Many people think that the way to make scrambled eggs more creamy is to add cream, milk, or cheese. Well, adding cream, for example, will help deliver more tender eggs, as long as they are cooked on a gentle enough heat. If you add any liquid (and cream has some water, milk a lot more), and cook on too high a heat, you will end up, most likely, with watery, rather than creamy eggs. And there we have the true secret to creamy scrambled eggs: low heat. In fact, the French method of making scrambled eggs is more like making a custard, using a double boiler! The slower you cook your eggs, the more creamy they will be. So, when you want to produce creamy scrambled eggs, think low and slow.
But, you don’t have to treat eggs as if they are the Sistine Chapel and you are Michelangelo. Unless you are a culinary school graduate who thinks the world will end if you produce a less then perfect scrambled egg, the basic method is very simple. It’s scrambled eggs, not a soufflé. You can have great scrambled eggs without having to have expensive butter, creme fraiche, or a deal with a crossroads demon.
You can add cream or not add cream to your creamy scrambled eggs. If you are patient and use a gentle enough heat, you will need no cream, but the eggs will seem as if you added it. A little cream may help keep any less than tender curds from appearing. What you are going for is soft curds, rather than hard and lumpy ones, like we usually make for a quick breakfast.
There is no need to use a double boiler like you might use to make a custard, but use a heat that is as low as possible, and adjust it to your own timescale. The smoothness of the finished product depends on how much you stir the eggs during cooking. If you want larger, but still soft and tender curds, use a very low heat and stir only occasionally, to break up the layer of cooked eggs on the bottom of the pan, and allow uncooked eggs to flow underneath. If you want a very smooth product with small curds, stir continuously. This is the way my son likes them.
When beating the eggs, do not over-beat. If you beat the eggs too much, you will incorporate air into them. This will make a fluffy but dry scramble. Beat the eggs just until the yolks are thoroughly combined with the whites, but no more. For easier mixing, use room temperature eggs. If you keep your eggs chilled in the fridge (as most of us do), you can allow them to warm to room temperature before using. In general, a room temperature eggs make for better cooking, including for frying. If your eggs are cold and you need to warm them up in a hurry, you can soak them in warm (not hot) water. However, if your eggs are cold, don’t sweat it, your scramble will still be good. By the way, is it OK to store eggs at room temperature?
Does Adding Salt to Eggs in Advance Make Scrambled Eggs Tougher?
We sometimes hear the age-old advice that you should never add salt to your eggs before you scrambled them, because it will take the water out of the eggs, making a water scrambled, and make the curds hard and tough. This is an old-wives tale, for lack of a better way of putting it. According to Harold McGee 1 in On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, the addition of salt and acid to eggs do not toughen the product, but tenderizes it, while at the same time allowing them to thicken and coagulate at a lower temperature. So, according to McGee, adding salt (or acid) in advance, should mean that you eggs will coagulate quicker at a lower temperature (low temperature is a good thing) while still producing a more tender scrambled. The chemistry can be confusing and somewhat contradictory. Some of this confusion has to do with preference.
I also remember seeing some information from America’s Test Kitchen, or from one of their publications, about a test they performed on the salt issue, using a panel of tasters. According to their experiment, the tasters preferred the eggs to which the salt had been added prior to cooking and found that they had more tender curds. I cannot attest, however, to the soundness of their expirment or to how many tasters they employed.
If you want custardy eggs without distinct curds, you should not add salt before cooking. But if, like most Americans, you want the proteins in your eggs to aggregate and form (tender) curds, go ahead and add salt in advance. I may write more on this subject later.
Should You Not Pre-Beat the Eggs and Scramble Them “In the Pan?”
This is one of those “secrets” you will hear from time to time, even from such notables as Gorden Ramsey, who is as prone to dogmatic thinking based on no evidence as anybody. The idea is that in order to produce tender eggs, you must put the eggs into the heated pan whole, and then scramble them as they cook. If you “break down” the eggs before hand, this creates a tough, dry curd.
It is nonsense, and has no basis in reality. However, while it is true that you do not want to over-beat your eggs prior to scrambling, and incorporate air into them, the idea that you should not mix them at all makes it more likely you will produce watery eggs. Plus, it is just a pain. You cannot let the eggs sit for a bit, before scraping up the bottom layer, the timing of which determines the size of the curd you will get (which you may have a preference for), and you will be frantically trying to break up and “scramble” the eggs…this is the opposite of the slow, patient cooking we want. Keep in mind that Ramsay wants his eggs to be more like a custard. Even if you do as well, you can still beat your eggs before putting them in the pan.
It is easy to debunk this secret by simply pointing out that really good scrambled eggs are not that much different than a really good (French style) omelet. They both rely on the same method, except the scrambled eggs aren’t allowed to set into one big solid mass at any point. You wouldn’t make an omelet without pre-mixing the eggs, so why would you start scrambled eggs this way? The key, again, to creamy eggs is low heat and slow, patient cooking.
Basic Soft and Tender Scrambled Eggs Recipe
This basic technique should produce a nice velvety soft scramble. Adjust the technique to suit your taste. Remember that stirring, or the lack of it, is what determines the size of the curds. In this basic technique, we let the eggs set a bit, then stir gently and fold the eggs over to break up the curds. The, as the eggs thicken, we stir more quickly. Use a nonstick pan, if available, and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Think of this as if you are making a custard, but overcooking it!
3 to 4 room temperature eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper or other seasoning to taste
1 to 2 tbs butter
Beat the eggs in a bowl until the yolks and white are completely combined. Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over low heat until th butter starts foaming. Pour in the egg mixture. As the eggs set, gently push them around with a wooden spoon or spatula, folding the set eggs from the bottom over the unset eggs at the top. Stir the amount needed to product the size curds you like. As the eggs thicken more, stir more quickly to break up the larger curds and produce a smoother, creamier, scramble. As soon as the eggs are set, remove them from the heat and serve on a warm plate. Only cook until the eggs are all just set, as if you to continue to cook past this point, the residual heat, once you remove the eggs, will continue to firm them up until they are too hard.
Creamy eggs and bacon image © uckyo
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