In search of tender, soft, fluffy scrambled eggs? Here's my chef's secret for how to make scrambled eggs incredibly light and tender. It's the tried and true professional trick for a perfect plate of eggs. And, no... the secret isn't to add milk. Chef's promise.
A plate of soft, creamy scrambled eggs is a delicious, hearty, and affordable breakfast. It's a simple and quick one that's perfect for hurried mornings and hangry kids (or in our house, parents). And the key to avoiding a tough, rubbery breakfast is mostly in the technique. And the ingredients matter, too.
Food labels are notoriously misleading. Yes, even ones for fresh ingredients like eggs. Here's an unpacking of the different types of eggs found in most stores' cases. And you never need to worry about the color of an egg. The shell color is specific to the breed of hen that lays it. And makes no difference as to the quality or general make-up of what's inside.
I also don't recommend giving eggs labeled as "natural" any special consideration. All the word means on a food label is that nothing "artificial or synthetic" has been added to the food. So with a fresh animal product like eggs, it has little meaning.
Organic. These chickens are fed organic feed. Many also live with access to the outdoors or are allowed to roam and peck around freely.
Pastured or Free-range. Chickens with access to roam (mostly) free. Many also eat naturally, pecking at bugs in their environment along with feed that may or may not be organic.
Omega-3 Enriched. The chickens' feed includes flaxseed, which naturally boosts the omega-3 fatty acids in their body and the eggs they produce. Enriched eggs come from a variety of environments including cage-raised, given some outdoor access, or allowed to roam entirely free.
Conventional. The least regulated egg production. These eggs won't have any specific qualifiers on the carton and are typically the most affordable. The chickens live in cages and eat feed that is allowed to contain pesticides. Chickens raised for conventional eggs are given pharmaceuticals to prevent diseases that thrive in cramped living environments.
On the Yolk
From a taste perspective, the yolk is literally where all the good stuff lives in an egg. Aside from beef or chicken liver, egg yolks contain more choline than any other food. And it's a nutrient especially essential to the developing brains of young children. According to the USDA, whole eggs also provide decent levels of essential vitamins and nutrients, including Vitamins A and D.
As for the high amounts of cholesterol in egg yolks, it's not the same cholesterol that forms in the body as a result of a poor diet. Here's a helpful article from Harvard's School of Public Health that explains why dietary cholesterol is not the same as the inflammatory cholesterol your body produces.
On the Whites
Egg whites are made up of water and albumen protein. Not necessarily anything to write home about. We humans have far more nutrient-dense sources of protein, such as pastured lean meats, fish, and even beans and legumes.
And it's worth mentioning that the yolk helps denature the strong proteins in the egg white during cooking. In other words, without the creamy, fatty yolks to yell at the tense egg white to chill out, you'll find yourself eating a rubbery breakfast.
You need one ingredient, and one ingredient only to scramble up fluffy, tender, perfect eggs. And no, it's not milk or water. It's butter, butter, and more butter, to steal words from the French. And not all butter is created equal. Never trust a pale stick of butter! The deeper the yellow of the butter, the tastier and richer the flavor.
If your budget allows, I recommend organic, pastured, or European butter. This is often because the cows are raised on a more varied feed or eat their natural diet of grass. This leads to a healthier animal compared with those raised in crowded feeding units, fed pesticide-laden feed, and even antibiotics to prevent sickness. And butter that tastes more like, well, butter.
Plant-based or vegan "butter" can get you nearly as fluffy eggs, too. Brands that incorporate nut milk will lend a creamier, richer flavor and texture than ones that are mostly oil-based.
Adding Milk or Water
Many home cooks swear by adding milk or water to their scrambled eggs. But especially if you scramble with butter, adding milk is unnecessary and potentially a cook's downfall.
It's not a secret to "the best scrambled eggs ever". And can lead to tougher eggs. Because if you get distracted and overcook eggs, the proteins will thicken and bind to each other with extra enthusiasm. Which pushes the added moisture back out. And results in even tougher curds (and a leaky scramble). Ordered scrambled eggs at a mediocre diner? Case in point.
Put down your measuring spoons, my friends. A small spoonful or about one tablespoon of butter for every two eggs gives you an ample amount of fat to tenderize the egg proteins. And achieve a light, fluffy breakfast (or dinner).
1 tablespoon butter + 2 large eggs
I use the lines on the butter paper as a loose guide, but not a strict rule. And if you prefer to cook with oil, I say your kitchen, your rules. Most of the fluffiness in a scramble will come from how you whisk the eggs. While butter helps and is delicious, it's not the end all, fluff all.
If you want to enjoy a warm, fluffy scramble, you need a completely homogenous (combined) egg batter. Aim for a mixture with large, visible air bubbles. If your exuberant whisking makes you feel silly, you're on the right path. As you whisk you'll feel the eggs loosen up and thin out a bit.
- Whisk the eggs with salt until foamy. Crack the eggs into a bowl with plenty of room, then give them a piece of your mind with a whisk or fork. Salting the eggs before whisking will encourage the egg proteins to break down for a lighter, fluffier scramble. The bigger the bubbles, the more air that is available to be trapped in between the egg proteins during cooking. Air bubbles = fluffy eggs.
- Low heat. To be specific, cooking eggs above 170° F turns the egg white proteins tough, rubbery and dry. It's around this temperature the proteins form very tight bonds and squeeze out any moisture. To ensure a moist scramble, cook over low heat just until the eggs are set into soft curds.
- Add the fat and stir frequently. Warm the butter (or oil if that's what you have) until it begins to bubble. Then add your foamy eggs and stir frequently with a spatula or wooden spoon. Take care to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan for even-sized curds. The faster you stir, the smaller the final curds.
- Add cheese and vegetables. Once the eggs are thick but still somewhat shiny, add your favorite mix-ins. Moisture-heavy vegetables like mushrooms should be cooked separately first. Otherwise, they will leak liquid as they cook and ruin your scramble. Fresh vegetables like halved grape tomatoes or fresh leafy greens can be added toward the end of cooking.
- Don't be afraid to pull the pan off the heat. If you feel like the eggs are cooking too quickly, simply turn the heat off. And if necessary, move the pan completely off the burner.
- Residual heat is your friend. If you sauté vegetables like onions, peppers, or mushrooms first, you can often cook the eggs in the same pan with the burner off. The residual heat in the pan will be enough to cook the eggs, or only require very low heat. This allows you to gently cook the eggs without worrying about the proteins getting too hot.
- My "move over" method for adding vegetables. This is a trick I use to add fresh vegetables that don't need to cook very long. When mixing in halved cherry tomatoes I push the almost-cooked eggs over to the side of the pan. Then set that part of the pan off the burner. You can then safely warm the tomatoes or wilt chopped salad greens quickly in a small amount of butter or oil. Just take care to be sure the part of the pan with the eggs is actually off the heat.
- Cook most vegetables first in the same pan. If diced small, vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, shallots, and chilis can be cooked right in the same pan before you scrambled. Simply give the pan a quick wipe with a towel before scrambling the eggs. If the pan is especially dirty or the butter burned, a quick rinse in the sink is a good idea.
Tips for Teaching Kids
Talk about a mom win on a weekend morning! By the age of four or five, most kids have the skill set necessary to work the whole process on their own. Yes, even cracking the eggs and handling the stove. But for your kids, you know their limits. So here are a couple of tips for helping your little ones gain a bit of breakfast independence. And keeping your kitchen
sort of clean.
- Eggshell landing zone. Kids love cracking eggs. So to keep your kitchen from becoming an eggshell graveyard, convey clearly where you want the shells to end up. For the youngest cooks, I find it best to set them up next to the sink. Then they can easily toss the shells in as they go. And they're right where they need to be to wash up afterward.
- Hand washing. Most eggs, even organic, can carry salmonella bacteria. So the most important point to make clear is that Bobby's first stop after cracking eggs is to wash his little hands like he's scrubbing in for surgery.
- Teaching stove safety. Once you are convinced your little one understands not to touch the actual stove, equipping them with a safe pan is the next step. Mine knows there is a designated pan for scrambling eggs. And it's one with a stay-cool handle. Teaching kiddos to hold the handle with one hand while stirring with the other is key. It prevents them from inadvertently pushing the pan around (or worse - off!) the stove when stirring.
- Set clear temperature rules. On our stove dial, it's "Number 4". And no higher. My boys (now ages six and eight) know that if I catch the dial hotter than that, their scrambling days are over.
- Take it slow. As wonderful as it is to stay in bed and let the kids make their own nutrient-dense breakfast, Rome wasn't built in a day. But if at the right age, you engage your kids every time you scramble, you'll be sleeping in before you know it.
Frequently Asked Questions
According to the United States Agricultural Department, two eggs alone contain about 142 calories. However, if you add butter or oil to the pan, you will need to factor in those calories, as well. A tablespoon of butter lends about 100 calories, and a tablespoon of most vegetable oils adds 124 calories to your dish. So a couple of large eggs scrambled with a tablespoon of butter is about 240 calories. A little more if you cook with oil.
And don't forget to factor in any calories from added vegetables or cheese. Cheese can really rack up the calories. But vegetables will add a negligible amount in comparison to the eggs and cooking fat.
You can certainly cook scrambled eggs ahead and freeze them, although eggs are best enjoyed hot and fresh. If you want to freeze scrambled eggs, slightly undercook them. Then store the cooked eggs in an airtight storage bag and spread them out into a thin layer. Thaw frozen scrambled eggs overnight in the refrigerator, and reheat them gently in the microwave on half power.
The professional food safety standard is that ready-to-eat food AKA cooked and prepared food lasts seven days in the refrigerator. And that's if it is properly handled, which means cooled down to refrigerator temperature within four hours of being cooked. So if you cool them quickly, eggs are safe to eat for the next week after scrambling.
But as with any dish, the longer the leftover sits in the fridge, the less appetizing it becomes. Cooked scrambled eggs stored chilled are best reheated and enjoyed within a couple of days.
Along with proper foaming AKA all that vigorous whisking, adding fat, like nutrient-dense, pastured butter is the most practical, science-based, and reliable method for tender, fluffy eggs. This is why you won't meet a chef who'll scramble eggs without it. This one included. We are talking about butter here.
- 4 large eggs, pastured or organic recommended
- 2 tablespoons (about) of butter, grass-fed or European-style recommended
- good pinch of salt (about ¼ of a teaspoon, less if you use salted butter)
- cooked, diced bell peppers
- sautéed button or cremini mushrooms
- shredded cheese or small drops of fresh cheese like farmer's cheese or Fromage blanc
- halved cherry tomatoes
- sliced leafy greens like baby spinach, arugula, or even romaine
- sautéed garlic, diced onions, or shallots
- crème fraîche or sour cream
- Sriracha, Tabasco, Cholula, or any favorite hot sauce
- chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, scallions, or cilantro
- If you are mixing in any vegetables that give off moisture during cooking, sauté them gently first in a little butter or oil. First melt the butter or warm the oil over medium heat in the same pan you'll use for eggs. Add the vegetables and a small pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat just until they soften and begin to brown. Remove the cooked vegetables and set them aside. If the butter in the pan has browned, wipe it out with a paper towel (or just wash and dry it real quick).
- Crack your eggs into a bowl that leaves plenty of room for whisking.
- Whisk your eggs with a tiny pinch of salt (or use a fork) until they are completely combined and very foamy.
- In a medium-size pan over low heat, melt the butter until it bubbles (or warm the oil for a couple of minutes). A non-stick pan works best for eggs.
- Add the frothed eggs and stir slowly but frequently for large, fluffy curds. Store more frequently over a slightly higher heat for smaller curds.
- Once the eggs are thickened and creamy, but still shiny, add any cheese, raw, or pre-cooked vegetables, and stir gently to distribute them evenly.
- Remove the scrambled eggs from the pan before they begin to look dry, as they will continue to thicken off the heat (unless you enjoy drier eggs).
- Store leftover scrambled eggs in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze.
For Dairy Free
To achieve a plate of fluffy scrambled eggs without butter, I like a plant-based alternative over oil. Eggs scrambled with oil will take on a different texture entirely. My favorite brands for vegan "butter" are Miyoko's and Violife. The coconut oil and cashew milk combination in Miyoko's European-style butter mimics the tenderizing effects of the real deal pretty well. I also love that Miyoko's is cultured (added probiotics), and the flavor is neutral yet creamy and savory.
On Freezing Scrambled Eggs
Store cooked eggs in an airtight storage bag and spread them out into a thin layer. Thaw frozen scrambled eggs overnight in the refrigerator, and reheat them gently in the microwave on half power.
On Nutrition Information
The calorie count below is based on four eggs scrambled with two tablespoons of butter and a healthy pinch of salt (about a quarter of a teaspoon of kosher or flake salt). Any added cheese or vegetables will increase the calorie count. But vegetables will also increase the nutrient and fiber count, so pile them on!
- Prep Time: 3 minutes
- Cook Time: 5
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
- Serving Size: 2 Scrambled Eggs
- Calories: 245
- Sugar: 0.4 g
- Sodium: 434.2 mg
- Fat: 21 g
- Carbohydrates: 0.7 g
- Protein: 12.7 g
- Cholesterol: 402.5 mg
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