There are literally hundreds of ways to cook an egg. According to a famous saying, the number of pleats in a chef's toque (100) represents the number of ways he can cook an egg.
Eggs can be scrambled, fried, poached, baked, coddled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, even medium-boiled, as well as made into an omelet, frittata, quiche, meringue, soufflé, custard... the list
literally goes on and on.
Cooking eggs isn't always easy, however. The yolks can break when frying, you can overcook them when boiling or poaching, or your puffed-up soufflé can fall before it reaches the table. With
practice and the tips below, though, you can master any egg dish.
For me, mastering the fried egg is still a work in progress. Sometimes the yolks break; sometimes they don't. These fried egg tricks, however, can help:
- Place a small amount of melted butter on the bottom of the pan. The yolk will be less likely to break when flipped.
- Baste eggs with butter while they are cooking in the pan. Flipping will be easier and yolks less likely to be damaged with the spatula.
- Instead of flipping your eggs, cook them with steam by adding a small amount of water to the pan and covering with a lid until eggs are cooked to desired doneness.
No matter which technique you like, cook the eggs in butter over medium heat until the yolks are just thickened, but not hard (depending on how you like your eggs, of course).
Perfectly hard-cooked eggs
Boiling or hard-cooking eggs can be difficult because you can't see through the shell or determine the degree of doneness. You can better ensure your hard-cooked egg success, however, if you:
- Make sure the eggs are room temperature before cooking; this helps avoid cracks in the shell.
- Be careful when placing the eggs into the pot because, if an egg cracks before it begins to cook, you can't hard-cook it.
To hard-cook, place two to four room-temperature eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, and then immediately remove from the heat. Cover the pot with a lid and let sit
for 13 to 17 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs and your desired degree of doneness. Drain. Place in an ice bath to chill for use in cold dishes or briefly chill to use for warm dishes.
Soft- and medium-boiled eggs
If you want soft-boiled eggs, follow hard-cooked egg instructions but let the eggs sit for just 3 to 5 minutes. For medium-boiled eggs, let eggs sit a couple minutes longer. Keep in mind that
smaller eggs take less time to cook, while extra-large eggs take a couple minutes longer.
Perfectly poached eggs
Poaching eggs can be an interesting challenge. Of course, you want to keep them round, make sure the yolks don't crack, and prevent overcooking. Here's how:
Make sure the pan you use is deep enough so that the eggs don't stick to the bottom; about 3 or 4 inches should be sufficient. Bring water to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Always crack your
eggs into a small bowl or glass before adding them to the water. Cook eggs about 3 to 5 minutes, or until whites are fully cooked but yolks are just thickened. To keep the eggs together and in a
round shape, add about 1 tablespoon white vinegar to the water or use a round egg ring, round cookie cutter, or a poachpod. Last but not least, be sure to drain the eggs well before serving.
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