In my many years in the food service business—from that of line cook in busy family style restaurants, burger joints, upper class steak and seafood establishments, to five star resorts—I have worked them all, including having my own restaurants.
The one thing many cooks and managers have in common in all commercial food establishments, from the bottom to the top in class, is the ability to correctly cook an egg or omelet. The first and most commonly made mistake by most is the temperature of the pan or grill being used to cook them. Whether it’s a college student working as a line cook in a family style restaurant or a seasoned chef in a country club or resort, the same misconception is made by most, which is the idea that the hotter the cooking surface the faster the egg will cook.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Eggs, whether scrambled, over easy, over hard or up, and omelets are no exception, all have to be cooked on a clean surface with a temperature no higher than two hundred fifty degrees using preferably stick margarine to keep them from sticking to the surface. I personally prefer using margarine to cook eggs because of the non-stick oils used in this type of margarine. Others, such as whipped and diet types of margarine, contain too much whey, water, and other liquids and actually make the egg stick more than if you used plane corn oil. Oils and margarines that contain lecithin are by far the best. Most aerosols such as PAM contain too many liquids and defeat their purpose; however, there are some great aerosols, you just have to check the contents to be sure.
Just place a clean sauté pan or any regular frying pan over a low flame or adjust your grill to two hundred fifty degrees, when the small slice of margarine is fully melted and no further bubbling is noted. Crack the egg and open the shell approximately two inches from the hot cooking surface. The contents should glide out perfectly without breaking the yolk. The hymen of the egg (the white part of the egg) will slowly turn from clear to white. At this time, it is ready to turn over if you desire over easy eggs. Once turned, let it cook for about twenty-five seconds or until bubbling occurs, then turn over and slide off pan into plate for perfect over easy eggs.
One can tell the difference between different types of cooked eggs by the firmness of the egg after cooking.
- Over easy is a cooked egg in which the hymen still hasn’t fully hardened around the yolk.
- Over medium is when the whites of the egg are fully hardened but the yolk is still liquid.
- Over hard is a cooked egg where the yolk was broken and all cooked to a hard state.
- Over well is a fully cooked egg with the yolk unbroken.
Poaching an egg takes some talent and requires more than dropping eggs into boiling water or wells over steam. To me, poached eggs are eggs prepared by dropping them in a mixture of approximately a quart of water along with a level teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of any kind of oil you may wish to use. The salt keeps the egg from losing its shape and the oil keeps it from sticking to the bottom of the pan as well as giving the finished product a gleam to it. The water must be at full boil before the egg is added otherwise it will atomize into a bunch of strings in the water.
Times are easy: approximately two and a half minutes for an average poached egg where the hymen is still a bit fluid and an additional minute down the line for hardness to about four minutes for solid set eggs.
Boiling is not much different either; it takes two tablespoons of salt and a tablespoon of vinegar for each half gallon of water used. Place the desired amount of eggs in a pan, usually about eight according to the size of the pan because they should not be crowded. Start them out in cold water and bring them to a boil this usually takes around six minutes from the start of the boiling process to a fully hardened egg. When finished, pour off the hot water and flush the eggs with cold water for about seven minutes. For even better results flush the eggs twice with cold water and fill the pan with ice and add water to the top and let stand for fifteen minutes.
At this point, the eggs should be cold and should peel when cracked without taking any part of the egg with the shell. The perfect way to peel an egg is to take it in your hand and gently crack the shell on a hard surface and roll the egg with the palm of your hand cracking the shell all around the egg. This will let you be able to remove the shell effortlessly.
If softer types of eggs are desired, use the same amount of water, salt, and vinegar but this time boil the water first and then place the eggs in the water. This will give you the times on certain desired types of boiled eggs.
- Two minutes for a slightly set egg.
- Three minutes for the whites to be almost fully cooked.
- Four minutes for all whites to be set as well as the yolk beginning to set around the edges.
- Five minutes or longer for completely hard.
Omelets should be treated the same as eggs in the sense that the cooking surface should be at two hundred fifty degrees and no higher. The same non-stick sprays or margarine should be used here as well.
Just have the cooking surface ready and hot as with the eggs. The eggs used with making an omelet should be broken and whipped into an overall yellow mixture either with a fork or wire whip. Pour the eggs into the pan or on to the hot grill. Keep agitating the pan by shaking it back and forth in small strokes to assure the egg mixture is hardening. On the grill when it begins to bubble and becomes less shiny around the edges, it is time to fold. Just fold the right and left sides of the omelet just shy of about a fourth of an inch then fold it from the top all the way to the bottom, cover steam for about six seconds for a perfect omelet.
In the pan, if you are not confident in flipping the omelet, just take a spatula and turn it over, let the liquid side cook for about sixty seconds, and then turn over again. By now it should be fully solidified.
In adding ingredients to omelets, it is always better to sauté them separately and fold them into the middle of the omelet just at the end of the cooking process rather than adding them into the broken eggs while cooking because this would result in sticking and discoloration of the omelet.
In cooking eggs and omelets it is always important to remember, never go over the two hundred fifty degree mark because it is then you will get what I call the brown paper bag effect in which the surface of the cooked product will have scorch marks. This will completely change the texture and flavor of the finished product. Happy cooking to all!