11 Tips from Chefs for Cooking Perfect Eggs

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Eggs are readily available, relatively cheap, and full of healthy protein and amino acids. Although it may seem easy and straightforward to cook eggs, trying out a few techniques from these chefs will turn your scrambled, hard-boiled, or fried eggs from just fine to flawless. Here are 11 tips from chefs for cooking perfect eggs.

1. CHECK THE CARTON’S JULIAN DATE.

No matter what type of egg dish you cook, fresh eggs taste better and are easier to work with than older ones. J. Kenji López-Alt, the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, suggests checking the Julian date—the three digit number that appears on every carton of eggs packed in the U.S. Numbers range from 001 for January 1 to 365 for December 31, so you want to buy a carton with a number that’s as close to the current day as possible.

2. CRACK YOUR EGGS INTO A SEPARATE BOWL.

When you crack eggs directly into the pan, you risk getting shell fragments in your eggs. But two more reasons to always crack eggs into a ramekin or cup first, according to Alton Brown, are so your eggs cook evenly, and so that you can more precisely control exactly where in the pan you want your eggs to land.

3. ALTERNATE THE PAN BETWEEN HEAT AND NO HEAT.

Gordon Ramsay recommends cooking scrambled eggs on medium-low heat and moving the pan back and forth between the stove and off the stove. Alternating the eggs between heat and no heat, which Ramsay does three or four times during the course of cooking, makes for scrambled eggs that are creamy and rich.

4. SCRAMBLE THEM IN BUTTER FOR A LIGHT, AIRY TEXTURE.

According to Chef Evan Hanczor, scrambling eggs in butter instead of oil will make your eggs more light, fluffy, and tender. Because the heat releases moisture in the butter as steam, the steam increases the airiness of the eggs.

5. HEAT YOUR METAL SPATULA IN THE OIL.

If you’re using a metal spatula to flip your fried eggs, heat olive oil in the pan and then, before you add any eggs, heat your spatula in the oil. This tip, from Spanish-American chef José Andrés, ensures that your egg won’t stick to the spatula, potentially breaking the yolk and messing up your fried eggs.

6. DON’T STOP STIRRING.

When Bobby Flay makes scrambled eggs, he doesn’t take a moment to rest. Similar to risotto, scrambled eggs should be stirred continuously, as soon as the eggs go into the pan. Doing so will help to break down the egg curds, giving your eggs a softer and creamier consistency. Just don’t stir so vigorously that the eggs begin to foam.

7. HEAT YOUR SERVING PLATE WHILE YOU COOK.

Although you might overlook the serving plate as a trifling detail, Brown argues that even the plate you serve your eggs on is important. Because a cold plate will lower the temperature of your eggs too fast, he recommends heating the serving plate in hot water (or in an oven on low heat) while you cook. Doing so ensures that your eggs stay hot while you eat them.

8. BOIL FOR 10 SECONDS BEFORE POACHING.

Poached eggs are notoriously difficult to pull off, but Julia Child has a tip to make you a master of poached eggs. After you boil water, poke a small hole in the egg with a pin to release air inside the egg. Then drop the egg in the hot water for 10 seconds, which will greatly help it keep its shape and deter cloudy strands of egg white from forming when you poach it.

9. USE WATER BATHS TO QUICKLY COOL SOFT BOILED EGGS.

To make soft-boiled eggs, Wayt Gibbs, the editor of Modernist Cuisine, suggests using a bowl of ice water and a water bath. After boiling your eggs for 3 minutes and 30 seconds, put the eggs into ice water so they quickly cool down. Then, put the eggs in a water bath for 35 minutes at 147 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature might seem extremely precise, but the yolks will come out perfectly gooey.

10. PUT THE PROPER AMOUNT OF DAIRY IN YOUR FRITTATA.

According to Dawn Perry, the digital food editor for Bon Appétit, full-fat dairy greatly improves the taste and texture of frittatas. But proportions matter: For every six eggs that go into the frittata, you should use a half-cup of dairy, whether it’s milk, yogurt, or crème fraîche.

11. SLIGHTLY UNDERCOOK YOUR EGGS.

Because eggs continue to cook a bit after they’re no longer on the stove, Jamie Oliver suggests that you turn off the stove (or move the pan away from the burner) just before your scrambled eggs look fully finished. By the time you sit down to eat, your eggs will be perfectly cooked.

All images via iStock.

The Question that Baffled Britain's High Court: Are Pringles Chips?

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iStock/eskaylim

Are Pringles potato chips? From 2007 to 2009, that question plagued judges at three different levels of the British judiciary, leading to a series of head-scratchingly comical legal proceedings. The stakes, however, were nothing but serious: The ruling put hundreds of millions of dollars on the line.

The question revolved around Britain’s value-added tax, or VAT. According to the 1994 VAT Act, any product that is “wholly, or substantially wholly, made from the potato” was subject to a 17.5 percent tax. In 2007, Britain’s VAT and Duties Tribunal determined that Pringles fell under the tax’s umbrella—and demanded the chipman payeth.

Procter & Gamble, who owned Pringles at the time, vehemently disagreed. They argued that Pringles were only 42 percent potato flour, with the rest mostly a slurry of wheat starch, corn and rice flour, and vegetable oil. The snack food, they said, could not be classified as a potato chip because, unlike a real potato chip, its overall contents and shape were “not found in nature.”

In addition to being unappetizing, this argument was a marked shift from the company's original position. When the snack first hit shelves in the mid-1960s, Pringles were proudly marketed as “potato chips.” (More specifically, as newfangled potato chips.) They did this despite reported complaints from competing chip-makers, who argued that the snack food—which is cooked from a thin, mashed potato-like dough—should be classified differently.

But now that millions of dollars were on the line, Procter & Gamble’s lawyers wholeheartedly embraced Pringles's unique place as a “not-really-a-chip” chip. The VAT and Duties Tribunal, however, didn’t buy it. In a decision that sounds more like a Zen kōan, the tax masters argued that Pringles were chips because they were “made from potato flour in the sense that one cannot say that it is not made from potato flour.”

To that, the British High Court of Justice basically replied: Wow, that's confusing! Now, excuse us, we would like to top it.

The following year, the High Court stepped in and reversed the Tribunal's decision. First, the Court argued that Pringles were more akin to a cake or bread than a chip. (Who, of course, can forget their first birthday Pringle?) Furthermore, the Court declared that a Pringle—which we should emphasize is, in fact, mostly made from potatoes—was not “made from the potato." Their reasoning invoked Greek metaphysics, claiming that Pringles did not possess the required amount of (and this is their word) “potatoness.”

The controversy didn’t end there. In 2009, the case moved up another judicial wrung, this time to Britain’s Supreme Court of Judicature. The lower court's metaphysical arguments about "potatoness" were enough to make Aristotle's brain hurt, the justices moaned. They criticized the previous ruling for its “overelaborate, almost mind-numbing legal analysis” and dubbed the topic at hand a “short practical question calling for a short practical answer.”

Procter & Gamble’s lawyers bore down anyway. They claimed that a product made from “a number of significant ingredients ... cannot be said to be ‘made from’ one of them.” Lord Justice Jacob called this argument hogwash. If that were true, he argued, then “a marmalade made using both oranges and grapefruit would be made of neither—a nonsense conclusion."

After working itself in and out of semantic pretzels, the Court said the easiest solution to Chipgate was to appeal to a hypothetical child: If you asked an 8-year-old to explain what a Pringle was, what would he or she say?

The question of a Pringle’s identity, the Court argued, “would probably be answered in a more relevant and sensible way by a child consumer than by a food scientist or a culinary pedant.”

In other words, a chip is a chip is a chip—Pringles among them. With that, Procter & Gamble had to pay $160 million in taxes.

Though common sense prevailed, it doesn’t always end that way: Around the time of the great Pringle debate, the state of Oklahoma was busy confidently declaring watermelon a vegetable.

What Is Bologna Made Of?

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iStock/DebbiSmirnoff

Like hot dogs and SPAM, bologna is often regarded as something of a mystery meat. Regardless of your feelings about this much-maligned cold cut, bologna is a familiar presence in supermarkets, school cafeterias, and maybe even your own fridge. But what exactly is it?

Similar to the a handful of other curious foods, the answer really depends on the deli or manufacturer. The meat can be made from cured beef, chicken, or pork—or some combination of the three. Some varieties are made from premium cuts of meat, while others are made from ground-up organs, trimmings, and other unmentionables. However, products containing the latter are usually labeled as having "byproducts" or "variety meats," and they're (thankfully) hard to find in grocery stores nowadays, according to The Takeout.

The meat is cooked and smoked, and sometimes wrapped in a casing that's made from the gastrointestinal tracts of cows, sheep, or hogs, according to The Journal Times. This is the norm for several varieties of sausage, and it sure beats synthetic casings, which can be made from collagen and sometimes plastic. However, the casings are often removed before the product is sold commercially.

Although it's now one of America's favorite sandwich fillings, the lunch staple was named after the city of Bologna in northern Italy—even though Italians would turn their noses up at the stuff we're sandwiching between two slices of white bread. (And don't forget the processed American cheese!)

Their version of bologna—known as mortadella—has different colored spots on its surface. That's because it contains bits of fat, peppercorns, and sometimes sliced pistachios. In the U.S., on the other hand, the USDA says all cooked sausages (including bologna and hot dogs) must be comminuted, or "reduced to minute particles." In other words, the ingredients are emulsified and churned into a homogenous pink meat paste. As The Huffington Post puts it, "Mortadella is to bologna as fresh, roasted turkey on Thanksgiving is to sliced turkey lunchmeat."

Oscar Mayer, one of the best-known bologna producers, sells one variety made from "mechanically separated" chicken and pork, with a little bit of beef added in. According to the USDA, "Mechanically separated meat is a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue."

Aside from the meat, the recipe contains a blend of spices. A few of the most common ones added to bologna include salt, pepper, celery seed, coriander, paprika, and sugar—or, more commonly, corn syrup. And myrtle berry is often the secret ingredient that gives the meat its signature taste.

Although many companies won't reveal their preferred blend of spices, most of the ingredients in bologna are no secret. They're listed on the package, free for all to read. As it turns out, most mass-produced varieties of bologna are a lot less gross than you may think—as long as you're ok with corn syrup-flavored meat batter. Who's hungry?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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