Is there any food more gloriously delicious, versatile, and comforting than the egg? The answer is a resounding, firm-bordering-on-angry no. There’s no preparation, circumstance, or time of day that I won’t enjoy the sublime, silken creaminess of an egg or three. I’ll take them in omelet-form, poached, soft-boiled in a niçoise salad, frozen and then fried, hoisted atop a burger patty, Scottish-style, slow-cooked, just plain scrambled in a pool of bubbling butter, or literally any other way, save one …
Egg enthusiast, nay, champion that I am, few things upset me more than overcooked huevos. If you’re of the greasy-spoon ilk that prefers your eggs scorched to the point of offensive, that’s fine. You’re also probably the type that drowns your well-done steak in ketchup and throws your pasta at the wall to see if it’s al dente. While I may have zero respect for your culinary acumen, I’m sure you excel in other areas. But –– and here’s the important thing – please keep your IHOP sensibilities away from online message boards and rating sites.
I was recently scrolling down my Facebook feed when, to my horror, I saw a picture of a beautifully prepared egg from a well-respected, highly rated (by me) local eatery captioned with the blasphemous slander, “This place always undercooks its eggs.” The resulting melee of comments was both hilarious and heartbreaking, mostly because way too many people in that thread were convinced that eggs aren’t “done” until they’re blackened and shriveled like a sad salad bar shrimp.
You can actually scientifically quantify the degree to which you are ruining your eggs. There’s not another food that transforms more dramatically by its cooking process. Eggs are a complex network of proteins, fats, and water that changes significantly when heated –– their molecules reorganize and become solid as their proteins unfold. Continuing to heat the egg squeezes out the water (referred to as weeping), which causes the egg white to become rubbery and the yolk chalky.
Ever seen an olive-green-hued ring around the yolk in a hard-boiled egg? That’s because your over-cooking has dredged up the sulfur contained in the egg whites. When that sulfur interacts with the iron in the yolk, you’re basically making poison. The egg itself is warning you not to eat it. It died trying to save you from yourself. What other food does that?
Maybe you’re worried about undercooked eggs making you sick? According to the Mayo Clinic in 2018, cases of salmonella resulting from the improper cooking of eggs have dropped to near-extinction. It just doesn’t happen anymore. If you get sick after eating eggs, you might want to check the date on them. I’d also recommend washing your hands before cooking, you filthy animal. If you became sick from eggs you ate at a restaurant, that’s almost always caused by the person handling the eggs, not the eggs themselves.
To you precious, undereducated few who would rather take to Yelp! or Facebook and complain than, say, ask for your eggs to be re-cooked, I have a suggestion. Before you order eggs at a restaurant with seats (as opposed to booths and stools), please tell your server exactly what you mean by “over-medium” or “lightly fried.” Most professional kitchens revere eggs, and they’ll naturally assume you don’t want to ruin yours.
Eggs should taste rich, creamy, and as multifarious as the animals that lay them and the feed that sustains those chickens. Next time you’re out at a restaurant and you think your eggs have been undercooked, just open your mind and give it a try. Afterward, you might be tempted to join me among the ranks of eggsulted champions.