Monday, June 23, 2014

The Fat Man’s Cardinal Rules for Frying Eggs




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You know, I’ve never really liked eggs. When I was a kid, I avoided eggs whenever I could, which didn’t really fly very well with my grandmother, who would feed me raw eggs over hot white rice whenever she had the opportunity. I didn’t understand why she did it; all I know is that eventually, I got so used to the taste of raw eggs, I developed an even stronger dislike for the food in its other forms.

quickchow with egg
Quickchow Mami with Egg. Taken from my Twitter.

I think it had something to do with how my dad liked to eat his eggs, which is to say, as a salad, slathered on a sandwich. I couldn’t understand why the eggs were always so sour (it was due to the mayo of course), and the sandwiches were always these sad, soggy messes after spending a couple of hours in my bag.

There was also the whole problem with cholesterol casting a stigma over the whole thing, so it goes without saying that for most of my life, I avoided eating eggs.

But as an adult, I discovered that eating eggs wasn’t just a great way to start the day—cooking them was just as fun. I don’t remember how it started, but I discovered that eggs at the public market were really cheap, and that fried egg sandwiches (not the egg salad variants!) were surprisingly good.

So I bought myself an egg ring for cooking those perfect, circular eggs. Which was a mistake, unless you liked putting your eggs in a sandwich, because apparently, cooking an egg perfectly on any surface was one of the most basic cooking skills, which include the following rules (which I’ve made up for myself as I went along, of course):


Cracking the eggs — When you break the egg, make as clean a crack as you can in order to keep shell splinters from getting mixed into your egg. Drop it low over a hot pan so that the albumen doesn’t splatter and give you a thin egg; a little bit of heft in your egg is a treat for the mouth.

Cooking over residual heat — I refer again to my grandmother here; crack the eggs on a hot frying pan, then turn off the gas and let it cook over residual heat, for eggs that are nicely done. You can go about this in a variety of ways, depending on how done you like your eggs. If you don’t mind runny yolks, remove from heat right after the eggs have fully formed, and leave them on for a few minutes more. If you’re after a firmer yolk, and you don’t mind a toasted base, leave them on for up until the egg whites start to jiggle from the heat.

Over something — Aside from having your eggs done sunny-side up, you can also have your eggs fried through and through. Again, here you have a set of choices. Folks who like a white, firm egg would probably enjoy eggs done over easy. Flip the egg soon after it has finished forming if so. If you don’t mind a slightly toasted exterior common to eggs done over medium, flip them a few seconds after the eggs have formed. And if you like your carcinogens, let the eggs toast on the pan up until either side is a delicious golden sheen, as can be seen on eggs done over hard.

Season when the eggs have formed — For this rule I refer to legendary cooking badass Gordon Ramsay. In one of his shows (wherein he makes the fluffiest scrambled eggs I have ever seen), he makes the case for seasoning eggs when they’re cooked as opposed to seasoning them while they’re raw; this helps the eggs retain their firmness, and while I don’t think I’m in the league of mess hall chefs, I’ve discovered that there may be some truth to this. Seasoning eggs while they’re still forming makes it a lot more difficult to remove them from the pan in one piece. Wait until after they’ve formed before you put your seasonings.

Know how to work with your pans — I remember that when I started my fascination with frying eggs, I used what I think is an aluminum pan (one of those flat-bottomed all-metal Chinese frying pans). I didn’t like using that much oil to cook eggs, so I didn’t follow the cardinal rule of removing sticky food items from pans, which is basically adding more oil. This was not exactly the best way to start, and I did a lot of pan-scraping just to get the eggs done right. The egg ring helped a lot during this phase, though, as did a fine-bladed spatula.

But the thing to remember is that not all pans are created equal. A non-stick pan is your best friend when cooking eggs over low heat, and a round-bottomed wok is the best for cooking over high heat. I have since reconciled myself with the fact that if I don’t want my eggs to stick to the bottom of a non-stick pan, I needed to use just a tiny bit more oil than I’m used to. But since the end results were nice, fluffy eggs, I’m quite happy to say that I don’t mind as much now.

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