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Practicing the basics: omelets

Omelets are the perfect food: high in protein; great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; infinitely customizable; easily scaled up or down for the number of people you’re feeding.

You can have your omelet plain, of course, but you can also indulge in adding whatever combination of fillings suits your taste, including:

  • cheeses;
  • sliced or diced meat (preferably pre-cooked);
  • aromatic vegetables such as onion and bell pepper;
  • diced tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes;
  • leafy greens, including spinach and basil;
  • smoked salmon;
  • anything else that you want to experiment with.

There is a bit (but not too much!) of practice and skill required for omelet-making. The nice part about working with eggs, however, is that if you make a mistake it’s self-repairing — just push some uncooked egg into the mistake and as it cooks it will hide the damage. Or flip the omelet upside down as you move it to a plate; I promise you, no one looks at the underside of an omelet.

Suggested readings:

Makes 1 omelet. Time required: 10 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • Pinch salt
  • Fillings, chopped

1. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, water and salt. With a fork or wire whisk, whisk until the eggs are fully combined and a loose consistency, about one minute. Keep whisking until when you lift the fork/whisk out of the bowl, the egg mixture runs off of it like a thin liquid, not in globs. <add video>

2. Heat the butter/margarine over medium heat in a nonstick flat-bottom pan until melted and sizzling. The sizzling is water evaporating off, a signal that the pan is hot enough to cook the eggs quickly. Don’t wait for the sizzling to stop; by that point the pan is probably too hot. Normally we cook eggs on low heat since they are a delicate protein, but omelets are an exception to that rule.

3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan, and tip the pan slightly to spread it evenly around the pan.

4. When the bottom of the omelet has solidified, use a spatula to lift up one side and tip the pan so the uncooked liquid egg on top flows underneath it. Omelets cook from the bottom-up. We don’t want overcooked egg at the bottom and undercooked at the top, so halfway through we intervene to move the uncooked part into contact with the pan. <Add video>

5. Sprinkle the fillings on top of one half of the egg. We’re going to flip the other half over on top of the fillings in a minute, and not having it weighed down with fillings will prevent it from breaking on us. <add photo>

6. When the egg is mostly cooked all the way through and largely solid, insert a spatula underneath the half of the omelet without fillings and flip it over the top of the other half, sandwiching the filings in between. This is the most likely place where things can go wrong; egg is a fragile protein and can fall apart easily, so do this gently and carefully. The good news is that if it does break apart, there are two ways to fix it: either sprinkle some of the remaining liquid uncooked egg onto the broken part and let it fill in the holes, or just flip the entire omelet over when you remove it from the pan. <add video>

7. When there is no longer any uncooked egg, remove the pan from heat. If the omelet isn’t stuck to the pan, then hold the pan over a plate and tip the pan to slide the omelet out and onto the plate. Using a spatula always risks causing some damage with eggs, so if we can just slide it out, all the better. <add video>

Tips and suggestions:

  • First and foremost, every cook screws up omelets sometimes. I’ve done it hundreds of times. Even if it comes out looking ugly, it will still taste great.
  • Your fillings aren’t going to cook much inside the omelet, so if you’re adding anything (like meat) that needs to be thoroughly cooked for safety, pre-cook it. The exception is cheese, which will melt when added.

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