We probably all marveled at the creamy quality of the perfectly scrambled eggs and then decided that 15 minutes of constant stirring was something we’d only be willing to do for those occasions that call for the smoothest of breakfasts. .
My scrambled eggs on weekdays should be cooked in the time needed to toast a slice of bread. With that in mind, I asked myself: is it still possible to cook scrambled eggs as creamy and tender as you want, and more importantly, creamy and chewy, whether you prefer them tender, medium or even firmly scrambled?
Like many simple egg dishes, scrambled eggs are great for some intensive testing (and opinions).
First, a few basics: Eggs are mostly water, with a fair amount of protein and fat. When eggs are hot scrambled, their proteins – primarily ovalbumin and ovotransferrin – begin to denature and tangle, forming a spongy matrix that traps moisture. The hotter these proteins are and the more they are cooked, the more the matrix tightens, until the moisture begins to escape, like a wrung out sponge. So it seems the key to keeping eggs tender and moist is to manage the degree of constriction of these proteins.
The initial temperature of a pan can have a profound effect on the final texture of an egg. A hot pan will lead to the rapid creation of steam in the egg mixture, adding fluffiness and giving it a soufflé quality, while eggs opened in a cold pan will remain dense and creamy during cooking. I like my eggs somewhere in the middle: mostly creamy with a few lighter, softer curds interspersed. However, without an infrared thermometer, measuring the temperature of a pan is difficult.
One workaround I discovered is to preheat the pot over medium-high heat with a little water in it, swirling as the water evaporates. This water will draw energy from the surface of the pan until it evaporates completely, at which point I know the surface of the pan is just above 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the point of boiling water and an ideal temperature for scrambled eggs.
What about the salt? Some chefs insist that you don’t salt your eggs until they’re almost done, while others recommend you salt them while you beat them. Salt can break down some egg proteins. (Try beating the eggs with salt and letting them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. They will become considerably thinner and darker as a result of this breakdown.) In testing, I have found this ventilation to be beneficial: eggs salted before cooking will actually retain moisture better and remain softer than unsalted eggs. Salt the eggs and let them sit while you brew the coffee is good, but even salting just before cooking can help.
Fat, which is found in egg yolks, can also help with tenderness. Fat molecules can act a bit like bouncers that physically separate proteins that really want to get into a tangle. Back when I was a breakfast cook at No.9 Park in Boston, Jason Bond, who was the chef at the time, would ask me to add a dozen more egg yolks for every two dozen scrambled eggs, which gave me an intense orange color, incredibly rich eggs. (At home, I don’t have a problem because I rarely use spare egg whites.)
Heavy cream or even crème fraîche can have a similar function, but I prefer to use butter. At his Brookline, Mass., Cutty’s sandwich shop, my friend Charles Kelsey mixes raw eggs with butter in a powerful blender before scrambling and packing them into egg sandwiches. Its technique is adapted from chef Daniel Boulud, who, in a 2008 interview with Francis Lam, suggested incorporating small cubes of butter into the eggs when making a French omelet. On a recent phone call, Mr. Boulud told me that he learned the technique as a young cook in Lyon, France, and that it is commonly used in restaurants, where butter can be added. to manage the temperature of the eggs as they appear. together.
The technique works wonders for scrambled eggs. As the mixture heats up, most of it will start to curd as usual, but the eggs just around those butter cubes stay cooler, causing them to set more slowly. (At first it may even seem like the butter won’t melt before the eggs are cooked, but confidence is the key!) As the butter melts, it mixes with that softer egg to form a rich and buttery sauce that mixes and coats the firmer curd.
Yet, even with all of these techniques, there is always the risk of accidentally overcooking the eggs, over-tightening the curds and straining the humidity, and it can happen in seconds. Is there a way to mitigate this?
Kristen Miglore of Food52’s Genius Recipes directed me to a 2015 recipe, “Magic 15-Second Scrambled Eggs” from Mandy Lee’s Food Blog, Lady & Pups. During a Zoom call from Taiwan, Ms. Lee explained that she came to the process by accident, trying to feed her sick puppy something to eat. She had used a mixture of eggs, water and cornstarch. While cooking the mixture, she noticed how creamy it remained, even when the eggs were laying. From there, she experimented and found that a touch of cornstarch porridge added to her own scrambled eggs kept them creamy and tender, even when cooked quickly over high heat. (Nowadays, she recommends using potato or tapioca starch, which activate at a lower temperature and produce slightly creamier results than cornstarch.)
The technique is really brilliant, and the starchy porridge serves a dual purpose. Like fat, starch can physically inhibit protein binding. At the same time, the starch granules swell when heated with moisture, binding that moisture and preventing it from escaping. You can leave these eggs on the stovetop for an additional 30 seconds, and they still won’t get hard or dry out like scrambled eggs typically do.
Starch and eggs are not uncommon in China. Malaysian-Australian chef Adam Liaw recommends thickening juicy tomatoes with a starchy porridge before incorporating lightly scrambled eggs into classic Chinese tomato stir-fried eggs, giving the dish a silky, comforting texture. And, in testing the egg soup, I found that adding a cornstarch porridge to the eggs before beating them and pouring them into the hot broth will help keep the flowering curds more moist and tender. as they harden.
I contacted my friends Steph Li and Chris Thomas from the Chinese Cooking Demystified YouTube channel, who use a similar technique in their Cantonese scrambled egg recipe (based on a dish called “Whampoa Eggs” famous in Guangzhou but relatively unknown in the West. .). They explained that starch is commonly added to traditional youth egg recipes to keep fried omelets tender.
While this combination of starch and egg may be common in various Chinese preparations, it takes on new life when combined with Mr. Boulud’s cold cubed butter and my own modest evaporation method to measure appropriate pan temperature. Long shaking can be reserved for weekends, but now even my weekday morning eggs can be as velvety and tender as I would like.
Recipe: Extra creamy scrambled eggs