How to Cook Eggs: A Beginner's Guide

Different Ways to Prepare Eggs for Beginners

Eggs have been called incredible, and we all know the reason why. They are found is so many varieties of dishes that they are staples in our fridge no matter whether we're on a low-carb diet or not. For the beginning cook, it's hard to think of a better place to start than eggs. They are easy, inexpensive, and nutritious. You can make them in many ways, combine them with almost any vegetable you can think of, and come up with a quick, delicious meal, not only for breakfast, but through lunch, dinner, and dessert.

Find Out the Nutritional Benefits of Eggs, as well as more information about egg selection, storage, and handling

I am going to take you through the easiest things to do with eggs. As you gain experience, you'll be able to judge better when the eggs are the doneness you like, and you'll be able to add fun flourishes and bring them from "darned good eggs" to "fabulous eggs". At the beginning, though, we're shooting for "easy" and "darned good".

Selecting Eggs

Multi-Colored Eggs
These multi-colored eggs come from different breeds of hens. Schedivy Pictures Inc/Getty Images

When you're first starting out, just worry about getting eggs that aren't cracked! However, there is a variety of eggs available, so if you want you can go beyond that. Most of the time, the fresher the better, so if you can find local sources you will often find that you're eating tastier eggs. The color of the shell makes absolutely no difference as to flavor or quality (different breeds of hens lay different colored eggs). Some people are concerned about how the hens are treated. Information about Cage- Free, Free-Range, etc. eggs

How to Crack an Egg

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Contrary to popular belief, the best way to crack an egg is not to hit it on the edge of the pan or bowl. That method is more likely to push pieces of the shell into the egg. A better way is to tap the egg on a flat surface such as the kitchen counter. Then you can open the shell up by spreading it apart with your thumbs, and dump the contents where you want it to go without spilling it all over.

Cooking Eggs is Easy

Photo © Kostas Konstantopoulos

It's kind of a tossup whether fried, scrambled, or hard-boiled eggs are easier. They are all relatively very easy. The important thing to know is that eggs cook at a surprisingly low temperature (they start to cook at 145 degrees F and are fully cooked at 165 degrees). If you overcook them, they become rubbery, so especially at first, restrain your impulse to crank the burner up to high. It's best to start with less heat (medium-low to medium) until you get to know your own stove, pans, and preferences.​

Safety Note: The U.S. government recommends that eggs be fully cooked (whites and yolks solid) due to the risk of salmonella. This is certainly the safest, and for infants, seniors, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems it's a must. If you like your yolks runny, pasteurized eggs are available in many areas. (More advanced: Danilo Alfaro,'s Culinary Arts Expert, has information about a method for pasteurizing eggs in the microwave for using in recipes like mayonnaise where raw eggs are called for).

How to Fry an Egg

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To fry an egg, melt about a tablespoon of butter in a nonstick pan, or use olive oil, bacon fat, or whatever fat you want to use. Crack the eggs into the pan (it's probably best not to go beyond three at first until you get some practice). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (If you get any pieces of shell in, fish them out with a spoon.) Cook for 2-4 minutes, until the white is set and the underside is beginning to brown. You now have sunny-side up eggs. If you want them "over", flip with a spatula, or just flip them using the pan (it takes practice, but it's fun). Then cook a little longer -- just a few seconds for "over easy", maybe 15 seconds for "over medium" and about 30 seconds to cook the yolk all the way through (if you like, break the yolk before turning and it will cook more quickly).

Scrambled Eggs

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Basic scrambled eggs are very simple, and the variations are endless. Heat butter or other fat in the nonstick pan, as above. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add about a tablespoon of cream, milk, or water per egg, and add salt and pepper. Scramble with a fork (use a rotating motion) until the mixture is fairly uniform. If you have a whisk, that's even better because incorporating more air will make the eggs fluffier (but frankly I usually don't bother). Pour the eggs into the pan. As they begin to thicken, stir with a heat-resistant spatula or a wooden spoon, moving them around the pan as they cook. Stop a little before they are done! They will continue to thicken for a bit after you take them off the heat, and you will get rubbery eggs if they overcook.

Variations: Add some chopped parsley, chives, or other herbs as the eggs cook. Or have a scramble: put whatever vegetables or meats you'd like into the pan first and cook them in the fat (or just heat them if they are already cooked). Any spices you'd like should also be added at this time. Then add the eggs, and cook as above.

Even Faster and Easier - Microwave Scrambled Eggs

Scramble eggs in a bowl as above, using a microwave-safe bowl. If desired, add cheese and any other ingredient you like (cooked vegetables, chopped ham, etc.) Microwave on high for 45 seconds for 1 or 2 eggs, 1 minute for 3 eggs, and up to 90 seconds if there are lots of ingredients. Stir the mixture. Then microwave at half-power in 30-second increments until it's the preferred amount of done you like, stirring each time. Don't overcook.

Hardboiled Eggs

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Put the eggs in one layer at the bottom of a pot (don't stack). Add water until there is at least an inch of water over the eggs. (If any happen to float, take them out and throw them away; they are bad. This should only happen if they are very old.) Bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and cover. Wait 12 minutes for large eggs, 17 minutes for extra-large. Drain, and cover with cold water. Add ice, or drain again and refrigerate. When fully cool, store as is or peel them. From there, it's only a couple of steps to Deviled Eggs.

(Note: This is one of the few times that very fresh eggs aren't as good, because they are harder to peel. Eggs in the grocery store are probably at least a week old, and that is fine.)

How to Peel a Hard-Boiled Egg: Roll it, squeezing gently, against the counter, so that the shell fills with cracks. Start at the larger end, and peel the shell off the egg.

Omelets, Frittatas, Quiches, and More

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Don't know an omelet from a frittata? There's a world of egg dishes beyond the basics. For example, this Denver Casserole is super-simple -- just mix eggs, sour cream, cheese, ham, onion, and peppers (or whatever vegetables you'd like), and bake.

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