1. Hard Boiled
A hard boiled egg is cooked in its shell in boiling water. The “hard” refers to the consistency of the egg white (or albumen) and the yolk. Making them is simple. Fill a pot with enough water to cover your eggs by about two inches. Bring it to a boil and carefully drop in the eggs and leave them for 10-12 minutes. For easier peeling, place the eggs immediately in an ice water bath after boiling, then gently tap and roll them on a counter. (There’s also the gimmick of adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the boiling water to help loosen the shells, cracking the shells off both ends, and blowing the egg out of its shell. Look it up on YouTube.) Bonus: you can hard boil a bunch of eggs at a time and refrigerate them. Eat them with a sprinkle of kosher salt, or chop onto salads.
2. Soft Boiled
Soft boiled eggs follow the same process as hard boiled eggs, but you cut the cooking time roughly in half. This gets the egg white cooked while leaving the yolk runny. Our preferred method is the “six minute egg,” which sounds way fancy. The six minute egg is just like it sounds: bring your water to a boil, gently lower in the eggs, set a timer for six minutes, then remove the eggs and drop them in an ice bath.
Sometimes soft boiled eggs are eaten in the shell, stood upright in little egg cups. You can then daintily tap the top of the egg with a spoon and scoop out the insides. They’re great on toast, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. We also love dropping a couple on a thick black bean soup.
3. Hard Scrambled
Scrambled technically means that the whites and yolks are broken and mixed together. Hard scrambled eggs are cooked all the through. This is the default preparation for scrambled eggs at most restaurants, and they’re good, sometimes dry.
4. Soft Scrambled
That’s why I prefer soft scrambled eggs, sometimes referred to as “wet.” The difference between soft and hard scrambled eggs is cooking time. If you want soft scrambled eggs, you need to keep in mind that eggs. cook. quickly. You can’t walk away from them. Whip your eggs in a separate bowl. Heat your pan no higher than medium, grease it, pour the eggs in, then stay close with a spatula. Turn and fold them repeatedly while they cook. Use the spatula to prevent them from spreading out, especially up the sides of the pan; when they spread too thin, they’ll over-cook quickly. I usually fold them until they no longer look runny, but still look wet (i.e. light is reflecting in them). Have your plate ready so you can remove them from heat immediately. They’re perfect on buttered toast with salt and pepper; with cheddar cheese.
4a. “Perfect” Scrambled Eggs
If you want super creamy soft scrambled eggs, you can use the method we learned from Gordon Ramsay (watch it here). Drop eggs into a pan over medium-high heat, along with one, thin pat of butter for each egg. Then start stirring with a spatula. Break the yolks, let them mix with the butter and whites. And keep stirring. If the pan gets too hot, lift it off the heat briefly. And keep stirring. Do this for about 4-5 minutes, until the eggs start coming together. Right before you take them off the heat, add a dash of milk, sour cream, or creme fraiche. Stir that in, then ladle the eggs onto toast and sprinkle with herbs (chive, dill, green onion) or salt and pepper. The result is some of the creamiest, softest eggs you’ve ever tasted.
4b. Omelets & Frittatas
Scrambled eggs can be manipulated in many ways. Ordering plain scrambled eggs means they’ll be mixed and moved in the pan, whereas an omelet or frittata indicates that the scrambled eggs are cooked until they’ve stabilized into a usable form and topped with other ingredients: cheeses, meats, vegetables, anything. A frittata is typically open-faced, whereas an omelet is folded over in half onto the additions. But the egg base remains the same (except in egg white omelets, where yolks are separated out).
4c. Scrambles & Hashes
These preparations are pretty simple, as far as eggs go. A scramble usually means other ingredients are scrambled in the pan with the eggs. This could include meats, cheese, sauteed veggies, or diced potatoes (or, yes, hot dogs). Good if you’re a fan of scrambled eggs and, well, everything else breakfast has to offer.
5. Sunny Side Up (Can be Easy, Medium, or Hard, depending on how cooked you want your yolk)
Important: You need a nonstick skillet. I’ve tried this method with regular skillets and it just never works for me. Add a small amount of canola oil to the skillet—not enough to have much depth to it at all. (Note: you can also use butter OR bacon grease if you’re into those sorts of things. But those bring along some particles and some color, and you won’t wind up with as pristine an egg. Not that that really matters in the grand scheme of human history, but I thought I’d mention it.)
Heat the canola oil over medium heat. You don’t want it too, too hot, as you’re going to cook the eggs pretty slowly. You don’t want the oil so hot that the egg sizzles and turns white the second you crack it in! The whites should remain clear for several seconds before they start to turn white.
Once the oil is mildly hot, crack in an egg. (Note: three is about as many as I can tend to at a time.) The oil should not cover the whites; if anything, it should just come over the edges a tiny bit.
Once the eggs begin to turn white, use a small spoon to carefully spoon the hot oilover the whites only. Go from egg to egg, spooning the oil over the whites. This will help the whites cook slowly so that they won’t be slimy. *Important: Don’t spoon any oil over the yolks yet!
After a minute or two, touch the whites of one of the eggs and make sure they’re set/not jiggly and loose. At that time, you can spoon oil over the yolks to help them set on the surface.
*Note: The reason you need to wait before spooning hot oil over the yolks is that immediately after cracking the eggs into the pan, there is still egg white covering the yolk. If you were to spoon the hot oil over the yolk immediately, it would cause the white on the yolk to turn white, which will result in the yolk having a cloudy covering like the yolk in these two photos:
And that’s a tragic thing! On the other hand, if you wait, the egg will settle into the skillet and the whites will sheet over the sides of the yolk and eventually leave mostly yolk there. So a minute or two into the process, if you spoon the hot oil over the yolk, you won’t get that cloudy appearance.
To repeat: the two photos above are a cautionary tale.
Continue spooning the oil over the egg until it appears to be as done as you’d like.(You can gauge it by lightly jiggling it or poking it with the spoon.)
Remove the eggs from the pan with a slotted spatula, then–this is important–drain them briefly on a paper towel before serving. (I fold a paper towel and hold it in my left hand, then place the egg on the towel with my right hand, then I just slide it onto the plate! You can also just keep the egg on the spatula and pat the bottom of the spatula on the paper towel to try to get most of the oil off the egg.)
And that’s it! This is a neato method, guys. Once I learned it and practiced a bit, I had some fun with it. It’s particularly fun if you’re cooking for guests and you want your breakfast dish to look really yummy and inviting. It’s also great for foodbloggers or food stylists who need picture-perfect eggs.
But it’s also a lot of fun for kids because the eggs stay bright yellow and white and look like…well, like fake eggs, which kids get a kick out of. The only thing you really need to keep an eye on is the oil/fat and making sure you dab it/drain it off as much as you can.
6. Over Easy
Eggs over easy and sunny side up are often using interchangeably, but they are different. You go from sunny side up to over easy by simply flipping your egg when the edges are brown. The “easy” doesn’t refer to the simplicity of turning over an egg, but the state of your yolk. “Over easy” means the egg is flipped and cooked just long enough to make a film on the top of the yolk. When served, the yolk – and some of the whites – are still runny.
7. Over Medium
Over medium is the next step after easy: they’re fried, flipped, and fried a little longer, enough to cook the whites through and brown the edges slightly. You’ll develop a thicker film on your yolk, but the inside is still runny. Good for those like the dipping quality without a watery egg white.
8. Over Hard
And over hard is the final step. Over hard is fried, flipped, and fried again – usually with the yolk broken – until both the white and the yolk are completely cooked. Just tap the edge of your spatula into the yolk or poke it with a fork before turning it over. Be careful not to dribble the yolk when flipping.
Poaching is like boiling but without the shell, or like over medium that skips contact with the pan. These means you’re avoiding any hard edges. The white is cooked through and the yolk is warm and runny. Just imagine it mixing with a bright hollandaise on an eggs benedict.
Methods for poaching vary. Restaurants looking to poach in bulk will often immerse ramekins with raw eggs into boiling water, sometimes a whole tray full at a time. If you’re just poaching at home, it’s actually much easier than you may think. I haven’t perfected my personal method, but the two that have worked for me are:
1.) The Whirlpool. Heat your water just shy of a rolling point. Add a dash of vinegar (some recipes call for a 1/2 cup, but that’s always too much for me. I don’t like my eggs tasting like acetic acid). Crack the egg into a tiny bowl. Swirl the water in your pan to create a whirlpool, then carefully drop the egg into the center. The swirling pulls whites altogether in the center. Leave it in the water for about five minutes, then lift out with a slotted spoon.
2.) The Strainer. Heat water. Add vinegar. Crack the egg into a mesh strainer to let the most watery portion of the whites (it’s not much) drip out – this prevents danglers. Carefully decant the egg from the strainer into the water. Cook for about five minutes. Retrieve with slotted spoon.
And if you make a mistake… well, just look up some recipes for egg drop soup.
10. Baked or Shirred
Baked eggs are cracked and baked in a dish. “Shirred” refers to the flat-bottomed dish in which they’re frequently cooked. They’re almost always mixed with other ingredients. The white mixes in and gets cooked through, while the yolk is left runny. For example: a tomato provencal dish (pictured from Pistacia Vera), with eggs cooked into a bed of cream, tomatoes, cheese, and herbs. Or the North African/Mediterranean dish shakshouka (like at Mazah). The benefit of this preparation is that the egg really blends into the ingredients.
Generally basted means liquid or steam is used to thoroughly cook the egg white without flipping. For instance, while frying an egg in butter, you repeatedly scoop and pour the extra butter on top of the egg. This cooks the yolk and top whites without forcing you to flip it. Alternatively, you can also squirt some water into the pan and then cover the egg with a lid, to steam the whites. If you do this quickly, you can cook the whole egg before the edges start to brown, which seems to be the appeal of basted eggs (much like poached eggs).
11a. Spanish fried eggs
One specific form of basting is known as Spanish fried eggs. The eggs are fried at high temps in olive oil, while you spoon the hot oil over the egg. The eggs are fried over medium heat, just below the oil’s smoke point. Crack an egg into a small bowl first, then ladle it into the hot oil, and start scooping oil over the white and the yolk for about 1 minute. The result is crispy edges, creamy whites, and a runny yolk.