Be sure, though, not to buy regular, dark green curly endive or escarole. It is too rough for this salad. What you want are the young, yellow-white centers of young heads of curly endive, called “frisée” in French and by knowledgeable produce sellers.

Reach Bill St. John at billstjohn@gmail.com

About the author

For more than 40 years, Bill St. John’s specialties have been as varied as they are cultured. He writes and teaches about restaurants, wine, food & wine, the history of the cuisines of several countries (France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, and the USA), about religion and its nexus with food, culture, history, or philosophy, and on books, travel, food writing, op-ed, and language.

Bill has lent (and lends) his subject matter expertise to such outlets as The Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, The Chicago Tribune, 5280 Magazine, and for various entities such as food markets, wine shops, schools & hospitals, and, for its brief life, Microsoft’s sidewalk.com. In 2001 he was nominated for a James Beard Award in Journalism for his 12 years of writing for Wine & Spirits Magazine.

Bill's experience also includes teaching at Regis University and the University of Chicago and in classrooms of his own devising; working as on-air talent with Denver's KCNC-TV, where he scripted and presented a travel & lifestyle program called "Wine at 45"; a one-week stint as a Trappist monk; and offering his shoulder as a headrest for Julia Child for 20 minutes.

Bill has also visited 54 countries, 42 of the United States, and all 10 Canadian provinces.

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