Eggs 101: Everything you need to know to make perfect eggs

Published: February 8, 2021

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Eggs are the perfect cottage food—they’re a must for lazy breakfasts and brunches (even though they only take minutes to cook!), they’re budget-friendly and they’re an essential ingredient for most fun baking projects, like cookies, loaves, and cakes. Below, you’ll find our primer for choosing and using your eggs in a way that makes them shine every time.

Storage: Most fridges don’t come with those fun little egg holders in the door anymore, because that’s not the ideal place to store them. The fridge door is not actually cold enough to properly store eggs for maximum freshness and is better reserved for salty condiments and juices and sodas that can withstand the temperature variation of that area of your fridge. If you have an older fridge, don’t use the egg holder for your eggs—store them deeper inside where they’ll stay nice and cold.

Freshness Bell Curve: Eggs aren’t always “good” or “bad”—they often fall in a middle ground of freshness that makes them better suited for different things. Super-fresh eggs are best for scrambling, poaching, soft boiling, and frying—the proteins are very tight and strong, so you’ll find they not only taste the best, they’re less liquidy and the yolks are less likely to break when you flip them them over in the pan.

As your eggs age, the proteins start to break down and the amount of air inside increases. Eggs that have been in the fridge for a couple of weeks make a much better choice for hard-cooked eggs that you plan to peel because the shells separate from the white more readily, without sticking and causing pits. They also hold onto air and whip up better for meringues and sponge cakes.

Get Cracking: Never crack an egg on the side of a bowl—this may drive bits of the shell into the egg. Instead, gently tap on a flat surface, like your counter, to create a little divot you can pierce with your thumbs without obliterating the shell.

Now let’s get cooking.

Scrambled: This seems to be first choice for picky egg-eaters, but many people overcook them. Scrambled eggs should be softly set and moist, not dry and rubbery. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add a little butter or neutral oil to the pan and heat until barely shimmery. Pour in your gently beaten eggs. Don’t season the eggs at this stage—salt will cause them to become rubbery if you add it too early. Cook, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula, until the eggs are thickened and starting to form large, soft curds, but some liquid remains in the pan. Remove from the heat and let stand for 1 minute to finish cooking before transferring to a plate. Season as desired.

Sunny-Side Up: This classic egg preparation is the most aesthetically pleasing, iconic way to enjoy an egg and the key is temperature control. Sunny-side up eggs like a low-and-slow approach. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add a little butter or neutral oil to the pan and heat until barely shimmery. Crack in your eggs but be sure not to crowd them unless you’re cooking two for the same plate, or the whites will run together and adhere. You’ll also want lots of room around each one to have a good entry point with your spatula to remove them from the pan. There should be no sizzling—if there is, turn down the heat. Cook for 4 minutes or until the whites are set, but yolks are still runny. If the top of the whites near the yolk are still a bit runny, tilt the pan to allow the oil to pool at the edge of the pan, then collect the hot oil with a spoon and baste it over the soft part of the whites to help them cook, avoiding the yolk. Swirl the pan gently to be sure the eggs slide around freely and gently remove them from the pan, using a plastic or silicone spatula, to your plate, leaving any excess fat behind. Season as desired.

Over-Easy: This is another classic method and the best choice for anyone who doesn’t like the idea of soft egg whites. This method can withstand a little more heat. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a little butter or neutral oil to the pan and heat until shimmery. Crack in your eggs without crowding them. Cook for 3 minutes until the whites are mostly set but the yolk and tops of the whites are still liquidy. Swirl the pan to ensure the eggs slide around freely. Using a plastic or silicone spatula, flip over; cook for 30 seconds. Flip again and slide onto your plate. Season as desired.
Tip: For over-medium or over-hard, increase cooking time on the yolk side to 45 to 60 seconds (gently press on the underside of the yolk to determine if it’s cooked to your liking) before flipping it back over.

Poached: This method is best for any type of Eggs Benedict and also for feeding large crowds because you can actually make them ahead. Bring at least 4 inches of water to a very gentle simmer in a wide saucepan or large deep skillet over medium-low heat. Add about 1 tbsp white vinegar (this helps the whites coagulate). Crack your eggs, one at a time, into a ramekin, then gently tip into the simmering water. Don’t worry about swirling the water to create a vortex—this only works if you’re cooking one egg. Set a timer for 3 minutes for a soft, runny yolk and perfectly set white. Using a slotted spoon, lift out eggs, dabbing the underside of the spoon on a towel to drain off any water before transferring to a plate. Season as desired.
Make ahead tip: If you’re making these ahead, reduce the cooking time to 2-1/2 minutes and remove eggs to a bowl of ice water. Hold in the cold water for up to 2 hours before you plan to eat. From there, you can transfer your almost-cooked eggs back into simmering water for 30 to 45 seconds to reheat before serving.

Boiled: Whether you like them runny, jammy, or hard-cooked, here’s how you make them. Pro-tip: Always start with boiling water for easiest peeling. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, lower your eggs, one at a time, gently into the boiling water. For soft-boiled and runny, set a timer for 6 minutes. For a jammy, medium-cooked yolk, set a timer for 8 minutes. For perfect hard-cooked eggs, remove from heat, cover the pot and let stand in the hot water for 12 minutes. Enjoy right away, or place under cold running water to stop the cooking and cool them off before peeling.
Tip: To peel a hard-cooked egg, gently tap, then roll across your work surface while gently pressing down to evenly break up the shell. Peel under cold running water.

 

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