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How to Make Perfect Scrambled Eggs Without a Nonstick Pan

As a homeschool mom, Carma has so much extra time on her hands she must look for ways to fill it creatively.

These perfect eggs are great for guests.

These perfect eggs are great for guests.

How do you get perfect eggs without using a nonstick pan? Even with nonstick, are your eggs still a gummy mess? I always wondered how chefs turned out such light, fluffy eggs when my scrambles were always heavy and soggy.

Below, I show you how to cook eggs perfectly in both a nonstick pan and a cast-iron one. And best of all? The cleanup is actually a breeze!

What's the Secret?

The secret is heating the pan before you put the eggs in.

Here's another secret: you don't have to have some special, expensive omelet- or nonstick-pan that may be emitting harmful chemicals into your food to make a stunning breakfast. Because the secret is not the pan; the secret is how hot it is.

Here's the Short Version to Getting Perfect Eggs in a Regular (or Non-Nonstick) Pan

  1. Make sure that your pan is hot before you add anything (even the oil). Your pan should be hot enough that a few drips of water look like running, dancing mercury.
  2. Crack the amount of eggs that you want, but don't stir them yet. If you stir them, they have a tendency to stick to the bowl.
  3. Pour in the amount of oil or butter that you like. Immediately after adding the oil/butter, vigorously whisk the eggs, and then pour them into the lukewarm oil/butter.
  4. Let the eggs sit in the pan until they develop a white ring around the edge. Once the edge is sufficiently large, use a spatula to lift up the done-ish eggs in the center, allowing the runny eggs to seep below and come in contact with the oiled pan.
  5. Chunk up and flip decent-sized portions of the scramble. Let the runny bits cook for just a few seconds, and then remove the eggs from the heat.

Step One: Heating the Pan and Cracking Your Eggs

You will have to experiment a bit to find the proper heat needed on your cooktop. For mine, it is just under medium (a good heavy-duty pan to promote even heating helps). Turn the heat on, and let the pan get hot but not too hot! And for goodness sake, don't add the oil or butter yet!

While the pan is heating, crack the eggs. Personally, I don't stir them until just before putting them in the pan, because the broken yolk tends to cling to the side of the bowl, and it's hard to get it all into the pan. Freshly stirred doesn't have a chance to get sticky with your bowl.

How hot should your pan be? Wet your fingertips, and flick a few water drops into the pan.

  • If they sit there in a puddle, the pan is not hot enough.
  • If they sizzle a bit, the pan is not hot enough.
  • If they sizzle and evaporate, the pan is almost hot enough. Watch closely now ...
  • If the drops of water, instead of sizzling, bead up and dance around the pan without evaporating, like drops of mercury, the pan is just right.

WARNING! Do not leave the pan at this point or let it sit empty and get hotter much longer. If you do, and then add your oil after the pan gets even hotter, you could get a grease fire on your stovetop! (Don't ask me how I know this...)

If a piece of shell falls in, use nature's perfectly provided shell-getter-outer: a bigger piece of the shell!

If a piece of shell falls in, use nature's perfectly provided shell-getter-outer: a bigger piece of the shell!

Step Two: Adding the Oil and Eggs

If you have a hot pan and cold oil, your eggs won't stick!

  1. Now it is time to add the oil or butter after your pan is perfectly heated.
  2. Have your eggs cracked and ready to stir, then add the oil or butter, quickly but thoroughly stir the eggs, and pour them into the hot pan and barely warm oil.

Two notes here:

  1. It might look like a lot of oil, but you need enough fat to coat the pan and then a little more depending on how many eggs you are cooking; I was cooking ten eggs. I prefer coconut oil for cooking because of its health benefits.
  2. I am an egg purist. I don't add anything to my scrambled eggs. I love the unadulterated flavor of good eggs!
Step Three: When the pan is perfectly heated, pour in the eggs, and let them sit.

Step Three: When the pan is perfectly heated, pour in the eggs, and let them sit.

Step Three: Letting the Eggs Rest Peacefully

  1. STOP!... Don't touch those eggs! That's right. Don't touch them!
  2. Pour them into the oil and back off. This is critical to getting light and fluffy eggs and to getting an easy-clean pan at the end of things.
  3. Look carefully at the picture above. See the pale edges where the eggs are beginning to set? That is the sign you are looking for. If you let them sit too long, you will get an omelet, and that's not what we're looking for here.
  4. So just wait for that whitish ring at the edge. Don't stir at the first sign, let it get a little thicker...
Step four: Once the ring is sufficiently thick, you may stir.

Step four: Once the ring is sufficiently thick, you may stir.

Step Four: Stirring the Eggs

  1. Be gentle.
  2. You've got a nice set edge, so you are ready to start the scramble. Gently.
  3. Take a spoon or spatula and run it around the set edge to loosen it a bit. Gently.
  4. Pull the set bottom up in a heap, and let the uncooked eggs run to the bottom. Gently. Do this around the pan, and then stop.
  5. Back off. Let the eggs start to set up again.
  6. Repeat this process of gently loosening the set eggs and letting the uncooked eggs run underneath, then leaving it alone for a minute or two, until your eggs are mostly done. They should look like this.
Almost done . . .

Almost done . . .

Step Five: Finishing the Scramble

  1. You see that the eggs are largely done, and there is just a bit of still-runny egg sitting on top. At this point, you can get a bit more rough. Get your spoon in there, and flip the eggs. Don't try to flip the whole omelet over, but break it into large chunks.
  2. The runny bits left over will cook up very quickly. So once it is flipped, you are within seconds of removing it from the heat.
  3. I like to flip the eggs, leave for a second, stir to make sure all the runny bits are gone, then salt the eggs in the pan (I have four kids; this is much less messy for me!), and also stir in a pat of butter for extra flavor.
The flipped eggs only need a moment to finish.

The flipped eggs only need a moment to finish.

Light and fluffy eggs

Light and fluffy eggs

The clean-up is a breeze. Look at that pan!

The clean-up is a breeze. Look at that pan!

Look, Ma: No Scrubbing!

Congratulations! You've stopped your eggs from sticking to the pan!

Remember, this is a stainless-steel pan, no nonstick about it. I just scooped the eggs out onto plates, and this is what was left for cleanup. No soaking necessary; no scrubbing pads or elbow grease. A little soap on a dishcloth, and it practically wipes clean.

Scrambled eggs in cast iron make even less mess than in stainless steel!

Scrambled eggs in cast iron make even less mess than in stainless steel!

Is Cast Iron or Stainless Steel Better for Making Eggs In?

Both stainless steel and cast iron have good points for cooking eggs. Cast iron is a bit easier to work with though, in my opinion.

Eggs like to stick to stainless steel better. If you want eggs that won't stick in stainless steel, you must be scrupulously careful about heating to the proper point, adding the oil at the right temperature, and not over-stirring the eggs. Cast iron is more forgiving on all these points. You'll need a nice hot pan, but it doesn't have to be just to an exact degree; and eggs won't stick in cast-iron even with a bit more stirring.

However, cast iron does require more general care than stainless steel. If you want good nonstick cast iron, you must never, ever, ever put soap in it! This freaks a lot of people out, although it has been proven to be perfectly safe. Wipe it, scrub it with hot water, but don't ever use soap. Cast iron builds up a patina that acts like nonstick if it is not scrubbed off.

Cast iron also tends to rust if it is not cared for properly. After wiping and rinsing it, wipe it dry and place it on a low burner to dry it thoroughly in order to prevent rust. (Air drying is too slow and promotes rust.) Wipe the inside very lightly with oil once it is dry. If storing in other pans or with a lid, put a paper towel between lid and pan to prevent moisture accumulation and rust. I usually just wipe it out again before using, or if it has been a long time I'll rinse it with hot water (the oil can get a little tacky inside the pan).

TASTE TEST: What scrambles your eggs? Do you enjoy your eggs as is, or with a little extra kick?

Egg flavor can't be beat, or more flavors make it a treat? (Psst: Besides butter, salt, and pepper.)

© 2008 tandemonimom lm