30-Minute Scrambled Eggs: Failure

Let me start off by airing my disdain for the use of the word “fail” as a noun. Blame it on my B.A. in English, my being white, or my dislike of internet memes. Whatever the reason, it will always be a verb in my world. And these eggs, alas, were a failure.

I recently purchased the book Cooking for Geeks, and was very intrigued by their description of something called 30-Minute Scrambled Eggs. Basically, you cook eggs over the lowest possible heat while stirring constantly. This keeps the curds that develop during cooking very small, and eventually yields an unbelievably creamy egg. All you need are a few eggs, some milk or cream (no more than 1 tbsp per egg), salt, pepper, and whatever else you’d like to throw in. Sounds pretty delicious, right?

Last weekend, my usually sweet boyfriend decided he didn’t want to go to breakfast with me. Harumph. Since I had been craving eggs all morning, I decided to treat myself to these. Because I have a gas stove, I was concerned that the direct flame might make achieving a low, even heat difficult. To counteract this, I decided to set up a double boiler of sorts.

I brought the water in the bottom pan to the lowest possible simmer and mixed 3 eggs with a few splashes of half & half. I placed a 12-inch non-stick skillet on top of the pan of simmering water, added the egg mixture, and proceeded to stir constantly with a rubber spatula. Everything seemed to be going just fine for the first 15–20 minutes. But then things started to stick. And my 3 eggs began to look more like 2, then 1. By the time I was done, it seemed like most of my breakfast was stuck to the pan. (Note: Some of you may be confused because I said I used a rubber spatula above, but that’s clearly a wooden one below. The wooden one only came into place once the eggs started to stick, and I was desperately trying to scrape them up.)

So, what went wrong? First off, I think a smaller pan would have helped. I had way too much surface area for 3 eggs, which led to way too many places for eggs to stick to. Second, I think I cooked them for too long. You should remove scrambled eggs from heat when they look slightly underdone, because they will continue to cook even as you transfer them from the pan to your plate. But with the creamy consistency of these eggs, I had a hard time telling the difference between over and underdone, until it was too late. Third, I think this might be a dish best made for two, with more eggs.

So, what I ended up with was four bites of breakfast. But what I did eat was absolutely delicious. They are like no eggs you’ve ever tasted (unless, of course, you’ve had slow-cooked eggs before). They’re creamy, yummy eggyness. That might not sound that good, but trust me, it is. I will definitely give these another shot and attempt to correct my mistakes in the near future.

Comments

  1. says

    lol . . Oh no!!! At least a few of your bites were good. I make creamy eggs all the time, but I use about a tablespoon of butter to start. I also use a small stainless steel pot.

    I melt a tablespoon (or more if you like) of butter on medium low heat (about 4). In a bowl I beat three eggs well and add to the pot (usually as the butter is just starting to melt) and add a pinch of sea salt. Using a spatula, stir consistently so that eggs do not stick to the bottom of the pot. It takes several minutes, but you should get a nice creamy consistency. If you find it cooking to quickly, you can move the pot off and on the heat.

    Eggs are generally very creamy at this point and have a lovely consistency, but you can take it one step further and add some crem fraiche (1 tsp) and stir. Some fresh dill or chives is also an nice addition.

    • says

      Thanks Kat! I’m glad to know that a stainless steel pot works for you, because that 12-inch skillet is the smallest non-stick pan I have. Oooh, creme fraiche, be still my heart!

  2. says

    I tend to do my eggs in a very slow style and one of the things I learned too was you want as little surface area as possible. Also if you’re in search of really creamy eggs I use a bit of cream cheese- no water, no milk, just a bit of cream cheese. It’s amazing!

    And how’s that book? I study biology and chemistry and I want to learn more about the chemistry that goes on in cooking. Does that book cover things like that?

    • says

      Cream cheese sounds like a great idea! I was thinking goat cheese would also be a yummy addition.

      That book is wonderful! Definitely a must-have if you’re interested in the science behind cooking, baking, and food in general.

  3. Winnie says

    I use to work at an omelette station in a hotel for a while.

    Even if you do have a non-stick pan, the eggs tend to stick to the pan if your heat is too low.

    Which is why i think the double-boiling/too low heat cooking is probably the main cause of it.

    Perhaps you could insurance yourself with a little more butter.

  4. Michael says

    I like my scrambled eggs creamy. I whisk the eggs with some half-and-half, melt a good deal of butter on a high heat (careful not to let it burn of course :-)) and constantly push the eggs around the hot buttered pan. Only takes about 30-40 seconds for 1-2 eggs. Comes out perfect every time.

    • Nicholas says

      The goal here is not to get the creamy taste directly from things like butter and actual cream. If done right, the eggs themselves come out creamy because only some of the kinds of proteins in the eggs denature while the more robust proteins stay in an non-coagulated(still “liquid”) state. The butter is, as other people have stated, just to prevent excessive sticking. but some sticking will occurs regardless. Adding something cold and creamy at the end is different as it does not interact with the egg proteins during cooking.

  5. Denis Lynch says

    I think you may actually have had the heat too high.

    The creamy consistency you’re looking for is achieved somewhere around 160 degrees. The steam from simmering water will be something like 200 degrees, so it’s definitely possible to heat the eggs hotter than you want.

    When I do this I just use a small saucepan on the lowest heat on the gas stove, and if the eggs are starting to think about sticking on the bottom take the pan off the heat. As others have said, less surface area is better. Double boilers are for sissies :-)

    Adding cream cheese is good and easier, but not the same.

    You might want to try making the scrambled eggs sous vide. That doesn’t require the constant stirring etc. – just a constant temperature water bath (167 degrees).

    • says

      Thank you, Denis! I actually had better luck with this the second time around, just keeping the pan directly over very, very low heat on my gas stove. No sissy double boiler. :D

  6. says

    I agree with Denis Lynch on this one…

    The double boiler gave you confidence of temperature to be low.. but this is not the purpose a double boiler. The purpose of double boiler is to prevent fluctuation of temperature, however, the stable temperature of a double boiler no matter the heat is well beyond 149F, which is approximately where eggs start to solidify. Hot water that evaporate is 212F. The evaporated water however, is potentially much hotter than 212F. The goal here, is actually to try and keep the pan just above 149F.

    The pan you used in the picture seems thick, so this should help with preventing temperature spikes. Suggestions about using a pan with less surface are would help too given the same variables (heat), and quantity of eggs. However, the problem is clearly temperature control. A bit of observation, feel, and moving the pan on/off the heat takes care of this. Take a look at Gordon Ramsay’s video on eggs.

    Believe it or not, I get best results with a professional 2mm wok. The curvature drives the eggs to the lowest point so I only whisk a small area. The other areas of the pan are relatively cool, so I don’t have to worry about whisking too high up the sides. No I don’t use a wok cone. Combined with taking it on and off the heat… glorious. I’ve also found success with a heavy gauge stainless steel pan by putting the gas burner on low and making sure I move the pan on and off the flame to control the temperature. I do notice I have to whisk a much larger area which is a pain. When to take it off the heat? I do so whenever I feel like the whisk seems to stick a bit too much. All feel I guess.

    I’ve been making 30 minute eggs for awhile now and its a real treat. I start with 2 tabs of unsalted butter, melt and coat the pan all around, then add 2 eggs. I don’t bother with mixing anything prior to the pan as I’ll have plenty of time to mix in the pan. When I do larger batches, I always start with 2tbs of butter and 2 eggs, adding eggs and butter later on. Normally 20-25 minutes in, the eggs start to noticeably come together which is when I add the salt and whatever else. I notice that when I add salt at the end, no matter how much I incorporate the salt into the eggs, I don’t get that buttery rich flavor. Touch of dill to incorporate, some to garnish on top with a splash of pepper. Every one of my guests who has had my eggs that have asked for table-side butter for their toast has never used any butter for their toast!

    In-fact, I just made this yesterday while working from home. 6 eggs, 6tbs of butter. Complimented by a sweet onion sauteed for 30 minutes, and a small batch of cherry heirloom tomato salad with fig balsamic vinegar, truffle oil, and garlic salt. I asked my guests to take a piece of toast, a bit of onion, slab on some egg, and top with a bit of tomato salad. Deng.. I wish we had some bloody mary.

    LUXURIOUS YUMM…

    Control that temp.. good luck!

    • says

      Thank you so much for all of the tips, Bruce! Since this…incident, I’ve had a couple successful attempts, and they were actually with a small, heavy stainless steel pan, occasionally removed from the heat when it seemed like stuff was cooking to fast! I also really like the idea of a wok, and I see how that could work very well.

      Now I’m considering making breakfast for dinner!

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