Learn how to avoid the most common mistakes made when cooking eggs.
Before you fry, poach, scramble or bake with eggs, be sure you’re not making one of these common mistakes. While cooking eggs isn’t difficult, there are some basic things to keep in mind so you don’t ruin them.
Common Egg Cooking Mistakes You Might be Making
Not Using Fresh Eggs
Fresh really does matter when in comes to cooking eggs. Not only do fresh eggs just taste “fresher”, it’s especially important to use fresh eggs for hard-boiling, frying or poaching.
There’s a big difference between a “fresh” eggs that’s less than 2 or 3 weeks old – and an egg that’s several months old. Still perfectly good to eat, an old egg just isn’t as good.
Boiling Old Eggs
If you boil old eggs into which air has had time to seep into, you’ll end up with a dip in one end which definitely doesn’t make pretty hard-boiled or deviled eggs.
But if you’re having trouble peeling fresh eggs, you’re not alone. As an egg ages, moisture escapes and air enters through the pores in the eggshell. This pushes the membrane away from the shell making peeling easier.
Fresh eggs will peel perfectly if you steam them in a double boiler or colander over simmering water for 12 minutes, then put them into a bowl of ice water until they’re cool enough to handle.
Frying Old Eggs
Since egg whites thin out as an egg ages, a fried egg will spread out in the pan. The membrane holding the egg yolk together also thins as an egg ages, so you’re more likely to break the yolk of your fried egg.
Another tip: if you want crispy browned edges on your fried eggs, use oil in the pan, if you want a richer, creamier texture to your egg whites, use butter.
Poaching Old Eggs
Poached eggs won’t hold together nicely when they’re made with old eggs since the whites are thinner and runnier and less likely to form nicely around the yolk as they’re cooking.
Using the Wrong Pan
Eggs will turn out much better if the correct type or size of pan is used. For example, scrambling eggs in an enameled skillet, nonstick, teflon-free frying pan (or cast iron skillet using lots of oil or butter) ensures that they won’t stick.
A pot deep enough and large enough that the eggs don’t touch the bottom, have plenty of room and aren’t crowded is important when you’re poaching eggs.
Hard-boiled eggs need enough room in the colander or double boiler that they can sit in a single layer without touching so they don’t break.
Tarts and quiche are easier to remove when they’re baked in pans with removable bottoms.
Not Whisking Scrambled Eggs
Eggs should always be whisked well in a bowl until the yolks and whites are completely combined. then poured into the hot skillet.
Eggs cook so quickly as soon as the heat touches them, and failure to properly whisk your eggs will result in weird clumps of gelatinous whites throughout which are hardly appetizing.
Salting Eggs Too Early
And never salt your eggs until they’re done cooking. The salt will draw moisture out of your eggs, causing them to separate in the pan and get watery. So salt your eggs after plating them.
Cooking Eggs Too Quickly
As mentioned above, eggs cook unbelievably fast, and dry, overcooked eggs are really unappealing. So always cook your eggs slowly over low heat, moving scrambled eggs around with a wooden spoon or spatula as they cook to break up the large curds.
Fried eggs should also be cooked slowly, remembering that the whites cook faster than the yolk, so if you prefer a less runny yolk, try basting the yolk with the cooking oil or butter, or covering the pan.
When the eggs are just barely set and still wet looking, remove the pan from the heat. Plate them immediately to slow the cooking, although they will continue to set up a bit even once they’re plated.
Cracking Eggs on the Edge of the Bowl or Counter
Eggs should always be cracked on a flat surface like a cutting board or counter top. This prevents eggshell shards or even bacteria from possibly being pushed into the egg.
Never crack an egg on the sharp edge of the counter or the rim of a bowl. Always use a flat surface.
Cracking Eggs Directly into Batter
Unless you’re extremely confident, it’s good practice to first crack each egg into a small bowl before adding it to your batter.
That way you can check that the egg hasn’t gone bad and look for any pieces of eggshell that might need to be picked out – without ruining your entire bowl of batter.
Baking with Cold Eggs
Baking with Cold Eggs
Cold eggs should never be added to batters. Eggs should be allowed to come to room temperature before being added to cake or cookie batter or mayonnaise because cold eggs can cause the fats in the other ingredients to seize up and either curdle or become lumpy.
Cold egg whites are also more gelatinous and won’t mix into the other ingredients as well.
Separating Cold Eggs
However, eggs will separate more easily when they’re cold, so if you need to separate the yolks from the whites for a recipe, take your eggs out of the refrigerator, separate them and then let them warm to room temperature.
Usually about 30 minutes out on the counter is adequate to take the chill out of refrigerated eggs or they can be set in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.
Beating Cold Egg Whites
Cold egg whites also won’t beat as easily into nice peaks. So let your egg whites warm up before trying to beat them.
Not Cleaning Utensils before Beating Egg Whites
Speaking of beating egg whites, if there’s even a speck of grease or oil on the bowl, beater and other utensils being used to beat egg whites, that can cause them to fail to whip.
To be sure they’re sparkling clean, run half a lemon over the surface of the bowl and beater, or wet a paper towel with white vinegar and wipe off your utensils before adding your egg whites to remove any last trace of grease.
Eating Just the Whites
Egg white omelets became a fad among dieters years ago since they are a great source of protein. Most of the fat and cholesterol is contained in the yolk, but so are the majority of the nutrients.
By only eating the whites, you’re missing out on nutrients like calcium, choline, folate, iron, lutein, omega 3s and zinc and Vitamins A,B, D, E and K contained in an egg yolk. You’re also missing out on the great, rich taste of that yolk.
Tossing out Extra Yolks or Whites
Oftentimes a recipe will call for using either just the egg white or just the yolk and too many times the rest of the egg gets thrown away.
But both whites and yolks can be frozen for later use.
And some great uses for egg whites are egg wash on pie crust, meringues, macarons, souffles, foam on a whiskey sour or in angel food cake, while the yolks make delicious mayonnaise, tartar sauce, Caesar salad dressing or Hollandaise sauce.
Limiting Yourself to Chicken Eggs
Ducks, geese, quail and even turkeys lay eggs that can be used in cooking and baking.
Substituting different eggs for chicken eggs can give dishes more richness and a more earthy, “eggier” flavor.
Substituting for Chicken Eggs
Two duck eggs or one goose egg equals three chicken eggs.
For easy substitution, whisk a couple of eggs in a bowl, then measure out 3 tablespoons (or weigh out about 2 ounces) for each egg your recipe calls for.
All photos courtesy of Tina Rupp for The Fresh Egg Daily Cookbook
I hope these simple tips will elevate your egg cooking and baking game to new heights. For these and more tips, plus over 100 recipes using eggs in unexpected ways, grab a copy of my cookbook The Fresh Eggs Daily Cookbook.