Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mastering Scrambled Eggs (whether for one or for a crowd)

This past December, a group of 20 of us went on a skiing trip to Killington, Vermont .  We rented out a cozy cabin in the mountains, hot tub and all.   My ultra-organized and efficient friends collected money from the group and bought cartons of eggs, shin ramen, cereal, bread and tons of snack food (first time I saw Dunkaroos since I was 15!) for our two day trip.

During the morning rush before hitting the slopes, try feeding 20 full grown adults at once.  One friend was in charge of frying the bacon, another was in charge of the peanut butter jelly sandwiches, and a last was in front of a pot cracking a dozen eggs at a time.

I peered over at the pot of miserable scrambled eggs, tempted to take over and try to salvage the wilted dry little pieces (with a good portion stuck to the bottom of the pot in a thick layer of burnt brown egg bits).  Alas, I was on a skiing trip, not a culinary tour... and the chefs of the morning probably didn’t need pressure about my pestering egg advice.

For hundred and hundreds of ordinary people like you and me, the challenge to prevent scrambled eggs from sticking to the bottom of the pan is a great one.  Everyone seems to have their own way of making scrambled eggs, but here are some personal tips from my own research and experimentation to help you improve those chunky yellow yummies.

Australian Dairy Company has one of the best egg sandwiches I've ever had.  
See below for more about it.
  • Use a heavy pan with a nonstick coating.  You want an even distribution of heat.
  • Use low heat.  Patience will pay off.
  • Warm the pan before adding a bit of oil, then the butter.  The oil will raise the temperature at which butter burns.  Using clarified butter will help immensely as well.  You don’t want your butter to burn.
  • Yes, there is a remarkable taste and texture difference between grade levels and between the standard eggs and free-range or organic eggs.  I'm not one of those organic health freaks, so I assure you there is an enormous difference when it comes to eggs.
  • Adding a tad of water to beaten eggs will already make your eggs come to life.  As they cook, the water turns to steam, causing them to puff.
  • If the eggs are cooking too fast, take the pan off the heat.  This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often this doesn’t occur to people.
  • Remove the eggs from the heat while still moist.  The hot pan will continue to cook the eggs and this will prevent overcooking.
  • Adding heavy cream or crème fraiche just as the eggs are almost finished cooking will turn your eggs into a delicious rich, creamy masterpiece.  Throw a bit of chopped chives over the top and look like a pro.

Mass production scrambled eggs:
making eggs for a crowd

Same rules as above!
Here’s what my friend should have done when she had that pot and dozens of eggs (not that she cares, I think.  And for the record, I appreciate her effort regardless!):

As stated above, she should have coated the heated pot with oil and then butter on a medium to low fire.  When the eggs were cooking too fast, she should have removed the pot from the heat… and NOT stir.  Let them sit.  When the eggs begin to set, then use a spatula to push the eggs from the bottom to the side.  The uncooked eggs will then flow to the newly empty space at the bottom to cook.  Repeat the process, pushing the cooked eggs to the side.  When the eggs are all almost done (still quite moist), remove the pot from the heat and begin dishing it out onto a plate.  This will prevent overcooking, since the heated pot will continue to cook the eggs even off the burner.  By the time they are out, they will be perfectly cooked.

For those who need a visual, Gordan Ramsey demonstrates how to prepare the "perfect scrambled eggs."  I personally make my scrambled eggs a tiny bit differently, but the fundamentals are still there.

Egg hunting in Hong Kong 

If you're an egg lover and find yourself in Hong Kong, I highly recommend a trip to Australian Dairy Company.  They have the best scrambled eggs and egg custard I've ever had here.  Australian Dairy Company has a big reputation for deplorable service even for a chachangteng, but I've personally had a great experience with the wait staff.  Non-native speakers of Cantonese, never fear!  There is now an English menu available too.  They good-naturedly poked fun at my measly Cantonese, but the service was swift and helpful.  Check out Geoff's review of Australian Dairy Company for more details about their back story.  Special thanks to Vince for recommending this spot to me two years ago.

Served hot or cold, these little bowls of custard deliciousness is made from almond milk and egg whites.

I certainly can't complain about the prices (HKD)

One of the secrets to their eggy goodness.

I was lucky to arrive during a quieter moment.  This chachangteng is usually packed to the brim.  Just take a look at how many wait staff there are!

Australian Dairy Company
47, Parkles Street
Jordan, Kowloon
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2730-1356


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