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Exploring Eggs: 7 Ways to Cook One of the World's Healthiest Foods

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

7 ways to cook eggs

7 ways to cook eggs

The Egg Myth

Do you remember when eggs were the basis for a "good, solid breakfast?" They were considered wholesome and healthy—and most of us had chickens in the backyard, so fresh eggs were always available.

Then, about 30 years ago, we started talking about cholesterol. Fat was "bad" and fiber was "good." We sadly gave up our whole milk, fresh butter, creamy cheeses, and (worst of all), our eggs. Overnight, our typical 'start of the day' had become poison. And those who simply could not exist without eggs discarded the yolks and prepared scrambled eggs with the whites only (and a touch of canola oil in a nonstick pan).

Oh, the horror!

“A box without hinges, key, or lid,

Yet golden treasure inside is hid.”

— ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

But Eggs Hired a New PR Firm

But now (thankfully) the tide has turned. Nutritionists now recognize that the dietary cholesterol found in eggs does not contribute to high blood cholesterol levels. The typical American diet, which includes lots of animal products (meat) can (and often does) increase blood cholesterol levels, but it is the saturated fat in those animal products that is the real culprit.

In contrast, eggs are low in saturated fat—and they contain important nutrients. We now know that eggs are safe to eat and (grandma was right) an important part of our diets.

So, let's talk about eggs.

The Perfect Food?

Think eggs are unhealthy? Well, pardon the pun, but the yolks on you. Eggs, once believed to be a ticking cholesterol time bomb, are actually one of the world's healthiest foods. Consider this—one egg contains:

  • Vitamin A (for a healthy immune system)
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) (to improve the nervous system and strengthen red blood cells)
  • Vitamin B12 (to improve metabolism)
  • Vitamin B5 (aids metabolism and mental functions)
  • Vitamin D (for strong teeth and bones)
  • Vitamin E (keeps the muscles and the nervous and reproductive systems healthy)
  • Biotin (for healthy skin and hair)
  • Choline (aids fat metabolism and liver function)
  • Folic Acid (important during pregnancy)
  • Iodine (aids thyroid function)
  • Iron (helps with red blood cell production)
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin (protects against macular degeneration)
  • Phosphorus (maintains healthy bones and teeth)
  • Protein (helps build strong muscles, organs, skin, and tissues)
  • Selenium (aids thyroid function and protects cells against free radicals)

That's a lot of "superfood" packed into one cute little 77-calorie orb.

So, Which One is Your Favorite?

I have several different scenarios to share with you. Allow your imagination to wander for a moment and consider that...


Simply Soft-Boiled

You have awakened from a relaxing slumber at a quaint bed and breakfast inn. The dining area is bathed in morning sunshine. The white linen tablecloth is crisp, the silverware glistens. Your table for two has been prepared with an exquisite antique teapot and two matching bone china teacups. The orange juice is freshly squeezed. A basket holds buttery slices of warm wheat toast. And two egg cups hold for each of you a soft-boiled egg. The top of the shell has been sliced away, revealing perfectly set whites and soft golden yolks begging to be absorbed by golden points of toast.


The English Breakfast

Or perhaps you favor heartier fare—a full English breakfast. Thick rashers of salty Canadian bacon cooked to a savory crispness; meaty hothouse tomatoes slightly softened under the broiler and seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and fresh herbs. Of course there is toast, juice, fruit, and sautéd mushrooms. But the crowning jewel is two perfectly poached eggs.


Sunny-Side-Up Sunday

Sunday brunch at home. Not the elaborate fare of the all-you-dare-to-eat buffets. Just a simple lazy morning meal of golden fried potatoes, a few strips of crisp bacon, and a sunny-side-up egg, its face sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt. The edges of the egg are brown and crisp from a kiss of butter, the sunshine-bright yolk ready to be nudged open with the tip of your fork.


Camping Scramble

And then there is this. This is the type of breakfast my husband and I enjoyed last weekend. We were camping near the edge of a river, towering firs overhead. The morning air was cold and crisp, and we were ravenous. As the coffee perked on the fire, the cast iron pan performed its magic with a scramble of diced sweet onions, colorful chunks of bell pepper, smoky bits of ham, and farm-fresh eggs.

The Obvious Theme?

Eggs, of course. The common thread of each of these meals is an egg, each cooked in a different way.

And So...

What's the next step?

  • If you love cooking eggs, I'm hoping I can share some new recipes with you.
  • If you are cautiously hesitant, relax; I'll help you expand your repertoire.
  • And if you have never cooked an egg, I'm here to help you discover how easy it can be.

How Many Ways Can We Cook an Egg?

Simon and Garfunkel told us there are "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover." I can easily count seven ways to cook an egg (plus countless variations). Let's start with the basic hard-cooked (not boiled) egg—the type you decorate for Easter.


1. Hard Cooked

Place medium-sized eggs in a small saucepan (they should be in one layer; if the pan is too crowded, use a larger pan). Cover with enough cold water to have one inch of water above the eggs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit undisturbed (no peeking) for 10 minutes. Transfer eggs to a cold water bath (a bowl filled with ice and water) and allow them to cool completely.

Update (07/16/2018) I have made one change in the way that I prepare hard-cooked eggs. Before placing your eggs in the saucepan:

  • grasp a pin (I use a straight pin with a bead head used for basting/sewing, but a bulletin board push-pin would work too)
  • use the pin to make a "pin-sized" hole in the large end of each egg. You will need to hold the egg in your hand. Trust me on this. If you attempt to push the pin into the end of the egg while balancing it on a hard surface it WILL crack.
  • you don't need to make a large hole. Just a pinprick that goes through the shell into the egg.

What to Do With Hard-Cooked Eggs:

Hard-cooked eggs are delightful on their own as a snack or mashed with mayonnaise for a sandwich filling. My favorite use is this deviled egg recipe.


2. Soft Cooked

As with the hard-cooked, place medium-sized eggs in a small saucepan. Cover with enough cold water to have one inch of water above the eggs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and remove from the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes (half the time of a hard-cooked egg). Place your egg in an egg cup. Tap the top (pointed end) of the egg with a knife to break the shell. Remove the top to reveal set whites and a golden runny yolk.

What to Do With Soft-Cooked Eggs:

Soft-cooked eggs have such beautiful silky yolks. The craters and crannies of a buttery toasted English muffin are perfect for capturing every delicious drop.


3. Fried

There are several versions of fried eggs. I'll briefly explain each one. Sunnyside up looks just like it sounds—the egg is cooked without flipping and therefore the yolk remains on the surface and maintains its yellow (sunny) appearance. Over easy begins as a sunny side-up egg and then, just before serving, is flipped over in the pan. Over medium allows the flipped egg to cook for perhaps 30 seconds; the yolk begins to firm but is still somewhat soft in the center. Over-hard ensures that the yolk is completely cooked through.

What to Do With Fried Eggs:

Fried eggs--they don't need embellishment because (in my humble opinion) they are the star of the show. Fried eggs on top of buttered toast, flaky biscuits, ramen, or even Korean bibimbap. I think they are perfect anytime. Perfect—in fact, Frank McCourt thinks they are Heavenly:


4. Scrambled

If there is one thing on which all of us can agree, it is that we cannot agree on "the perfect" scrambled eggs. Some of us want them firm, and some demand that the only "good" scrambled egg is a creamy scrambled egg. Some of us add milk, and some of us add water. Salt before or during cooking? Butter in the pan or olive oil?

Alton Brown of Food Network shows you how to make a scrambled egg just like Carb Diva.

What to Do With Scrambled Eggs:

A scramble can be a tasty side dish, or with a few pantry items can be a full meal. Ham and diced peppers and onions are a common addition. I love to add pepper jack cheese and taco meat.

5. Omelet

If you can scramble an egg, you can make an omelet. Yes, I know that Julia Child filmed an entire episode of The French Chef on this topic, but it really takes no more than 3 minutes. The video above will show you how.


6. Poached

Let me begin by saying that poached eggs are not difficult. Even Mr. Diva can do them. Here are the simple, easy-peasy steps:

  1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling turn the heat to low (simmer).
  2. Break your egg into a shallow ramekin or coffee cup.
  3. Using a long-handled spoon stir the water in a circular motion to create an eddy (whirlpool) in the water. (Imagine the cyclone in The Wizard of Oz).
  4. Carefully pour the egg into the whirlpool and set your timer for 3 minutes.
  5. After 3 minutes, remove your egg with a slotted spoon.

What to Do With Poached Eggs:

Like their cousin, the sunny side fried egg, poached eggs are happy when perched atop any type of bread, cooked pasta, white or brown rice, or quinoa. But they are most famous as the center of attraction in eggs benedict. Tyler Florence of the Food Network has an easy hollandaise sauce recipe to help you make that memorable dish at home.

7. Baked or Shirred

Baked eggs are one of those amazing recipes in which the end result is greater than the sum of the parts. Who could believe that such simple ingredients (butter, eggs, cream, and some fresh herbs) could create such an ethereal dish?

By the way, Emeril's shirred eggs are blissful, but if you want to lighten the dish a tad, and/or you don't eat meat, in my opinion, you can omit the ham that lines the bottom of the baking dishes.

Questions & Answers

Question: How much protein is in eggs?

Answer: One large egg contains 6 grams of protein, which is about 12 percent of your daily requirement. But don't eat them just for the protein. They are relatively low in calories (1 hard-cooked egg is only 80 calories) and they contain Vitamins D, zinc, calcium, and all the B Vitamins.

Question: How much milk per egg in scrambled eggs?

Answer: I’m so glad that you asked that question, but there is no simple/easy answer. It’s almost like asking “which is your favorite child?” Some people want the French-style of creamy eggs, some want a soft (but not custardy) egg and others want something firm and dry.

How much milk to add depends on how you want your eggs at the end of the story.

Personally, I’m of the school that doesn’t introduce milk at all. This link from BonAppetit describes how I create my perfect scramble.

But the cooks at Serious Eats recognize that there are different strokes for different folks. Here is a link to their recipes. Scroll down past the photo of the eggs and you will find links to “fluffy scrambled eggs,” “soft scrambled eggs,” and “French-style soft, spoonable.”

© 2016 Linda Lum