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Sunday, July 17, 2016

How to Scramble an Egg (or Two)

Blank, eggy stare

I owe today's hot tip not to my French cookbook but to my sister Deborah. We were having breakfast at a local restaurant, and I asked her how it was that restaurant scrambled eggs come out so soft and creamy, so unlike mine at home. She told me the eggs are only briefly and gently beaten, so that not a lot of air is incorporated. That made sense, so I decided to try it myself. I had inadvertently left my camera at the bookstore overnight so couldn’t document the attempt, but here’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

(1)        I chose a small pan and limited the trial to two eggs.
(2)        Before-pan scrambling – in a bowl – was accomplished with a fork.
(3)        When butter in the pan was melted, I turned down the heat and slid the eggs in.
(4)        I did not stir but watched the edges and gently folded the eggs over from outside to center when it was obvious that the edges were cooking.
(5)        Watching and folding were repeated until the eggs were no longer runny.

The result was pronounced, by He-Who-Adores-Being-Served, “Perfect eggs!”

A few days later (I kept forgetting), I looked in my French cookbook, fully prepared not to be surprised if there were no directions in there at all for scrambling eggs. The morning meal in Paris is generally café au lait and croissant, and I’ve seen French men and women add cigarettes to the classic Continental breakfast, never did I see anyone in France starting the day with eggs. When eggs are cooked in a French kitchen, they are generally baked or poached or hard-cooked or incorporated into a quiche, but none of these methods is applied to the breakfast table.

Surprise! I Know How to Cook, the English translation of Je sais cuisiner, does present a recipe for scrambled eggs. Sadly, however, I cannot recommend it. I don’t object to the addition of milk (and maybe I added a smidgen of milk to my eggs before they went in the pan; truly, I do not remember), but beating butter into them seems entirely unnecessary, and “stirring constantly for 12 minutes” sounds like terrible advice. Twelve minutes would cook eggs to death!

French cuisine holds pride of place in the world of cooking, but there are some things Americans do better: fresh, green spring asparagus are immeasurable more delicious than the fat, anemic white Continental objects, and while the French know sorbet, no one can argue that sorbet takes the place of real, creamy ice cream. Scrambled eggs? Faites vos oeufs, comme je les ai fait moi, à l’américaine.

Recreated for illustration


  1. So, scrambling eggs has little to do with scrambling and everything to do with folding in much the same way as on lets are made? Who would have guessed bad scrambled eggs were caused by a poor choice of words?

  2. My Chinese friends recommend chopsticks for mixing eggs, gentle, and no air introduced....

  3. The best scrambled eggs I ever ate were at "Ye Olde Stagecoach Inn" in Vermont. The chef/owner did not add any milk and he beat the death out of the eggs. I followed his instructions but was never able to reproduce his results. I shall try your method

  4. Linda, this whole word deal reminds me of "hard-boiled" eggs, which I start in cold water, bring to a boil, and then turn down and simmer gently. They are to be cooked until "hard" but not at a hard boil.

    I love the idea of chopsticks and will try that next time, M.

    Lynda, let me know how your eggs turn out. Were the Vermont innkeeper's eggs dry?