Consummate Scrambled Egg

It may seem heretical, but I think scrambled egg should taste of egg. So no cream, no milk, no flavourings, aside from and tiny amount of butter, salt and pepper. Ok, chopped parsley, tarragon or chives, if you must. But that’s it.

Actually, there’s one extra ingredient – time. The slower you can cook your scrambled eggs, the better they will taste. Of course you can make perfectly edible scrambled eggs in a matter of minutes, but if you want to taste them in al their natural rich, creamy, curded softness, then you should cook them for a minimum of 30 minutes, 40 if possible. I know that not many people have the patience, inclination or curiosity to try this, not to mention the time. Scrambled eggs are generally treated as a short order fix. Even the great Heston Blumenthal wants to wack them out in 15 minutes, and he uses a water bath, a hand blender, double cream AND milk. Heavens to Murgatroyd. But bear with me.

I developed this method after reading The Mother Hunt by Rex Stout, whose hero, Nero Wolfe, is an overweight private eye and gourmet, with his own private chef. ‘The client admitted to Wolf, in my hearing,’ writes Stout’s narrator, Archie Goodwin, ‘that she didn’t know how to scramble eggs . . . He admitted to her, in my hearing, that forty was more minutes than you could expect a housewife to spend exclusively scrambling eggs, but he maintained that it was impossible to do it to perfection in less with each and every particle exquisitely firm, soft and moist.’ Just so.

You can cook these scrambled eggs in a bain marie if you wish, and there are some advantages as the heat is indirect. Or you can use the very lowest setting you can achieve on your cooker. I’ve found my induction hob precise and perfect in this.

Either way, put a knob of butter no larger than the fingernail of your little finger into the pan and set it over the heat, water or direct as the case may be. While that is going on break your eggs into a bowl, 2 per person, and break them up with a fork, but not too much. When the butter is melted, sprinkle a little salt and pepper (and finely chopped herbs if you must), and add the eggs. The pan and butter must not be hot enough to cause the egg to immediately start coagulating on contact. Slow and gently does it. And start stirring, not too vigorously because you’re going to be there for some time. Look at is as a form of therapy or meditation. You can take time away from the stove now and then, but not for too long, and if you do, always give the eggs a lively work out when you get back.

Little by little they will begin to thicken, almost imperceptibly at first. The sheen becomes glazed. Little islands of firmer egg begin to form, around which the rest slowly coalesces, a mass of individual curds of egg, resting lightly and gently and individually on the next, a cumulo nimbus of egg. And when it reaches the desired consistency – people are as particular over the texture of their scrambled eggs as they are over boiled eggs. It’s a matter of very precise taste. And then their ready, to be heaped onto buttered toast, to have on their own, to sit beside a fragrant shaving of bacon,or a slice or two of fragrant, pink ham with a little collar of fat on it.

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About Matt

Food writer, television presenter and big eater.
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13 Responses to Consummate Scrambled Egg

  1. Robert Smith says:

    Many years ago I applied for a job to work with Michel Roux. I was asked to fry an egg for him. Fortunately, I had read Michel’s version of how to fry an egg perfectly. I did so and won a certain amount of respect. I wholeheartedly agree, where eggs are concerned, slow. Also, less is more. One day I will do a short film of the Michel Roux way of frying an egg. They taste damn good!

  2. Keeps you occupied while you are letting the sausages cook properly.

  3. JBell says:

    Fantastic. Scrambled egg has always been a frantic affair in our house, and rarely satisfactory! If i wasn’t at work, i would be trying these right now.

  4. Matthew says:

    Slow, slow, and without any milk and cream – I’m with you there. I do like to butter them up a bit, though. My very favourite addition to scrambled eggs, and a true herald of spring, is some finely chopped wild garlic. Seems a long way off on this chilly morning.

  5. Debbie Quinn says:

    Sorry but I’m in the camp of “who could be bothered”. Scrambled eggs are gorgeous enough if cooked with the right eggs in just two minutes with just a knob of butter and maybe salt and pepper. Faffing for faffs sake!

  6. Chris says:

    That picture looks like vom on toast. Prefect scrambled eggs need lot’s of butter, to be cooked in 5 minutes, a small amount of cream at the end to stop the cooking and loads of black pepper – job done!

    40 minutes – Moron…!

  7. Kavey says:

    I’ve never tried to cook scrambled eggs so slowly, shall have a go sometime.
    But surely the addition of parsley, tarragon or chives will flavour the eggs far more than a dash of cream or milk?!

  8. Julie says:

    I agree – milk and cream ruin the taste, but I do use more butter than Matt.

    I once made some to accompany some samphire and it proved a successful match I reckon!

  9. John says:

    Sounds very good although does adding the salt at the beginning make things a little watery? I always add salt right at the last second with scrambled eggs.

  10. Pingback: Food Links, 14.03.2012 « Tangerine and Cinnamon

  11. Rich says:

    15 mins on a bain marie for 2 eggs was spot on. this method is the best i have ever tried. using a microwave or direct heat is a frantic guessing game. a bain marie is far more controllable. any doubters out there should try it before condemning this method.

  12. Barbara says:

    I love the story. I have heard of the slow cooking technique–I thought 10 minutes was “slow”. I am not encouraged by the photo, though–are they supposed to be so orange? Or is that just the camera?
    And speaking of microwaved scrambled eggs, as one commenter did–what’s up with taking perfectly good eggs and cooking them u tip they are grey?
    Love your columns.
    BP

    • Matt says:

      I admit that photo isn’t quite up there in Jean Cazals, Tim Hill or David Loftus league, but actually the colour is a pretty accurate reflection of the extraordinary deep yellow of Lucy Watt’s fabulous eggs.

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