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Scrambled eggs: A lost short-order art?

I've decided to give up on ordering scrambled eggs at restaurants, after being presented with a chopped-up omelette several times in a row in all manner of restaurants.

En-masse preparation seems to improve things, and at least at a buffet you can see what you're getting. Otherwise, the odds aren't good. Does anybody do it right anymore?

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  1. I ask for the eggs to be soft scrambled -- or Not Well Done, or both. Most of the time it works.

    1. Prune in NYC is the only place I have been that makes a scrambled egg properly. And I've looked. Because I love scrambled eggs.

      I have to tell you, the most interesting "interview" I've had for a culinary position involved being instructed to scramble an egg. I asked how she wanted it, and how fast, and she simply said, scramble me an egg. So I made it the way I like it.

      And I got the job.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Non Cognomina

        I agree that's great. I would also agree with the method: two key marks of good cooks and even chefs is how they handle eggs and how they handle fish. How much they let the cooking finish off heat. And whether they think through plating to get the correct temperature plate for the correct dish. All these things are classic ways to test and rate restaurants, btw.

      2. The best scrambled eggs are made on a pan set over a double boiler. When I had scrambled eggs at La Tour d'Argent and the Ritz in London, they were made that way. Of couse, this produces extremely creamy and luxurious scrambled eggs. Freshness of the eggs are important.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bearnaise

          But 30 minutes in double boiler wouldn't qualify as short order, would it?

        2. I can recall a time many years ago when was a patron in a New York diner the waitress yelled out to the short order cook, on my egg order "scrambled, loose", and it worked, nice soft, wet eggs.

          1. I find most upper-end hotel restaurants do well with scrambled eggs. ONE PICO at Shutters in Santa Monica, CA does well scrambling eggs and the Four Seasons in Mexcio City is surprsingly competent as well.

            1. Creamy and luxurious at the Ritz and La Tour? Man, that does sound good. On a typical road-trip morning, of course, I'm willing to settle for a token effort to stir the egg mixture during the cooking process. It's stunning how rare even that is.

              1. This is one of my pet peeves. My husband think I'm too picky about my scrambled eggs - I'm not. The problem is I know how they should be cooked and, inevitably, they are not cooked properly at all. Most places, their idea of scrambled is too pretty much fry the egg and maybe toss it around a couple of times for good luck. Uggh. And heavens forbid if I see a speck of brown on it - back it goes. I very specifically say that as I order it - NO brown, on the soft side then maybe I have half a chance of it coming out relatively edible.

                I agree that most upscale restaurants and hotel dining rooms do tend to be able to cook these correctly. You know where you can get the perfect scrambled egg? Bouchon in Las Vegas. To die for. I asked for their secret - they weren't telling but I never had scrambled eggs as perfect as theirs.


                2 Replies
                1. re: sivyaleah

                  If you look at Julia Child's recipe for scrambled eggs you can see why restaurants don't do them well - it's too labor-intensive. Most ordinary restaurant kitchens don't have the time to have a chef stand over a pan of eggs, gently heated, patiently stirring until the eggs are just barely set. No wonder only the top-end places can do them correctly.

                  1. re: sivyaleah

                    I wonder if they stir in a bit of butter? My English grannie made them this way and they were delicious, but not "buttery" tasting.

                  2. The French know how to scramble eggs. In France, omelettes are home food and scrambled eggs are restaurant food, because the latter take a lot more time (20+ minutes) and effort. Funny how it's the opposite in the US....

                    1. My husband has frequently said that, had I learned nothing else, all the money he spent on my culinary education would have been worth it because I really learned how to cook eggs. Scrambled eggs are simply not fast food, if done correctly. My teeth clench when I watch a grill cook break a couple of eggs in a bowl, scramble them with fork, pour the eggs out onto a griddle and leave 'em there, only touching once - to flip the mass and get it nice and brown. Like others here, I have learned to specify that I want "soft scrambled" or "loose." Even then, it's a miracle if you get something that doesn't resemble plastic lumps.

                      1. The hard part is plating them before they're cooked. It's like making scones. Ya gotta quit mixing before it's mixed.

                        1. Thank you for this post! I haven't ordered scrambled eggs in a restaurant since Lincoln was president for all the above-mentioned abominations that are passed off as "scrambled eggs", i.e. beaten eggs fried on a griddle. No matter how soft I order them, the eggs have always been a dry disappointment. Before reading these posts, it had never dawned on me to order scrambled egs at a fine dining establishment. But now, that will change. In addition to making them at home, I'll now take a chance on ordering them away from home. I'm grateful that you put a bee in my bonnet.

                          1. Btw, the best way to order fried eggs is deep-fried. That is, fried in a couple of inches (use a small pot) of very hot olive oil. That's what you get if you order fried eggs in Spain and sometimes France, IIRC. Think of it like a tastier fat-poached egg, with frilly crisp edges.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Karl S

                              That kind of fried egg is also standard at nasi lemak stalls in Singapore.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                That's how they're cooked in Filipino breakfasts, too -- the -silog combos (tapsilog, tosilog, tuyosilog, dasilog, longsilog, etc.)

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  The same was true in the country-side in England. Great method!

                                  1. re: Pat Hammond

                                    sounds almost like the southern & widwestern method called "Basted". pretty tasty and not hard at the edge of the whites.

                                  2. I love mornings when I have the time to slowly stir and scramble eggs with fresh unsalted butter. It can take a good half hour make them correctly but what a reward for the time and patience invested. I don't use a double boiler but just a very heavy pan over the lowest flame possible. Very fresh eggs are an absolute must and when they are done it is almost like a custard. A sprinkle of salt a little grinding of fresh pepper and it is heaven on a plate.

                                    The only time I have had scrambled egg perfection in a restaurant was as an amuse at The Wild boar in Nashville, TN. The creamy eggs were spooned back into a neatly trimmed eggshell on top of some foie gras and garnished with beluga caviar OMG!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Candy

                                      this is how my grannie made them, minus the pepper. Curdled a bit, not like smooth custard, but velvety, just the same. She stirred the eggs with a fork.

                                    2. Properly scrambled eggs are about the most perfect food there is; I like to spoon mine over dry toasted English muffins (putting butter on the muffins would defeat the point, a rare instance where more butter is not helpful; besides, it's already in the eggs!). Everyone who cares about cooking should learn how to do them. Even more than risotto, it's a very comforting, therapeutic technique of cooking, allowing you to be present in the moment. A favorite of mine on Friday nights after a week of work, especially in the winter. Particulary if I am preparing a pot of beans to bake overnight in a very slow oven (another great thing: to wake up on a cold winter morning with the house suffused with the smell of baked beans -- which is a great breakfast food after shovelling lots of snow). Then again, there are Fannie Farmer's yeast-raised waffles, too. Ah, the egg.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        I agree with you whole-heartedly. We're not big breakfast eaters usually but I always know that if my husband is feeling a bit down, the best way to pick him up is to offer him a plate of my scrambled eggs. He is always amazed at how I managed to get them so perfect each time. I just tell him it's a gift LOL. Either you have it or you don't :-) He's lucky I do.


                                      2. I learned this technique from Richard Olney's classic, "Simple French Food." A way-underrated book, IMO.

                                        He suggests rubbing a wooden spoon with raw garlic, and using the spoon to stir the eggs while in a double boiled. This gives a very nice garlic essence. He also rubs the inside of the pan with butter.

                                        I like to top mine with some wild mushrooms sauteed in yet more butter.

                                        1. Folks, please move to the Home Cooking board to continue on the digression of making perfect scrambled eggs at home. Here's a link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                          We don't have the ability to move posts into that thread, so if you've made a post here you'd like to have in that thread, please repost it. Thanks.

                                          1. After reading all these posts, I'm pretty sure I've NEVER had good scrambled eggs! What am I looking for in a plate of well-prepared scrambled eggs?

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: ricepad

                                              There really are two types of scrambled eggs. What people are referring to here is more of a classic style in which the eggs are cooked over low heat, stirred constantly, and take on the consistency of custard (see the cooking discussion on the home cooking board). It is very rare to find this style in restaurants. The more common style in the US is to put the eggs in a pan and stir. I love this method also, but it too is generally not done well in short-order restaurants. You still want the eggs to be light and fluffy and this is achieved by vigorous stiring at the beginning to aerate the eggs and create small curds, and then (most importantly) not over-cooking them.

                                              Alton Brown has a nice discussion about the latter style of scrambled eggs on his Good Eats show. You can read the transcript at goodeatsfanpage.com (look for the show about scrambled eggs) and you can always get the recipe (without the commentary) at foodtv.com.

                                              For classic discussions, see Julia Child et al "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," vol. 1 and Richard Olney "Simple French Food."

                                              Edited: I should also add that "Eggs and Cheese," part of the excellent Time-Life series "The Good Cook," edited by Olney, presents an excellent discussion of both methods.

                                              1. re: Darren72

                                                I normally make the fast version of scrambled eggs, sometimes even breaking the eggs directly into the pan, so the result has something of a marbled look (yellow and white). I just tried the slow method, including beating the eggs well before hand. Frankly I was a bit disappointed. The results were light and custardy (though with a bit of a fine grain), but tasted insubstantial compared to my usual product. Maybe because I didn't grow up on the 'real thing', I like my scrambled eggs to have some firmness (but not dry or rubbery). Maybe when I'm old and have lost all my teeth I'll develop at taste for the slow cooked version.:-)

                                                So while there may be a classic method, it is not necessarily the one that pleases everyone.


                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  Thanks for reporting back on your experiment.

                                                  I probably make the "fast version" 80 percent of the time, simply because I'm too lazy to do the slow version (and the slow version is a lot heavier, butterwise).

                                                  But I think I'll make some tomorrow morning...but which way!?

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    You can put me into the fast-and-streaky camp, too. Soft, custardy scrambled eggs are to me an amusing curiosity, nice enough and certainly impressive (especially when you know how much trouble they are to make that way), but not what I'm really wanting at breakfast. They shouldn't be tough, but I do want something I can eat with a fork...

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      Growing up, I was taught the correct way to make the fast version was indeed to break the eggs into the pan and begin scrambling in the pan with a fork, not to beat them ahead like an omelette.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Exactly, paulj. I beat my eggs vigorously with a dollop of milk, and a bit of salt and pepper. I melt butter in a skillet, pour in the eggs and cook over quite high heat, stir frequently but gently until cooked through--but not scorched!--and then plate. Perfection, IMO, and others who've sampled them agree.

                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                          This is an old thread, but timeless.

                                                          The other day I watched Jaques Pepin do scrambled eggs rapidly. He was still trying to get small soft curds, but did not take anything like 20 minutes. One trick he demonstrated was to pour a bit of the partially cooked egg into a bowl, and add that back into the pan when the rest was nearly done. This was an alternative to adding cream or butter at the end to keep things moist.

                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            Yes, Julia Child promoted that truc in The Way to Cook. But it's not the same result as the 20 minute method. (Another thing: never use milk in scrambled eggs - if you need to add something other than a solid fat, use water.)

                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                              I've always used milk and the results have been excellent. I see no reason to change.

                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                Yes, I would say that most of the time I make scrambled eggs I do it as you outline in your previous post: beat eggs vigorously with some milk, salt and pepper. Let it sit until butter melts in a cast iron pan heated on medium. Cook until just set and plate. I think they're great and guests always love them.

                                                                Only when I'm feeling particularly inspired will I break out the double boiler and cook them slow in the French method to get that luxuriant creamy quality.

                                                  2. "I've decided to give up on ordering scrambled eggs at restaurants..." Good idea, especially when they can be easily made at home. And better than in the vast majority of restaurants. Here's my post from another board, 'How do I make PERFECT scrambled eggs?' . Check it out.

                                                    Most American cooks treat eggs like a red headed stepchild. They over beat/work them...they use too much heat (when cooking them in a pan)...and or they cook them too long. Results...really bad scrambled eggs that are dry, rubbery, flavorless, or so puffy the curds remind you of popcorn. For great scrambled eggs you just need basicaly two ingredients...EGGS & BUTTER! Forget all those tips like adding milk...water...flour etc. etc. Eggs are one of the most delicate of foods and should be treated with tender loving care. I learned all this from Julia Child when I caught an episode from the series of Julia & Jacques [Pepin] Cooking At Home. It was reinforced when I found this article "The Technique: The Perfect Scramble. Most scramble eggs suck. These don't." n a 2003 edition of GQ magazine I was thumbing throught while waiting, where else, in the doctors office. Here goes...'Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs: Serves 2. 2 tablespoons butter 6 eggs. Salt and pepper. 1) In a nonstick pan over low heat, melt the butter. Then crack the eggs directly into the pan. Let them sit for about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper [I part from this and season when plated] and then with a rubber spatula, split the yolks. Every now and then, slowly message the eggs around the pan. Don't overdo it - you want to keep the whites white and the yolks yellow. If you want to add cheese or herbs, do it while the eggs are still wet. 2) The eggs are done when they are still tender but not overly runny - just this side of underdone. The should take about two minutes. Serve with your favorite/usual 'breakfast' meal sides.

                                                    1. As a child I was lucky enough to go to the officers club in fort Myers Va. With my parents every so often,it was there that i had my first great scrambled eggs. The chef was a philipeno man and had a great reputation ,he was kind enough to tell us how to do them, I was twelve I think and I'm sixty five now and every one that tries my eggs think I'm a great egg chef. Lo and slow and keep them moving is the deal and get them out of the pan just before their done.

                                                      1. The revolution in my egg-cooking arrived a while back in the shape of a tinned copper skillet. I need to use a flame-tamer disk on my gas stove when I want to do low and slow, but both scrambled eggs and omelets are coming out non-rubbery and unscorched. Magic pan! It was actually very cheap - $7 at an estate sale - but it needed tinning, which isn't cheap. Worth every penny, though.

                                                        1. Sorry, but there's no such thing as "proper" scrambled eggs. Just as there's no such thing as a "proper" steak. It's all in the eye of the diner. Period.

                                                          You can stamp your little feet & hold your breath until you turn blue, but the fact of the matter is that while some folks like runny or soft scrambled eggs, there's at least an equal amount of folks (myself included) who like them well-cooked & hard. This does NOT make us Troglodytes - we just like our eggs well-cooked.

                                                          And like all things food - EVERYTHING boils down to personal preference. Period.

                                                          There's no "proper" or "improper".

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Bacardi1

                                                            I agree with that. We all like what we like how we like it.

                                                            Personally I will NOT order scrambled eggs in a restaurant because I know of at least 2 restaurants locally that use "egg product" rather than whole egggs for making their scrambled eggs.
                                                            It's either a commercial version of Egg Beaters or the whole eggs that didn't survive the processing plant and the shells broke or cracked.

                                                            I know it's still technically *egg*, just not how much other stuff they add to the bucket to keep it shelf stable.

                                                            1. re: Sparklebright

                                                              What's the source for this 'the whole eggs that didn't survive the processing plant and the shells broke or cracked.'?

                                                              is the USDA factsheet on 'egg products'. It says 30% of the eggs are sold in some out-of-the-shell form.
                                                              "Shell eggs are processed into egg products by automated equipment that removes the shell eggs from flats, washes and sanitizes the shells, breaks the eggs and separates the whites and yolks. "

                                                              1. re: paulj

                                                                I'm pretty sure I saw it on Dirty Jobs when Mike Rowe worked at an egg farm and processing facility.
                                                                If not there then from the Nourishing Traditions book.

                                                                1. re: Sparklebright

                                                                  I can understand an egg producer culling out the cracked and broken eggs, and then making some use of them. To do otherwise would be wasteful. But eggs broken early in the handling are more likely to used for non-human consumption things, such as a animal feed. Using them for liquid egg products intended for human consumption increases the chances of contaminating a massive batch, even with pasteurization.

                                                          2. I make pretty good scrambled eggs in the microwave. Fluffy, moist, but you have to be VERY careful. In fact, I prefer them to the pan fry version.

                                                            1. I don't think that scrambled eggs were ever a "short-order art." At least the way I like them, soft with no brown, has never been something I could get at a regular diner/coffee shop/chain. Asking for them we usually means some rawness so I gave up ordering them 40 years ago. Fried seems the most reliable, though I'll go for poached if they have them.

                                                              1. Off the top I can think of three places to get properly scrambled, glossy, ALMOST-wet eggs: my kitchen, the Fremont Diner which I believe has since changed its' name, and Norm's Kopper Kettle in the 90's. But Norm did EVERYTHING about breakfast right, including his claim to fame: serving a side of frrrreeeeeee gravy to everyone who ordered anything. Those eggs, dipped in that peppery, sausagey gravy were a breakfast I'd walk over broken glass for.

                                                                1. I agree with paulj, Will Owen and also Bacardi1 (there is no single "best scrambled eggs").

                                                                  I have little sympathy for those who moan and groan about not getting "perfect" fluffy-creamy-NO BROWN WHATSOEVER scrambled eggs. I'll eat this if at a hotel or a buffet but if I am preparing them or "desiring" them I break them directly into a HOT pan w/ shimmering oil, break yolks & scramble with spatula (marbled effect), turn off heat when HALF done (eggs continue cooking), get my plate or bowl, transfer them to my plate/bowl --> marbled curds/lumps with a slight crispness at the edges, soft (even runny - I like the runnyness) inside. The tasty crisp bits in the pan are most definitely scraped off and added to the rest of the scrambled eggs. About a minute from start to finish (eggs-on-the-plate). YUM!