How to Cook Eggs



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Eggs are one of the world's most versatile foods. They can be prepared in many ways -- from simple scrambled eggs to an elegant omelet. They provide an inexpensive and easy-to-prepare source of protein. In addition, eggs perform several important functions in cooking and baking.

Dairy items, such as butter, milk, cheese, and cream, are also essential parts of the American diet. Milk is a popular and nutritious beverage obtained from mammals, usually cows in the United States. It's used for more than just drinking. Cream is the thick part of milk that contains a rich concentration of butterfat. Butter is made from cream and is a primary element in baking. Cheese comes in all different forms and also is used in a number of recipes.

In this article, we'll discuss the wide variety of ways to prepare eggs. Let's start by learning the basics, such as what to look for when buying eggs, in the next section.

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Egg Recipes: Who knew there were so many different ways to prepare eggs? You'll find some delicious varieties on our Egg Recipes page.
  • Breakfast Recipes: Start the morning off right with these scrumptious breakfast options.

Preparing Eggs

Is there any other single food more versatile than the egg? Eggs are simple and economical, yet elegant, and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Eggs can be cooked in their own shell, fried in sizzling butter, or poached in a flavorful liquid. You can easily prepare eggs for one or for a crowd.

Basic egg preparation is essential information for any cook, so we have compiled some fundamental information on the amazing egg.

Buying and Storing Eggs

Eggs are sold by grade and size, but neither one is a measure of freshness.

The three grade classifications are: AA, A, and B. The grade is based on the thickness of the white, the firmness of the yolk, and the size of the interior air pocket. High-grade eggs (AA) have firm, compact, rounded yolks with thick whites. The color of the egg shell (white or brown) is determined by the breed of the chicken and does not affect flavor, quality, nutrients, or cooking characteristics of the egg.

There are six size classifications for eggs:

Size Description
Jumbo at least 30 ounces per dozen
Extra-Large at least 27 ounces per dozen
Large at least 24 ounces per dozen
Medium at least 21 ounces per dozen
Small
at least 18 ounces per dozen
Peewee
at least 15 ounces per dozen

Size classification is determined by the minimum weight allowed per dozen. Most recipes that call for eggs were developed using large eggs. Unless otherwise specified in the recipe, always use large eggs.

Select clean, unbroken eggs from refrigerated cases. Always puchase eggs as fresh as possible. The USDA requires that egg cartons display the packing date, which is indicated by a number representing the day of the year. For example, January 1 is day 1 and December 31 is day 365.  An expiration date (month and day) may also be displayed. This is the last sale date and must not exceed 30 days after the packing date.

Refrigerate eggs immediately after purchasing and store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator, in their original package, with the pointed ends facing down. Don't store eggs in refrigerator bins or open containers, as eggshells are porous and can easily absorb odors and bacteria from other foods.

Egg substitutes are made almost entirely with egg whites (about 80 percent), plus artificial color and stabilizers. With no egg yolks, egg substitutes don't behave the same way as eggs do in baking -- at the minimum, cookies come out drier using egg substitutes, but there may be other differences as well.

Knowing how to separate an egg will come in handy when cooking and baking. Learn more on the next page.

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Egg Recipes: Who knew there were so many different ways to prepare eggs? You'll find some delicious varieties on our Egg Recipes page.
  • Breakfast Recipes: Start the morning off right with these scrumptious breakfast options.

Separating an Egg

Separating an egg divides the yolk and the egg white. This is a common practice used in cooking and baking.
  1. Gently tap egg in center against a hard surface, such as the side of bowl.

  2. Holding shell half in each hand, gently transfer yolk back and forth between the 2 shell halves. Allow the white to drip down between the 2 halves into a small bowl.

    Transfer the yolk between the two shell halves when separating an egg.
    Transfer the yolk between
    the two shell halves.
  3. When all the white has dripped into bowl, place yolk in a second bowl.
Beating egg whites is another handy technique to master. Find tips in the next section.

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Egg Recipes: Who knew there were so many different ways to prepare eggs? You'll find some delicious varieties on our Egg Recipes page.
  • Breakfast Recipes: Start the morning off right with these scrumptious breakfast options.

Beating Egg Whites

Egg whites are often beaten to produce stiff peaks, such as for meringues. The tips below will help you whip whites properly.
  1. For best results, use a copper, stainless-steel, or glass bowl. Check to make sure bowl and beaters are completely clean and dry. (The smallest trace of yolk, water, or fat can prevent the whites from obtaining maximum volume.)

  2. Beat the whites slowly until they are foamy, and then increase the speed. (If using egg whites for a savory recipe, add a pinch of salt and cream of tartar at this point to help stabilize them.) Do not overbeat or they will become dry and clump together.

    Beat egg whites until they foam.
    Beat egg whites until they foam.
  3. If the recipe instructs you to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, you can test them by lifting the beaters straight up from the egg whites. Peaks should remain on top of the egg whites, and when the bowl is tilted, the mixture should not slide around.

    Mixture should not move when tilted when beating egg whites.
    Mixture should not slide
    around when tilted.
  4. If adding to another mixture, immediately fold beaten egg whites gently into the mixture so volume is not lost; never beat or stir.
Tip: Eggs separate more easily when cold, but egg whites reach their fullest volume if allowed to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before beating. Plan ahead.

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Egg Recipes: Who knew there were so many different ways to prepare eggs? You'll find some delicious varieties on our Egg Recipes page.
  • Breakfast Recipes: Start the morning off right with these scrumptious breakfast options.

How to Make Hard-Boiled Eggs

One of the first steps to mastering egg cookery is learning how to hard boil an egg. The tips below should help.
  1. Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the eggs by 1 inch.

    Cover eggs with cold water when hard cooking eggs.
    Cover eggs with cold
    water in saucepan.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat. Let stand 15 minutes.

  3. Immediately run cold water over the eggs or place them in ice water until cooled.

  4. Peel eggs by tapping all around the shell with a table knife to form a network of cracks. Peel shell away under cold running water.

    Peel shell away under cold running water when hard-cooking eggs.
    Peel shell away under
    cold running water.
Scrambled eggs are a favorite among many. Learn this cooking method on the next page.

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Egg Recipes: Who knew there were so many different ways to prepare eggs? You'll find some delicious varieties on our Egg Recipes page.
  • Breakfast Recipes: Start the morning off right with these scrumptious breakfast options.

How to Make Scrambled Eggs

When preparing scrambled eggs, it's important to keep in mind that too much heat will result in tough, rubbery eggs. Read the following tips for more guidance.
  1. Combine 2 eggs; 2 tablespoons milk, cream, or water; salt and black pepper to taste in a small bowl. Beat with a fork or wire whisk until completely blended.

  2. Heat 1 teaspoon butter or margarine in a 7- to 8-inch omelet pan or skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Pour in the egg mixture.

  3. As the mixture begins to set, gently stir it with a wooden spoon or spatula, lifting the cooked portions and letting the uncooked egg flow underneath. Cook until the eggs are just set, but still moist-looking. Do not stir the eggs constantly.
With the right ingredients, an omelet can be a meal all by itself. Learn omelet cooking techniques on the next page.

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Egg Recipes: Who knew there were so many different ways to prepare eggs? You'll find some delicious varieties on our Egg Recipes page.
  • Breakfast Recipes: Start the morning off right with these scrumptious breakfast options.

How to Make an Omelet

Eggs, cheese, veggies, meat -- what can combine all of these ingredients in one dish and still come out tasting great? An omelet, of course! Read on for tips to make a perfect omelet.
  1. Beat 3 eggs, 1 tablespoon water, and salt and black pepper to taste with fork or wire whisk in small bowl.

  2. Melt butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Pour egg mixture into skillet; cook until eggs begin to set. Gently lift up sides of omelet with spatula to allow liquid to run under bottom of omelet.

    Gently lift up sides of omelet with spatula when making an omelet.
    Gently lift up sides of
    omelet with spatula.
  3. When omelet is set, but not dry, and bottom is a light golden brown, remove from heat. Place filling over 1/2 of omelet. Gently fold omelet in half with spatula. Transfer to serving plate. 
Learn about other common ways to cook eggs, including poaching and soft boiling, on the next page.

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Egg Recipes: Who knew there were so many different ways to prepare eggs? You'll find some delicious varieties on our Egg Recipes page.
  • Breakfast Recipes: Start the morning off right with these scrumptious breakfast options.

Fried, Baked, Poached, and Soft-Boiled Eggs

The basic principle of egg cookery is to cook eggs until the whites are completely coagulated and the yolks begin to thicken. Yolks should not be runny, but don't need to be hard. Cook slowly over gentle heat and once finished, serve immediately. Keep in mind that too much heat will result in tough, rubbery eggs. The following are guidelines for some basic egg cooking methods.

To cook fried eggs:
  1. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons butter or margarine over medium heat in a 7- to 8-inch skillet until hot, swirling to coat the bottom.

  2. Break 2 eggs into the pan. Cook, uncovered, 2 to 4 minutes, basting frequently with butter. Or, cover and cook 2 to 4 minutes or until the eggs are set.
To cook baked or shirred eggs:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Break 2 eggs and gently slip them into a greased ramekin, shallow baking dish, or 10-ounce custard cup. Spoon 1 tablespoon milk, light cream, or half and half over the eggs.

  3. Bake 12 to 18 minutes or until all the egg whites are set and the yolks are thickened.
To cook poached eggs:
  1. Bring 2 to 3 inches of water, milk, broth, or other liquid to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to keep the liquid at a simmer.

  2. Break 1 egg into a small dish or custard cup. Holding the dish close to the surface of the water, carefully slip the egg into the water. Repeat with 1 more egg.

  3. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until the yolks are just set. Remove the eggs from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Transfer to a serving dish.
To make soft-boiled eggs:
  1. Place the eggs in a single layer in a saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the eggs by 1 inch.

    Cover eggs with cold water when hard cooking eggs.
    Cover eggs with cold
    water in saucepan.

  2. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat so the water is just below simmering. Cover and cook 4 to 5 minutes, depending on desired doneness.

  3. Remove from the heat and drain. Immediately run cold water over the eggs until cool enough to handle.

  4. To serve out of the shell, break the shell through the middle with a small knife. With a teaspoon, scoop the egg out of each shell half into a serving dish.

  5. To serve in an egg cup, place the egg in the egg cup, small end down. Slice off the large end of the egg with a small knife or egg scissors and eat right from shell with a spoon.
As you can see, eggs are a versatile food that can be enjoyed in many different ways. So get crackin'!

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Egg Recipes: Who knew there were so many different ways to prepare eggs? You'll find some delicious varieties on our Egg Recipes page.
  • Breakfast Recipes: Start the morning off right with these scrumptious breakfast options.