How to Cook Eggs – Most Essential Ways

Eggs sure have a lot going for them – you can buy them anywhere, they last for a few weeks in the fridge, they’re inexpensive, and they do magical things to baked goods and mayonnaise. Many a weeknight dinner has been saved from the drive-thru by scrambling a bunch of eggs for breakfast-for-dinner instead, so we’re eternally grateful for such an adaptable ingredient.

Do you know all the delicious ways you can cook an egg? Even if fried eggs are your favorite, try some of these other methods and you might be surprised to find yourself craving some buttery toast fingers dipped into the runny yolk of a soft-boiled egg instead!

Before You Start

  • Many methods for cooking eggs require a nonstick pan. It’s worth it to invest in a good one.
  • Often the secret to egg-cooking success is starting with room temperature eggs. If you know you’ll be cooking eggs, pull them out of the fridge in advance.
  • Spend where it counts. You can use conventional supermarket eggs for baking and other cooking, but buy locally sourced eggs for a scramble or an omelet, where the flavor really shines through.
  • Brown eggs are not of better quality, fresher or in any way different from white eggs. You can use them interchangeably.

Boiled or Steamed

Once a cook has mastered boiling or steaming whole eggs, breakfast and lunch are taken care of forever. With hard-cooked eggs, the trick is to make them before you need them; cook a whole carton and stash them in the fridge. Soft-cooked eggs are a delight to eat in the shell, and can be used just like a poached egg when scooped out of it. Cooking them in a steamer basket yields results that are like boiled eggs — or even better. Steam provides a more even, gentler heat than water, and the finished eggs are easier to peel.

Boiled or Steamed


Set a steamer basket above an inch of boiling water and add eggs in one layer. Close the pot and steam for 5 to 6 minutes for runny yolks, 8 to 12 minutes for creamy or firm yolks. (Cooking times depend on whether the eggs are cold from the fridge or at room temperature.)


Place the eggs in a single layer in a heavy saucepan and cover with lukewarm water by at least one inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Leaving the pot uncovered, turn the heat to high, and bring the water just to a gentle boil. Immediately turn off the heat, cover the pan and let stand for 2 minutes. Transfer the pot to the sink and run cold water over the eggs for about 30 seconds.


Place eggs in a single layer in a heavy saucepan and cover with cold water by at least 1 inch. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Turn the heat to high. As soon as the water comes to a gentle boil, turn off the heat and cover the pan. For creamy yolks, remove the lid after 10 minutes and run cold water over eggs for 1 minute. Set aside to cool at room temperature. For firmer yolks, leave the eggs to cool in the cooking water, uncovered, for up to 2 hours.

Cooking Tips

  • A gray-green ring around the yolk of a hard boiled egg means that it was cooked too long and/or at too high a temperature. To protect against this, cooked eggs should be immediately immersed in cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • Salting the water helps minimize leaks if the eggs crack in the pan; the egg whites coagulate and seal off the crack more quickly.
  • To peel, gently tap a boiled egg against the counter, turning and tapping to make a crackle pattern. Start peeling at the broad end, where there is an air pocket. Running the egg under cold water is not necessary, unless they are too hot to handle.
  • In recipes like mayonnaise and Caesar salad that call for raw egg yolks, the soft yolk of a poached or soft-boiled egg can be used instead.
  • To test if an egg has been cooked, spin it on a counter. A hard boiled egg spins faster than a raw egg.


The poached egg is the fluffy, ethereal member of the family. The traditional French method calls for breaking an egg into a churning whirlpool of simmering water. This is is daunting for home cooks — and more importantly, it’s not necessary. (Restaurant chefs do it when they have lots of eggs to poach at once.) Here’s an easy method; keep in mind that throughout the process, both the egg and the water should move as little as possible. Or poach an egg in the microwave, which is much quicker once you’ve nailed down the timing.

poached egg


In a pot or deep skillet, combine about 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. You can poach one to four eggs at a time in this liquid; work in batches for more. Eggs can be at room temperature or refrigerator-cold; cold eggs will require a slightly longer cooking time.

Bring water to a bare simmer (the French call it a “smile”), with bubbles forming on the bottom of the pan and only slight activity on the top. The water will be under 190 degrees; you should be able to quickly dip your fingertip in and out without pain.

If you are a confident cook, crack each egg on the side of the pan and let the contents slide very gently into the water. If you need to worry about broken yolks or bits of shell, break each egg into a separate ramekin before you begin to cook. Hold the ramekin just above the water and turn it over quickly but gently, to keep the whites and yolks close together.

Let cook until just firm, 4 to 5 minutes. The yolks will be soft and plump and the whites will be set but not tough. Use a slotted spoon to lift eggs out one at a time. Let drain on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. Use the edge of the spoon or a small knife to trim off any ragged edges.


Crack an egg into a glass measuring cup or small bowl. Gently pour in warm water until it covers the egg by about a half-inch. Place in the microwave and cook (on low heat, if available) for 20 to 30 seconds. Check to see if the translucent egg whites have begun to turn cloudy and opaque.

Keep cooking in 10- to 15-second bursts until the white looks set. The yolk will be encased inside the white. Over the sink, pour the contents of the cup through a slotted spoon and shake well; this will drain off the cooking water and any uncooked egg whites. In the spoon: one perfect poached egg.

Cooking Tips

  • The fresher your eggs are, the better they will hold their shape in the water.
  • For better odds of picture-perfect eggs, break each one into a sieve or perforated spoon and let the thin, runny part of the white drain off before sliding just the yolk and gelatinous white into the water.
  • You can poach eggs up to a day ahead. Hold them in a container of ice water in the refrigerator, then gently reheat for 2 minutes in barely simmering or hot tap water.
  • In addition to water, eggs can be poached in barely simmering stock, cream, wine, olive oil or tomato sauce. Do not poach ahead.
  • In recipes like mayonnaise and Caesar salad that call for raw egg yolks, the soft yolk of a poached or soft-boiled egg can be used instead.


Providing the most satisfaction in the least amount of time, scrambled eggs should be a back-pocket recipe for every cook. So long as they are not overcooked, they are delicious plain or mixed with add-ons like cheese and herbs, crisp bread crumbs and crushed corn tortillas, diced ham or smoked fish or sautéed vegetables. Stuff them into a burrito or quesadilla, or pile into a soft bread roll or onto toast points.

Scrambled Egg

Hard-Scrambled (Hot and Fast)

For 2 or 3 servings: Crack 6 eggs into a bowl and beat well with a whisk or a fork. Add 2 pinches salt and beat in 1 tablespoon milk or cream (this is optional; the dairy makes the finished eggs more moist). Over high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a thick, heavy saucepan or skillet with high sides.

When the butter foams, add the egg mixture and cook over medium to high heat, stirring continuously and vigorously with a whisk (use a silicone whisk if the pan is nonstick) just until the mixture is firming up into large curds.

While the eggs are still quite soft and shiny, remove the mixture from the heat. (The eggs will continue to cook in the residual heat of the pan.) Serve immediately.

Soft-Scrambled (Low and Slow)

For 2 or 3 servings: Crack 6 eggs into a bowl and beat well with a whisk or a fork. Add 2 pinches salt and beat in 1 tablespoon milk or cream (this is optional; the dairy makes the finished eggs more moist). Heat a deep 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for about 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons butter and swirl it in the pan. After the butter melts, but before it foams, turn the heat to very low.

Add the eggs to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. At first nothing will happen; after a few minutes, the eggs will begin to form curds. Now stir continuously, breaking up the curds as they form, until the mixture is a mass of tiny curds — depending on the heat level, this can take as long as 20 minutes.

While the eggs are still quite soft and shiny, remove the mixture from the heat. (The eggs will continue to cook in the residual heat of the pan.) Serve immediately.

Cooking Tips

  • It is worth investing in a heavy, good-quality nonstick pan to make great scrambled eggs.
  • Adding salt to the eggs before cooking produces a more tender scramble.
  • Adding a little milk or cream to scrambled eggs helps keep them moist (but too much will make them runny).


Is there any dish more cheering than a perfect fried egg? It appears so simple: golden yolk, firm but tender white, buttery edges. But getting the yolk and whites cooked at the same time has challenged many great culinary minds. As is so often the case, room temperature eggs and super-low heat are the keys to success. Turn them over in the pan to speed up the yolks.

Fried Egg

Sunny Side Up

For 2 fried eggs with bright yellow yolks and no brown edges, bring the eggs to room temperature. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch skillet over the lowest possible heat.

When the butter is just melted but not yet bubbling or foaming, crack 1 egg into each side of the pan. The whites will spread out and stay clear for a few seconds before turning white. (If the whites turn opaque immediately, the pan is too hot. Reduce the heat or use a flame tamer.)

Use a silicone spatula to gently push the whites apart so that each egg remains separate. Let cook slowly; use the spatula to make a few slits through the white, to let the still-liquid parts spill into the bottom of the pan. When the whites are almost completely cooked (this can take as long as 3 to 4 minutes), baste the eggs with the melted butter in the pan.

To test if the yolk is done, touch it with your finger; it should feel warm or hot, not lukewarm. The last part to cook is the gelatinous ring of white around the yolk; be sure not to remove the egg from the heat until that part is cooked through.

Over Easy

Fry an egg as above, increasing the heat slightly. When the bottom of a fried egg is cooked but the yolk still undercooked, use your spatula to gently lift and fold the whites over the yolk from both sides.

Carefully turn the folded egg over (without breaking the yolk) and let cook for 10 to 30 seconds more. (If you don’t mind how it looks, just flip the whole egg over and don’t bother with the folding.)

Cooking Tips

  • The fresher the your eggs are, the better they will hold their shape in the pan.
  • To get the whites and yolks fully cooked at the same time, start with warm or room temperature eggs. Refrigerated eggs will warm up to the right temperature in a 10-minute hot water bath.
  • If you are aiming for sunny-side-up eggs but the whites are done before the yolks, add a teaspoon or so of water to the skillet and cover it so that the yolk cooks in the steam. Lift the lid every 15 seconds or so to check on the yolk: it may acquire a white film. Or, give the egg a quick flip and finish the cooking over easy. The egg will not look as cheerful, but it’s better than wasting an egg by overcooking.
  • Eggs can be fried sunny side up in a half-inch of hot oil instead of in butter; the edges will turn brown and crisp.


French chefs talk about training for years to master a simple omelet, so attempting one can be discouraging to home cooks. But an omelet is not a boeuf bourguignon: it is just eggs, evenly cooked. A good nonstick pan and a few minutes of undivided attention are more important than any other element of the recipe.

Omelet Egg

Basic Method

Crack 3 eggs into a bowl and beat well with a whisk or a fork. Add milk, 2 good pinches of salt and one of pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 2 teaspoons neutral oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over high heat.

When the oil and butter are hot, swirl them together, add the egg mixture and reduce the heat to low (or very low if you like your omelets completely yellow, with no browning). Swirl the pan to distribute the eggs evenly over the surface.

Use a silicone spatula to drag the cooked edges into the center: picture a clock face and drag in from 12, 3, 6 and 9, letting the uncooked egg run out to the edges of the pan. Shake the pan to loosen the bottom and let any remaining uncooked egg run underneath (if necessary, use the spatula to lift the edges up).

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons goat cheese across the center. Let cook just until the top is almost set but still moist. Fold the bottom third of the omelet up over the center, and then fold the top third down. Invert onto a plate, sprinkle with finely chopped chives, and serve.

Cooking Tips

  • Here again, a good nonstick pan is the egg cook’s best friend. A pan made of a material lighter than cast iron is preferable for omelets: it will be easier to maneuver and more responsive to changes in the heat.
  • Start with room-temperature eggs, so that the omelet cooks as quickly as possible and remains tender.
  • Have all your fillings close by and at room temperature before you begin cooking.
  • Instead of or in addition to cheese, you may fill an omelet with sautéed or roasted vegetables, butter-softened shallots or leeks, steamed greens, bits of bacon or ham, minced herbs or citrus zest, or salsa or another condiment.
  • For a traditional dessert, try filling an omelet with jam and sprinkling the top with powdered sugar, like a crepe.

Baked or Shirred

Baked and shirred eggs, also known as eggs en cocotte, are the same thing: eggs baked in a dish, either two at a time or in a larger casserole. It’s a spoonable, old-fashioned preparation that can be served at any time of day, and one that is especially useful as a meatless family dinner. Baked egg variations are also handy for brunch, as they can be assembled several hours in advance and baked at the last minute.

Baked or Shirred

Basic Method

For 6 servings (can be divided or multiplied as needed): Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Season 1/2 cup heavy cream with salt and pepper, and heat in a saucepan or a microwave just until steaming.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon hot cream into each of six 1-cup ramekins. Crack 2 eggs into each ramekin, keeping yolks intact. Top with 2 pinches finely minced herbs if you’d like, and spoon about 1 teaspoon hot cream on top.

Place ramekins in a small roasting pan. If you’d like, to help prevent overcooking, add boiling water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins; this extra step technically makes them eggs en cocotte, which are slightly more difficult to manage, and slightly more tender.

Slide pan into oven and bake until just set and opaque, 15 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately, with toast.

Cooking Tips

  • Adding cream to the ramekins helps prevent the egg whites from getting tough in the dry heat of the oven. It also eliminates the need to butter the ramekins to prevent sticking, though you should still do so if you like the taste.
  • Nestled under the eggs, you might place sautéed or roasted vegetables, butter-softened shallots or leeks, steamed greens, or bits of bacon or ham. On top, add finely minced herbs or lemon zest, and a nice touch is a slice of buttered bread cut to fit the top and sprinkled with cheese.
  • Eggs can also be baked in a dish that holds another food: a bed of hot polenta, mashed potatoes or hash. Use the back of a spoon to make indentations, crack the eggs in, and bake in a 325-degree oven for about 15 minutes.


Frittata is a wonderful egg dish for summer, when it’s best to get cooking out of the way in the morning and serve lunch at room temperature. (Usually, eggs are best served either piping hot or lightly chilled.) Also, frittata is a friendly match for all kinds of seasonal salads, from winter squash to summer tomatoes. Add bread, a cheese board and some charcuterie to the table, and dinner is served.

Frittata Egg

Basic Method

For three or four servings: Heat 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet, preferably nonstick. Add a handful of minced onion (or shallot or leeks) and a pinch of salt and cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until completely soft but not at all browned.

Preheat the broiler. Whisk together 6 to 8 eggs, then stir in about ½ cup grated or crumbled cheese and 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs. Add egg mixture to pan, let set for 5 to 10 seconds, then give the pan a few quick jerks to prevent the bottom from sticking. Let cook over very low heat (either covered or uncovered is fine; covered, it will cook through a little faster).

When almost set, with just a shallow puddle of raw egg remaining on top, sprinkle on a little more cheese (if desired) and place in oven, at least 4 inches away from the broiler. Broil until puffed and golden (golden brown at the darkest).

Serve hot or at room temperature, from the pan or on a serving dish. Garnish with more cheese and fresh herbs and cut into wedges.

Cooking Tips

  • Be sure your pan is oven-proof before you begin. It needs to go seamlessly from stovetop to broiler.
  • Instead of or in addition to cheese, you may add sautéed or roasted vegetables, butter-softened shallots or leeks, steamed greens, bits of bacon or ham, minced herbs or citrus zest.

Buying and Keeping the Eggs

As with most ingredients, quality and freshness matter. Eggs from a nearby farm, a local greenmarket or a community-supported agriculture group are increasingly easy to find and likely to be fresher and better tasting than conventional supermarket eggs — though they also cost twice as much.

What the Labels Mean

Picking up a dozen eggs at the supermarket used to be a simple matter, but no more. Here are the details on some words and phrases that are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Keep in mind that all whole eggs are considered to be all-natural, hormone-free, gluten-free, carbohydrate-free, trans fat-free, a good source of Vitamin D and a good source of protein. You may see these words on the carton, but they do not indicate better quality than other eggs.

Also remember that many eggs sold through at farms and farm markets are in fact organic, but they are not labeled as such when the farm’s egg production is too small to require certification. In any case, these eggs are more likely to have deeply golden, flavorful yolks and sturdy whites that stand up to poaching.

FREE RANGE The birds are not caged, have open space and can easy access the outdoors, where they are able to fly to nests and perches and to forage for food. (Farmers are allowed to restrict their activities according to weather, environmental requirements and local ordinances.)

CAGE FREE/FREE ROAMING The birds are not caged, but they may be crowded, restricted to indoor spaces and floors, and fed exclusively on chicken feed.

CERTIFIED ORGANIC Subject to U.S.D.A. certification, organic eggs must live under cage free/free roaming conditions (they are not free range, necessarily, but they can be). They are fed only organic feed.

PASTURED This is not an official label, but it is supposed to mean that birds spend most of their lives outdoors, with frequent changes of pasture area in which to forage, and access to a barn.

ANTIBIOTIC-FREE All eggs sold in United States markets are free of antibiotics and residue from antibiotics. But only eggs from hens that have not been treated with antibiotics can be labeled antibiotic-free.

NUTRIENT ENHANCED Eggs laid by hens who have been fed a special diet to increase certain nutrients like vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids or lutein.

FARM FRESH Marketing jargon that means nothing.

Freshness and Storage

Eggs can be stored in the refrigerator without any loss of quality for weeks, until at least 4 weeks past the sell-by date.

As an egg ages, the white becomes thinner, the yolk becomes flatter and the yolk membrane becomes weaker, making it more likely to break. These changes don’t affect the egg nutritionally or functionally, but the freshness of an egg does affect its appearance.

To test the freshness of eggs, submerge them in a deep bowl or pot of cold water. The freshest eggs lie flat on their sides. As they age, air slowly enters the shell and they become more buoyant. Older eggs begin to tilt up and then stand upright on the bottom, but are perfectly usable. Floating eggs should be discarded.

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About Lindsey Bell

I like cooking and baking but often loose my recipes or they get covered in stuff meaning they are unreadable. This way I can keep track of them without constantly loosing them and can be quick and easy to find when I am at work too. Feel free to pinch and share any recipes you wish.

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