What NOT To Do When Cooking Eggs

7 Common Cooking Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Eggs

Are you making one of these mistakes cooking eggs?
Jillian Lochner / Getty Images

​They say that to make an omelet you need to break a few eggs, and that's true enough. But before you start cracking shells, make sure you're not making one of these egg-cooking errors.

  • 01 of 07

    You Didn't Whisk Your Eggs

    Whisking eggs helps make scrambled eggs fluffier
    WillSelarep / Getty Images

    Whisking is a crucial step for making omelets or scrambled eggs, for two reasons. First, it blends both parts of the egg, the white and the yolk, together into a temporary emulsion. This is important so that you don't see little flecks of white in the cooked eggs. Your eggs should be a uniform yellow color.

    And second, whisking whips air into the eggs, so that they cook up light and fluffy. Note: You don't have to use a whisk, although it helps. A fork will work too. But whatever you use,...MORE you should whisk vigorously, for a full minute. You want the eggs to be frothy. And don't whisk and then set the bowl down. Whisking should occur right before adding the eggs to the pan. Otherwise all that froth you whipped up will simply dissipate.

    The right way: Beat your eggs vigorously using a whisk or a fork for a full minute, right before adding them to the pan.

  • 02 of 07

    You Underseasoned Your Eggs

    An egg needs salt and pepper
    jorgegonzalez / Getty Images

    Failing to season (i.e. salt, specifically Kosher salt) your food is always a mistake, and especially when it comes to eggs, which have a relatively mild flavor to begin with. Sometimes it's impossible to season them, like when you're cooking them in their shells. You could add salt to the water, but there's no way that a noticeable amount of salt is going to penetrate the egg shell in the 12–15 minutes it takes to cook them.

    On the other hand, fried eggs, scrambled eggs (including...MORE omelets) and poached eggs can and should be seasoned. Poached eggs get their seasoning from the poaching liquid, which you should salt before heating, the same way you do with pasta water. With scrambled eggs, you can season them in the bowl before you whisk. And with fried eggs, go ahead and season the tops of them as soon as they hit the pan.

    The right way: Season your scrambled, fried and poached eggs, but don't bother trying to season hard-cooked eggs.

  • 03 of 07

    You Overcooked Your Eggs

    Crispy fried eggs
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    Eggs overcook easily, as anyone who's ever had tough, rubbery eggs knows. 

    And while there is a time and a place for a crispy fried egg, you don't want ALL your eggs to be crispy. Which means you need to cook your skillet eggs over medium heat, not high. Fortunately egg whites cook marginally faster than the yolks, so if you fry an egg until the whites are just set, the yolks will still be slightly oozy, if that's how you happen to like them. If not, cook them a little longer, but...MORE lower the heat. You can cook eggs on an electric griddle set to 325F.

    Indeed, with poached eggs, a slightly soft yolk is the goal, and you'll achieve that by making sure your poaching liquid is around 180F. You should barely see any bubbling. And don't poach longer than 5 minutes.

    You'll know when hard boiled eggs are overcooked because they'll smell of sulfur and exhibit the telltale greenish ring around the yolks. The solution here is not to boil them but rather bring them to a boil, turn off the heat and steep them until they're done.

    The right way: Whether you're frying, poaching or hard-cooking your eggs, keep the heat medium instead of high.

  • 04 of 07

    Your Poaching Technique Is... Interesting

    Cracking eggs directly into the poaching liquid is a mistake.
    Jerry Young / Getty Images

    Poaching eggs is tricky because you need to make sure the temperature is just right. Too hot and the eggs turn out hard, with crumbly yolks. Not hot enough and they spread out into long snaky tendrils. The solution: Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water. The acid helps the eggs cook a little faster so they hold their shape.

    Also, your water shouldn't be bubbling when you poach. A great trick is to bring it to a boil, take it off the heat, add the eggs and then cover and let sit for 5...MORE minutes. 

    And of course we talked about seasoning above, so make sure your poaching liquid is salty. And speaking of liquid, another mistake is cracking your egg directly into the poaching liquid. Instead, crack it into a ramekin, then make a whirlpool in the water with a spoon and gently slip the raw egg into the whirlpool. This technique is yet another way to keep the egg from spreading apart in the water. 

    The right way: Remember the vinegar, the salt, the ramekin, the whirlpool, and the water temperature.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    You Cracked Your Eggs into a Cold Pan

    Cold egg in a cold pan
    Eiichi Onodera / Getty Images

    Have you ever melted butter in a pan and then added your eggs, and instead of producing a big satisfying sizzle when they hit the pan, the eggs just sat there in a pool? That means your pan wasn't hot enough. Hot enough to melt the butter, yes, but not hot enough to cook the eggs. 

    Did you further notice that the butter wound up on top of the eggs? That's no good. The reason you add butter is to lubricate the pan, so your eggs don't stick (see below). If the butter doesn't get...MORE between the eggs and the pan, it won't be able to do its job properly. But that's what happens if the pan (and thus the butter) isn't hot enough when you add the eggs. 

    But don't feel bad. Not letting the pan get hot enough is another of the more common mistakes home cooks make. So you're not alone!

    The right way: Heat your pan until the butter is foamy and a drop of water sizzles on it.

  • 06 of 07

    You Used the Wrong Kind of Pan

    Sunny side up egg in a cast iron skillet
    Michael Grayson / Getty Images

    Eggs are like glue. You can actually use eggs as glue, to seal pie crusts, empanadas and other pastries. So it's not a surprise that eggs will stick to the bottom of your pan. While the egg cooks, its proteins are literally forming chemical bonds with the metal of the pan. A nonstick coating interferes with this bonding, and so does adding fat like oil or butter to the pan before the eggs. The layer of fat gets between the pan and the eggs and prevents the proteins from sticking. 

    Now, you...MORE can cook eggs in any kind of pan — even a cast-iron skillet. But you need to make sure you have oil in it and keep the eggs moving, so that a bond never gets a chance to form.

    Besides, you can't flip eggs in a cast iron skillet. It's too heavy! Or if you can, you don't have to worry about pans, you can just go around crushing things with your bare hands until someone agrees to make eggs for you.

    For the rest of us, a nonstick pan is best. An 8-inch omelet pan is the right size for cooking two eggs, and it's shaped so the eggs will slide around and flip like a circus acrobat.

    The right way: Cook your eggs in a nonstick pan.

  • 07 of 07

    Your Eggs Weren't Fresh

    Testing eggs for freshness
    Howard Shooter / Getty Images

    This doesn't mean they were spoiled, just old. As an egg ages, it slumps. It slackens. It loses its firmness. A fresh egg is perky. Its yolk stands up straight and points skyward. The white is tight and compact. All these qualities make fresh eggs highly desirable for poaching and griddling. A fresh egg holds its shape when you poach it, and it doesn't go sprawling across the pan when you crack it.

    But there are some things an old egg can do that a fresh one can't. OK, one thing,...MORE namely, they're easy to peel when you hard-boil them. There's an air pocket beneath the shell that expands as the egg ages, making it easier to peel an older egg than a fresh one, where the shell clings to the egg more tightly. 

    You can use this simple test to tell a fresh egg from a not-so-fresh one.

    The right way: Use your fresh eggs for poaching and griddling, and older ones for hard-boiling.