A couple of years ago, I stayed at a hotel nice enough that there was a cook in the breakfast line, making eggs to order. In fact, he was actually breaking individual eggs, then cooking them just for you. No hotel pans of scrambles here. Want an omelette? No problem. You could ask for anything at all that you wanted in them. I asked for salt.
You should have seen the commotion.
“Yes, would you please sprinkle a little salt into the eggs before you make the omelette?”
“I'm sorry. I don't have any salt,” he said, looking around. “Nope, none.” The breakfast setup was far from the hotel kitchen. He called over a co-worker. They assessed the several stations laden with pancakes, pastry, oatmeal, cold cereal. Among the many, many condiments and toppings — jams, syrups, fruit — there wasn't a grain of salt to be found.
That's right. They had laid out every imaginable breakfasty permutation of sugar and other simple carbohydrates. Tubs and platters and bowls full. (Plus plenty of juice, in case you needed to drink some sugar, as well.)
But no salt.
I guess they figured they shouldn't feed you something that might not be good for you.
You can add it at the table,” he suggested, while his colleague rushed about, calling various souls on his headphone in his attemp to find the elusive ingredient.
“It doesn't taste the same,” I replied. And it doesn't. Not at all.
Unsalted eggs that are salt at table just taste salty. Eggs cooked with salt do not taste salty. They just taste… right.
When you whisk salt in before cooking, it permeates the entire substance of the egg. The crystals break right down. You don't sense any taste of salt. But the egg tastes different. Savory. The flavor melts right into as you bite in.
It is so easy to make scrambled eggs delicious, if you just use a little salt. I'll tell you how, right after the story.
But on the other hand, when you salt an unsalted plate of cooked eggs, you can never get the flavor into the eggs. Those big crystals sit on the outside of your food, wherever they landed. You take a bite, and the mass of egg is bland and dull on your tongue. Little pricks of salt sting your tongue here and there as you chew, but they remain distinct from the egg itself.
Unsalted egg with salt added later is one of the saddest tastes I know.
Adding more salt at table won't help. You get that same blunt substrate, but now you also get a mouth full of salt.
Even if you try to mix in the salt by mashing and flipping your scrambled eggs with your fork, it doesn't make any difference. I've tried it. And tried it. Sadly, it doesn't do any good.
Eventually, they did manage to procure salt for my omelette. The enterprising co-worker just snagged a shaker from one of the tables. The cook made me a two-egg omelette. And it was delicious.
The best pan for learning to make perfect scrambled eggs is a cast iron frying pan. Carbon steel, also called French steel, is excellent as well. You can make fantastic eggs — maybe the best — in an uncoated stainless steel pan, but that's an advanced skill.
If your only pan has a nonstick coating, that'll do for now. But you need to get a real pan as soon as possible. A real pan is one you can use every day for hundreds of years, and it will continue to improve all that time. It won't have a layer of plastic obstructing the hot metal, effectively insulating your food so it can never properly contact a really hot surface.
Your pan needs to be 8″ to 12″ across.
Scramble no more than 2 eggs at a time. It's extremely difficult to get the right heat and speed into more eggs so that they cook right. I goof this up three out of four times that I try it.
Heat the pan adequately. This is critical. Critical! If the pan's not hot enough, the eggs will stick as they cook. They'll cook into an odd, soupy consistency. If it's too hot, the eggs will cook brown and tough.
Have your plate ready. You must remove the eggs from the pan the moment they're ready. Otherwise, you'll blow past the perfection point, and wind up with dried-out eggs.
I said this recipe is easy, and it is.
It's incredibly fast and simple: just three ingredients: egg, salt, and the butter to cook it in.
All that it requires is your attention.
- 1 or two eggs
- Salt — enough that if you lay it out on the palm of your hand, you can spread it into a solid layer about the diameter of a dime or a nickel. With my salt shaker, that's four or five shakes, respectively. Your salt shaker could be quite different.
- 1/2 to 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, etc. Or some mixture of these)
Put the butter in your frying pan (preferably cast iron)
Set the pan over medium flame or setting.
Break the eggs into a deep, narrow bowl — or any bowl, really. Add the salt.
Whisk the eggs vigorously and thoroughly. This should only take about 10 seconds.
Wait for the pan to heat up to the proper temperature. The butter will tell you when it's ready — it should be foamy and cheerful. To help you learn the language of butter, try this. Put a single drop of egg into the butter. It should cook up immediately, with a satisfying sizzle.
If you go past the proper temperature, you'll know it because your butter will turn brown, then start to smell offensive instead of inviting.
If this happens, do not proceed. You'll ruin your eggs. You need to dump out the butter and wipe clean the pan with a paper towel, or better yet, a rag that you keep for such purposes. Let the pan cool enough before you start again.
SAFETY WARNING! DO NOT run water into a hot pan. You can easily get an awful steam burn.
Get a spatula or turner ready in hand.
With your eggs beaten and salted, your pan hot, and your plate ready, slowly pour the eggs all over the surface of the pan. You'll know the temperature is just right if the eggs poufs up just a little at the instant you pour it in.
After just a few seconds, use your turner to push the eggs toward the center of the pan. Move the turner all around so you've pushed all the outer egg toward the inner.
Flip the eggs over and stir them around for a few seconds. Don't overcook them; don't let them get hard and dry.
Immediately transfer them to your plate.