Down to basics – the omelet

March 25, 2013 § 23 Comments

basic omelet 1

After I posted about my method for making creamy scrambled eggs, I received several requests asking whether I could write a similar post on making the perfect omelet.

The answer:  most certainly! … Well, sort of.

The perfect omelet is a fitful, finnicky, tricky thing.  It is said that you can judge the caliber of a chef by his or her plain roast chicken and his or her omelet.  So, I knew that if I was to post about how to cook an omelet, I could not do so lightly.

So, I decided to put in a whole bunch of practice first.

eggs for two omelets

On the whole, I’m relatively unpracticed at making omelets.  Certainly if you compare with my practice in fried or scrambled eggs.  I like eggs in nearly any preparation, but omelets are not at the very top of my list, so I don’t make them as frequently as some other eggy delights.  Actually, if I were to order how frequently I made different types of eggs, the list would be something like this:

  1. Fried eggs
  2. Baked eggs (most often baked plainly with just a drizzle of cream and maybe some herbs)
  3. Scrambled eggs (with or without lots of mix-ins)
  4. Poached eggs – Frittatas – this one’s a tie
  5. Omelets
  6. Soft or hard boiled eggs (though, actually, I do absolutely love a soft boiled egg, if someone else prepares it for me)
  7. Other egg-based things like savory custards, stratas, souffles, etc.

So there you go.  And I have now started the most boring conversation ever, listing egg preparation preferences. Or maybe it’s actually one of the most interesting potential conversations ever.  Your egg preferences may be like a personality barometer.  Maybe it’s an edible Myer’s-Briggs!  Do all other INFJs have the same egg preferences as me?  Do ENTPs prefer scrambled eggs above all while ISTJs are omelet people?  Feel free to discuss.

eggs for omelet in cup

Anyhow, what it comes down to is, I have now spent several weeks practicing my omelet making, getting the technique down, and  increasing my appreciation for omelets along the way.  There is, I will admit, something wonderfully appealing about the contrast in textures that you get from two layers of egg, a taut skin encasing a fluffy interior for each layer, that hide between them melting cheese, or squidgy cooked greens, or cool yogurt, or crunchy bacon, or whatever else you happen to have in the refrigerator to add to it.

A very important thing I learned, and that I think is applicable to many things in cooking beyond omelets, is that so much of good omelet making is the result of practice.  You can read directions and watch videos for hours , you could follow my instructions to the letter (and you should!), but your omelets still may turn out rubbery, or undercooked, or mangled on your first several tries.  But, by trying and trying again, eventually you will get a sense of the minute temperature adjustments your stove requires, and for just how long you can stir the eggs, and exactly what it looks like when the egg on the surface is cooked, but not cooked through.  And that’s when your omelets will reveal to you why they are measures of true skill.

herbs for omelet

But, you have to start somewhere, so why not start here! (And, I promise that all of your practice omelets, while perhaps imperfect, will be quite edible.  So what is there to lose?)  To make an omelet for one person for breakfast, I like to start with two eggs.  For lunch or dinner, I may go for three.  Using a fork, beat your eggs together with a large pinch of salt and a good grinding of fresh pepper, plus a splash of cream if you desire.  Use cream, not milk, because milk seems to make the eggs gummier.  If you don’t have cream, you can use no dairy at all.  I also often like to whisk in a teaspoon of chopped fresh herbs like thyme, basil, or tarragon (each of which lend themselves to a different type of cheese in the filling, though they all go with goat cheese!  Or maybe that’s just my pro goat cheese bias).

If you are making omelets for more than one person, you can whisk all the eggs together, but fry them in individual portions.  Trying to make and flip a giant omelet, while possible, is a giant headache.

For an omelet, you want to use a pan that is large enough that the whisked eggs will spread into a layer that is a bit under a half-inch thick.  Too thick and the omelet will crack when you fold it, and the center will have trouble cooking fully.  Then again, too thin and your omelet will cook before you have time to fluff it (though this can be remedied by using a very low cooking temperature.)  For two eggs, I use a pan that says it is a 10 inch pan.  I don’t really like non-stick pans, but for things like omelets, they are a great boon.

eggs for omelet with herbs

Put your pan over medium heat, add a good pat of butter, and swirl the butter as it melts to coat the bottom of the pan.  Wait until the butter is foaming, then pour in the eggs.  For about 15 seconds, use the fork you beat the eggs with to stir the eggs around, especially pulling the cooking bits from the edge toward the middle.  This will help make the omelet fluffy.  After about 15 seconds, as the eggs are starting to set, spread them back into an even layer across the bottom of the pan, and turn the heat to low.

At this point, you add your filling to half of the omelet.  It’s just a personal preference, but I really like to keep my omelets simple, usually just a light grating of sharp cheddar or Parmesan.  If I’m feeling decadent, I’ll add a small amount of cooked spinach and ham or bacon pieces.  You can really add whatever floats your boat, but be sure that whatever you’re adding is already cooked and kept warm (apart from cheese, of course, or yogurt, which is there in part for a temperature contrast if you’re using it).  So, if you’re adding leftover vegetables, for example, warm them in the pan you’ll cook the eggs in, then transfer them to a plate, and keep them warm as you wipe out the pan and then cook the eggs in it.  If you don’t, the filling won’t have time to heat and cook in the time it takes for the eggs to cook through.

omelet just before folding

After you’ve added the fillings, watch closely.  When the egg that is on top is still a dark color – more like uncooked egg than the lighter yellow that well-done egg has – and has just barely solidified so that it won’t run anymore if you tilt the pan, use a spatula to loosen the omelet all around, then fold the omelet, one half over the other, and slide it onto a plate.  The outside of the omelet should be turning just a very light brown, but not a deep or crispy shade of brown.  If it has gotten dark, you’ll want to use a lower temperature next time.  If runny egg squishes out as you fold the omelet, that means you should have waited just a moment longer for it to cook through (if that sort of thing bothers you, otherwise, it’s actually ok for it to be a titch runny).  If the center feels a little chewy or rubbery, instead of velvety, then the eggs were overcooked, and next time you should fold it and plate it a little sooner.  It just takes getting a feel for your stove and the eggs.

So, there you go.  Go forth and make omelets!

basic omelet 2


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§ 23 Responses to Down to basics – the omelet

  • Yum! Love omelets! This one looks really delicious! XO

  • I was diagnosed with a serious egg yolk allergy a few months ago. It hurts my heart to not be able to enjoy eggs!! But I loved this post and I think I’m a born again omelette lover, as long as it’s whites only. Thanks for sharing!

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Oh no! That’s so sad! I’m very sorry to hear that. I used to hate yolks but now they’re my favorite part of the egg. However, you can totally make a good egg white omelet, and I feel like you get to use extra cheese to give it the extra richness it deserves. 🙂

    • andrew says:

      damn our bodies suddenly changing on us!! i used to love eating bananas but now when i eat them, my mouth gets itchy (not unbearable, but noticeable). i guess that means its an allergy though i havent gone to the doctor to check. anyways, dont fret, egg white is just as good as the yolk without all the cholesterol 🙂

  • chefmo73 says:

    eggs ahoy!

  • I am spoiled that I have a teenage daughter who makes superb omelettes. Basically I don’t bother. For myself my preferences run from poached (fave) through to tortillas/frittatas and stratas (only lower on my list due to time & effort). But your precise and guiding hand may tempt me to make my own omelette. I will have to once my daughter goes to university! Goats’ cheese & lemon thyme with spring onions is my favourite

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Ooh, lucky you to have such a good (and talented!) daughter. I’m jealous! Goats’ cheese with lemon thyme and spring onions is a fabulous combination! You make me want that for Easter breakfast.

  • Amanda says:

    I miss spring onions. Of all the things not to be able to find in this town….

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Spring onions are wonderful. And they’re around so briefly. I guess that makes them all the more precious, but, it’s definitely not easy to find them around here either.

  • Amanda says:

    Also, I am an INTJ and I would always eat an omelette given the choice. I can NOT eat runny yolks and usually scramble my eggs.

  • Elizabeth says:

    A fellow INFJ here – but I am with Amanda. No runny yolks for me either, my first choice to make at home is scrambled eggs (cause restaurants don’t know how to do it right) but for a brunch out, omelette is numero uno.

    • Emily (Kuross) Vikre says:

      Well there goes my theory. 😉 I love runny yolks. A lot of the time, that’s the whole reason I want to eat eggs. Then again, I used to absolutely hate, hate, hate runny yolks. I wonder how I went through the conversion!

  • great post… i believe the true test of a great cook is their ability to make an omelet. Practise required!

  • This omelette looks great. I agree, it’s all about practice with eggs. Some days are better than others when I try to cook them!

  • Ashley says:

    I needed this, thanks! (As a fellow INFJ, I share your egg preferences!)

  • Frances says:

    I’ve never really thought about my egg preferences until reading this post. I usually have sunny side ups and I like runny yolks since that’s how my mom usually cooks and serves them. If not sunny side up, then scrambled eggs with cheese. I also love having soft boiled eggs Singaporean style.

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