Six Essential Ways to Cook Eggs

From poached to fried, get familiar with our favorite methods for making the breakfast staple.

marthas soft boiled eggs
Photo: Beatriz DaCosta

Fluffy, light, and oh so delicious, eggs can be enjoyed any time of day. Go the basic route and scramble with cheese for a delicious and simple breakfast or feast on decadent poached eggs atop ham and an English muffin with hollandaise sauce in the form of the brunch classic that is Eggs Benedict. Place a hard-boiled egg atop your Cobb salad or serve Deviled Eggs as a crowd-pleasing appetizer before dinner. There are a number of delicious ways to incorporate the protein, but before you dive deep into our recipe repertoire, mastering the different techniques in which to prepare an egg is key. From boiled to coddled, fried to scrambled, learn more about some of our favorite ways to prepare eggs below.

Boiled Eggs

Despite the name, boiled eggs should not be boiled throughout the cooking process—a method that yields a rubbery result—but instead should be brought to a boil and then removed from the heat. To make boiled eggs, place them in a single layer in a saucepan, and cover with one inch of cold water. Bring water to a boil, cover, and immediately remove from the heat. Let stand approximately one and a half to two minutes for soft-boiled, two to two and a half minutes for medium-boiled, and 12 to 13 minutes for hard-boiled. Then remove eggs from water.

Soft-and medium-boiled eggs should be served immediately in egg cups—perfect for cracking and scooping the egg right from the shell.

Hard-boiled eggs should be removed from the pot and plunged into a bowl of ice water. This prevents the yolk from discoloring due to overcooking and facilitates peeling. Let stand for two minutes, then crack by gently pressing the egg against a hard surface. Peel under cold running water and serve.

Scrambled Eggs

The key to fluffy scrambled eggs is to beat the eggs briskly for at least 15 seconds before cooking, incorporating air to produce large, puffy curds. Scrambled eggs are simple to make. In a medium bowl, beat eggs (two per serving) vigorously for at least 15 seconds. In a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, melt two teaspoons of butter. When the butter is melted and foamy, add in the eggs and reduce heat to medium. Using a spatula or flat wooden spoon, push the cooked eggs toward the center while tilting the pan to distribute the runny parts. When the eggs are almost set, scramble them gently, turning them over a few times and serve immediately.

Fried Eggs

Fried eggs are a classic breakfast dish. Break the eggs into a bowl before sliding into the skillet to prevent the yolks from breaking. When a fresh egg is added to a hot skillet, the thick white of the albumen clings to the yolks. To ensure that the egg white is set throughout, gently break the sac with the tip of a spatula to distribute the white evenly.

To make fried eggs, begin by heating a medium nonstick skillet over high heat; break eggs (two per serving) into a small bowl. When butter is melted, carefully slide eggs into a pan, holding the bowl as close to the pan as possible to prevent the yolks from breaking. Next, reduce the heat to medium, and gently poke egg-white sac to release whites, tilting the pan to distribute them. Cook until whites are set, about one minute. For eggs over easy: After whites are set, carefully turn eggs over with a spatula. Cook 30 seconds on other side and serve immediately.

Coddled Eggs

Coddling is a gentle steaming method that produces a tender egg. The eggs are cooked in individual ceramic or glass coddling cups with lids.

Poached Eggs

Always use the freshest eggs you can find for poaching: The thick albumen will hold its shape better around the yolk than older eggs. Bring a large, wide saucepan of water and one tablespoon of vinegar (any flavor) to a boil. Adding the vinegar to the poaching water helps the eggs coagulate faster by preventing the whites from spreading out. Next, break one egg at a time into a small heatproof bowl, about the size of one egg, before reducing heat so that the water is just simmering. Slightly immerse the bowl in the water, and gently slide in the egg. After all of the eggs are added, cover the pot, turn off the heat, and let stand two to three minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs in the order in which they were added and set the spoon briefly on a kitchen towel to drain. Trim ragged edges with a knife or scissors if desired and serve immediately.

If cooking for a crowd, poached eggs can be made ahead of time: Chill your cooked eggs in an ice-water bath, transfer to a covered container and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Reheat them by immersing in simmering water for one minute.

Bacon and Eggs

Bacon and eggs are an undeniable pair. The salty crispness of a strip of fried bacon is the perfect complement to the silky, creamy texture of eggs. Don't forget one when cooking the other for a satisfying breakfast.

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