What's All the Fuss About Scrambled Eggs?

When it comes to a basic breakfast, it seems we're either minimalists or maximalists

Thanks for visiting The Bittman Project, a place where food is everything (or pretty close).

Over the weekend, we’ve seen you talking about J. Kenji López-Alt’s recipe for how to make “The Best Scrambled Eggs” in the New York Times and the ensuing hoopla in the comments and beyond. Now, we love Kenji. But as a minimalist in practice, I’m thinking it’s a LOT of steps for scrambled eggs.

It’s not the first time the complicated way has won out: Back when Cook’s Illustrated first began a hundred years ago, there was a battle between Chris Kimball and me over whether we should do things the simplest, easiest way or whether we should test everything to death and come up with the “best” way. You can guess which side I was on (and I lost). And you know what? That’s OK. 

Back to eggs. . . I first learned how to make scrambled eggs on a griddle, watching the guy at the little restaurant on West 30th St., near where my father worked. Years later, a budding snob, I slavishly followed James Beard’s 40-minute slow-cooked scrambled eggs, which are as delicious as they are impractical.

And then years after that, Jean-Georges Vongerichten showed me the real secret: scrambled eggs in seconds. And I mean seconds.

Let’s say you want two eggs. OK, beat them lightly. Put them in a small-ish cold pan (but really you could do this on a griddle), with about a teaspoon of butter or a little more if you like (olive oil is great too). Turn the heat to high and stir occasionally. The butter will melt, and then you stir a little more. 

The instant the eggs begin to curdle, move the pan off the heat and continue to stir. The eggs may be perfectly creamy and not runny even then, or you may need to put them over the heat for another few seconds — again, as soon as they begin to curdle, get them off the heat.

With more eggs, you have to repeat the process two or three times — but not many. Just bear in mind that the eggs will continue to cook after you get them off the heat, so judge their doneness accordingly — as you’ll see in the video above.

That’s it. Don’t forget the salt. Tarragon is really nice also, as are a zillion other additions.


My cookbook guru, Kerri Conan, went ahead and made Kenji’s version for us. You can check out her go-round, below.


Scrambled Eggs, Mark’s Way

Time: Less than 5 minutes
Makes: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs

  • Salt

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter

Instructions

1. Crack the eggs on a flat, hard surface and open them into a bowl. Sprinkle with some salt and whisk until the yolks and whites are just combined.

2. Put the oil or butter in a cold medium skillet, preferably nonstick. Pour in the eggs and turn the heat to medium-high. Let the eggs cook for just a few seconds to heat up and begin to curdle, then stir frequently, scraping the sides of the pan.

3. As the eggs curdle, some parts may look like they’re drying out or cooking too fast; whenever you see that, remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring until the cooking slows down a bit. Then return the pan to the heat and continue cooking. The eggs are done when they’re creamy, soft, and still a bit runny; do not overcook or the eggs will become tough. (If you like them that way, go ahead.) Serve right away, sprinkled with more salt and some pepper if you like.

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