the perfect scrambled eggs

Picture it. Michigan. 1965. My father is 16 years old. (Can you tell I’ve been catching up on Golden Girls recently?)

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But I digress.

It is early in the morning. He and his friends had been up late the night before drinking on the beach, no doubt. They awake, ravenous. Eggs, they think. Perfect hangover food. But my grandmother is still asleep.

Not much later, my grandmother Liz pads down the stairs and into the kitchen where she sees a group of teenage boys standing over a hot stove with her Joy of Cooking laying open on the counter to the page which has a recipe for Scrambled Eggs. Because, yes. When you are a teenage boy, and you are forced to feed yourself, the proper technique can always be found in the Joy of Cooking.

I still have the infamous book in question – the very copy, in fact.

And, indeed, if you turn to the index, you will find an entry for EGGS, Scrambled, page 81.

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As you can see, you will also find an entry for EGGS, Scrambled with Pineapple. Which is a travesty more serious than that of the horrible PIZZA, with Pineapple.

And if you turn to page 81, you will indeed find a recipe, laid out in plain English, for scrambling the perfect egg.

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This particular copy of The Joy of Cooking was gifted to my grandmother in April of 1958. It was one of the earlier editions. As you can plainly see, common accoutrements included grated onion and toast spread with fish paste or liver sausage. I do not have a copy of the newer Joy of Cooking, but I can tell you as an avid scrambled egg eater, these ingredients are not necessary for perfect scrambled eggs.

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In fact, brace yourself because this goes against everything your mama taught you about scrambling eggs…you do not even need milk.

There is science behind this.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the addition of milk, cream or any other liquid for that matter, will actually make it more likely that your eggs will turn out dry. By thinning out the eggs, it’s easier to overcook them. Most importantly, the milk dilutes the taste of the eggs. It also screws with the texture, leaving the eggs slightly rubbery — and no one wants rubbery eggs. If you’re using good, farm fresh eggs, you don’t need anything except maybe a little salt and pepper to make them taste delicious. A little butter never hurt anyone, either. – Alison Spiegel, Huffington Post

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Ok so no milk. Just eggs. Good quality, fresh eggs are better. Break them into a large bowl. Now we must scramble them, yes? My dad used a fork. Maybe your mom used a whisk. According to Cooks Illustrated, which is like the greatest cooking magazine ever and is sort of the authority on this sort of thing, side to side whisking is the most effective for breaking down the proteins in the eggs.

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But my anecdotal evidence will do them one better: a blender. See, the more air we can whisk into those tough little protein packages, the fluffier they will be. Any blender will do. I use my Nutribullet. And I just turn that sucker on high until the eggs are light yellow in color, very frothy, and at least double in volume. If you don’t want to use a blender, an electric hand mixer or handheld emersion blender are the next best things. If you insist upon using a hand tool, use a whisk (not a fork), and whisk the crap out of them until they turn into one homogenous yellow mixture with no evident difference between whites and yolks and they are frothy. If your arm is sore, you did it right.

*If you are going to add cheese, I recommend adding it before you blend. That way it fully incorporates into the whipped eggs and doesn’t weigh down the eggs as it melts in the pan. If you do not plan to blend, but must add cheese, please make sure the cheese is in teeny tiny pieces (preferable shredded or grated) before whisking. Ideally you shouldn’t be able to see the cheese in the final product, but you will be able to taste it, trust me. Oh and if you have never tried it before, my favorite scrambled egg cheese is Gouda. I highly recommend it. And hey, guys…a little cheese goes a long way. So chill with the cheese.

**Cheeses (and perhaps herbs) are really the only appropriate addition to scrambled eggs before you cook them. If you want to add a bunch of other stuff (like veg and meat) I would either cook it separately and stir it into the finished eggs or just make an omelette. 

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So we have scrambled them. Now add some salt and pepper to taste. And, onto the cooking. Use a pan that is the right size. Too big and they will cook too fast. Too small and you’ll be standing at the stove until Obama is President again. I use an 8 inch skillet for 2-3 eggs…so move up or down from there.

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Everyone cooks scrambled eggs wrong. I love brown food. Brown usually means flavor. But scrambled eggs should stay sunshine yellow from the time they hit the pan until they hit your stomach. Overcooking scrambled eggs is the oldest faux pas in the cooking world, and you are probably guilty of it. Perhaps it was in the name of speed, perhaps just a lack of understanding of how these delicate beauties should be handled. I am going to tell you this one time: DO NOT COOK YOUR EGGS ABOVE MEDIUM HEAT EVER!

Here is the deal: we wants soft, buttery, fluffy eggs. High heat = rubbery tough eggs. Yuck.  It sort of depends on the strength of your stove. On a gas stove, I recommend the lowest heat setting possible. On an electric stove you may need to bump it up to medium low.

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So melt some butter (yes butter…nothing else) in the pan and pour in the eggs. Then you exercise patience and stir constantly (or at least frequently). This is not the time to go to the bathroom or press your coffee or lay down for a quick nap. You are on duty. It is now your sole purpose for the next 5-15 minutes (depending on how many eggs you are cooking and how well done you like them) to watch those damn eggs like a hawk (or perhaps, I should say, like a mama chicken).

Which brings me to my next point Put the “Turning Spatula” away. That’s the one that looks like this:

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That is for pulling cookies off a hot sheet pan or cooking a burger or a FRIED egg in a skillet. It is NOT for SCRAMBLED eggs.

Instead, please use a wooden or silicone spoon or a rubber spatula like this one:

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And stir. I cannot stress this enough. Do not wait until the entire bottom side cooks and then flip…no no no. Stir. Even if they don’t seem to be cooking. Just stir and wait. They will get there.

Everyone has a different opinion on how well scrambled eggs should be cooked. I am not a fan of wet eggs. So keep cooking them low and slow until they are as well done as you would like them. If you like them well done, stop cooking them AS SOON AS THEY ARE NO LONGER WET LOOKING. Do not leave them in the pan any longer, or you will end up with hard rubbery overcooked eggs which is not good eats.

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For the finisher, my suggestion is one more pat of butter stirred into the cooked eggs before you serve them. Butter and eggs are the most perfect combination. Perhaps more perfect than bread and butter. They give the eggs a richness fit for the Queen of England, and a little goes a long way.

So that is it. Eggs, salt pepper. Blend. Butter. Cook on low heat. Stir. More butter. Serve. Perfection.

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