On The Internet, No One Knows How To Cook An Egg

The internet is a tremendous useful information resource. The waging and settling of bets has been tremendously enabled since the advent of the search engine. Information is quite literally at your finger tips. You are able to find answers to complex questions, right up until the point where you can’t.

A case in point, cooking an omelette. For reasons best left unexplored, a friend of mine has decided that for the next treat day at his office (where each employee brings in treats for the rest of the office, and where donuts from Costco pass as the usual fare) he is going to set up an omelette station. Yep, he’s making omelettes. For his entire office. Of about 50 people.

To avoid the potential embarrassment of omelette failures, he wisely decided to practice first. As I was visiting over the weekend, and know my way around the kitchen, I was enlisted in the experiment.

A little research was presumed to be in order, and so I turned to the search engines. A Google query of ‘perfect omelette’ helpfully turned up 4,070,000 results in a mere 0.21 seconds. Of those four million hits, I made use of perhaps ten of them. Skipping over the videos (I do have a bias for the written word, and watching someone make an omelette in real time just doesn’t seem efficient) I plunged in to the links on the first page. Which had more than enough confusion for one morning.

The first one suggested an 8-inch non-stick pan, adding milk to the eggs, whisking like crazy and continually moving the egg to the centre of the pan to let the uncooked egg flow underneath, cooking over medium-low heat. The second (and now defunct) site offered similar cooking technique, but wanted medium-high heat. Number three was the Guardian, offering a dissertation on omelette making technique, but ultimately recommending a cast-iron pan, medium-high heat, and – while contemplating simply shaking and stirring like mad – continues to recommended drawing the egg into the centre with a spatula. Not to be outdone, the Independent offers its own dissertation (while drawing on some of the same stories as the Guardian), including descriptions of numerous international variations, while studiously avoiding a single recommendation. And the next onerecommends a 12-inch non-stick pan, very low flame and not touching the eggs at all, but adding water and covering the pan. This is immediately contradicted in the comments, with someone recommending high heat, others arguing for low heat, some changing the number of eggs, and others extensively debating the ingredients.

The end result is that there was no conclusive indication of how to make an omelette. Everyone has an opinion, many proclaim ‘extensive research’ to arrive at their recommendation, and yet there was no definitive solution that emerged as most likely to work. The only thing for it was to try for ourselves, and see where we got to.

What the internet was useful for, admittedly, was defining the variables. Ultimately we tried whisking extensively vs. just blending the eggs together; lots of butter vs. a little butter; low heat vs. medium heat vs. high heat; using just egg vs. adding a little water. We were going to try milk, too, but that just seemed to be taking things too far.

Our conclusion? We thought the best results came from just less than a tablespoon of butter in an 8-inch pan, added at the same time as your ingredients, with the eggs added once the butter stops bubbling and just begins to brown. The eggs are beaten but not whisked, with a tablespoon of water mixed in for each egg, cooked over low heat (if you have a portable gas omelette station, which frighteningly my friend does; repeat experiments on an electric range suggest ‘medium’ works best here). The water turns to steam, which has the benefits of adding a little fluffiness, cooking more evenly, preventing burning and requiring minimal amounts of stirring. Flip when the liquid is almost disappeared, add your cheese, fold and immediately take the pan off the heat. Voila: the perfect omelette.

But that’s just our opinion. And now, if you search for ‘perfect omelette’ there will be 4,070,001 results. While we’re now extremely confident in our approach, that doesn’t make our answer appear any more definitive than anyone else’s.

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