Unscrambling a mystery after all these years


scrambled eggs

Lift the cooked part of the scrambled egg with a flexible spatula, letting the uncooked egg flow into the empty spot. What a revelation! Photo by Laura Groch

Sometimes things that are easy to cook turn out to be not so.

Take scrambled eggs. Millions of people manage to cook scrambled eggs every day without a problem.

Not me. For years — I’m embarrassed to say how many — I’ve been scrambling my eggs “wrong.”

Oh, they turned out OK. But about a year ago I discovered that I’ve been using the wrong utensil to cook them.

All the directions on scrambling eggs tell you, after you pour your beaten eggs into the hot, oiled (or buttered) frying pan, to use a spatula to lift the edge of the cooked egg and let the uncooked egg flow into the empty space. (Repeat as needed.)

To me, a spatula is the thing that you lift pancakes and fried eggs with. So that’s what I’ve used all my life.

flexible spatula

THIS is the kind of spatula to use for scrambled eggs. Makes quite a difference. Photo by Laura Groch

One day — I don’t remember why or how — it dawned on me that the OTHER KIND OF SPATULA is what I should have been using all along to make scrambling smoother.

Oh my gosh. What a difference using the right tool makes. (On the other hand, it also shows you that the job can be done adequately with what’s at hand if necessary.)

Shaking my head as I pushed the eggs around with my new toy, I was reminded of my earliest venture into scrambled eggs, in junior high home economics class.

Our instructor was a very patient woman from the West Indies named Joyce Yard.

The lesson was on how to use a double boiler, an invention that was completely unfamiliar to me. Today it’s mostly been made passe by the microwave, but it still has its adherents.

The double boiler was just as advertised: one pot with a lid, sitting atop another pot without a lid. (Ours were fitted together; you can also improvise by using a small pot inside a larger one.)

The bottom pot was filled with water and brought to a boil; the upper pot was then attached, and the gentler heat below prevented foods like melting chocolate or scrambled eggs from scorching.

My all-girls group of six aspiring cooks were instructed to use the top portion of the double boiler to cook the scrambled eggs over low heat, stirring the eggs regularly to make sure they fluffed up. We dutifully broke our eggs into a bowl, added milk, a pinch of salt, and beat the eggs thoroughly.

We poured the eggs into the double boiler, whose bottom portion was simmering away.

And then, as seventh-grade girls will do, we kind of drifted off into conversation, about boys or music or clothes or …

Mrs. Yard came over to see how we were doing. “And how are your eggs?” she asked. “Let’s take a look.”

We lifted the lid.

Remember that “stir regularly” part? Well, we hadn’t. Beaming back at us in the double boiler was a golden disc of solid egg.

“Girls,” Mrs. Yard admonished, “you mustn’t lose sight of what you are doing in the kitchen.”

The end of each lesson involved enjoying the fruits of our kitchen labor. Our punishment was to enjoy the non-fruits of our non-labor. While the rest of the class ate fluffy scrambled eggs, we each chewed away on one-sixth of that already-small disc of flattened scrambled egg.

We had other adventures in home ec class, including learning how to wash dishes, what Melmac was (oh, Google it), and why you should keep salt and sugar containers labeled. Maybe I’ll tell you more in a future post.

But trying to fix scrambled eggs in a double boiler — a feat I never attempted at home — might explain why I never learned how to tell a spatula from a pancake turner. Most kitchens of the time didn’t have the panoply of utensils that we have now. Spaghetti servers? We used a fork. Butter spreaders? We used a knife. Wire whisks? The fork again.

The knowledge arrived late, but at last I now know how to cook scrambled eggs with a little less effort. Even seasoned cooks can learn something new.

(c) Copyright 2016 Laura Groch


2 thoughts on “Unscrambling a mystery after all these years

  1. Laura! I LOVE scrambled eggs too, specifically my mother’s. She is French. This is HER secret: scramble eggs with a fork very gently as they cook. Then, at the last minute, add a pad of butter. I add some crumbled tarragon leaves (dried) to my eggs. Love that herb!


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