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fendel

Why is my omelet tough and puffy?

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The snack bar at my college made what I considered the perfect omelet: delicate, pale, tender, runny in the middle, with a thin flat sheet of egg (as opposed to what I describe below). As I recall, they cooked them on a griddle.

My omelets, however, turn out brown, puffy, and tough, with a thick dry layer of egg. Can anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong?

1. I beat cold eggs with a fork and add a little salt. (Should I warm them up first? I don't think I overbeat them, but next time I'll try to incorporate less air...)

2. Then I heat a 10" nonstick skillet over high heat, add butter or oil (I've tried both), turn down the heat to maybe medium; switching to a griddle is not an option for me, but I'd consider a larger pan if that helps. I saw Alton Brown recommended a cheap Teflon pan instead of my All-Clad nonstick, which has a rougher surface and unfortunately holds on to the eggs.

3. I pour in the eggs and usually cover the pan for a moment to let the eggs cook partway through.

4. I add some shredded cheese and sometimes cooked veggies, fold the omelet in half, and cover again to cook through until the cheese melts.

By the time I slide the omelet onto a plate, it is overcooked, puffy, dry... ugh!

Can any omelet experts advise me... warm up the eggs, bigger pan, different heat setting, avoid covering it...?

Thanks!

fendel

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Eggs will continue cooking after they leave the pan. If they're done when you plate them, they'll be overdone when you serve.


PS: I am a guy.

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First things first, it sounds like you're overcooking the eggs, as Shalmanese mentioned. I would recommend not covering your pan, and maybe heating it up a little less. Also, try adding a small (a teaspoon, maybe) amount of water to the eggs when you're beating them to improve the texture.


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Don't worry about overbeating, and don't worry about the beater -- whisk, fork, whatever. Because I dislike an omelet panache (with streaks of white) I mix up the eggs so there is no noticeable white snot. Add salt and pepper and a tablespoon of water or milk per egg.

I use a one buck Ikea nonstick pan bought specifically for omelets. Bring a nut of butter to a tiny sizzle and pour in the eggs. Turn down the heat and use a spatula to pull the cooked bits into the middle while you swizzle the raw bits into the empty places in the pan. Throw on your cheese, or duxelles or crab or nothing. The omelet will be moist. Flip it in half and turn it out on your plate.

The entire process is two minutes and you'll be eating a tender soft omelet.


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Some believe adding salt into the egg mixture makes it tough when cooked, rather adding it towards the end. But, it's just preference.

After adding the eggs in the pan, agitate the eggs more until it starts to form and settle, all over medium heat. Then follow the directions given by others here.

One omelet test I did back a year ago or so, the chef ran his finger across the top. Should be as smooth as a baby's butt and just rip oh so gently. Producing a very creamy and tender product.

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Don't worry about overbeating, and don't worry about the beater -- whisk, fork, whatever. Because I dislike an omelet panache (with streaks of white) I mix up the eggs so there is no noticeable white snot. Add salt and pepper and a tablespoon of water or milk per egg.

I use a one  buck Ikea nonstick pan bought specifically for omelets. Bring a nut of butter to a tiny sizzle and pour in the eggs. Turn down the heat and use a spatula to pull the cooked bits into the middle while you swizzle the raw bits into the empty places in the pan. Throw on your cheese, or duxelles or crab or nothing.  The omelet will be moist. Flip it in half and turn it out on your plate.

The entire process is two minutes and you'll be eating a tender soft omelet.

I agree. Sounds like you're overcooking and so the eggs are browning and toughening.

I do the same method as above. Pushing the cooked edges into the middle so raw egg fills the void. This way you decrease the cooking time (in and out the pan in a minute) which means the egg won't brown and toughen. You'll also get the nice delicate folds of egg that an omelette traditionally has.

I've seen chefs employ a stirring method to get their folds, where a fork is used to stir held so the tines are parallel to the bottom of the pan but not touching. I've not been able to pull this method off though so reverted back to the pushing of the edges towards the middle that I've always done.

There's quite an in depth omelette discussion here:

http://www.hertzmann.com/articles/2005/omelettes/

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You may find Alton Brown's instructions online helpful as well (which pulls together many of the recommendations here)....you'd of course just switch your fill-and-fold to a half-moon method, which I think is simpler anyway:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-b...cipe/index.html

The 2 things in your description that jumped out at me were:

1. the high heat (I'm a medium to medium-high heat person)

2. no mention of stirring eggs, just covering

If you like the flavor of butter but have excess browning with it, you may want to consider using clarified butter as your fat (since the milk solids are removed, they can't brown).

Personally, I don't start with warmed/room-temperature eggs. More out of laziness than anything, I guess. If you're going for the gold, Alton's hot-water sounds like a good step to add.

Also, if you find your eggs a little too underdone (or the cheese not thoroughly melted) on the interior, a nice trick I learned once (for someone smart but un-rememberable) is to put your plate on a heatproof surface (like a cold burner), put your omelet on the plate and put the warm pan as a cover on your plate. Provides the extra carryover heat to finish things off without additional exterior browning. Plus it warms your plate....sometimes a bit TOO effectively, but usually not. :smile: You may want to check the material of your plate to ensure that it won't crack....I use non-fancy stuff and have never had an issue.

Good luck!

ETA last plate-covering step.


Edited by Sony (log)

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So I don't follow any of the usual rules with omelettes, but mine turn out just fine. Here's how I roll: put a nonstick pan over med/low heat, toss in a lump of butter, get two or three eggs out of the fridge, break directly into the pan. Stir with a spatula until as mixed as you like. Meanwhile, grate a little cheese; by the time you're finished grating the cheese, the eggs will need to be stirred: the bottom will set, so scrape it to the side and tilt the pan/spatula some liquid egg into the bare parts of the pan. When about 1/3 of the eggs is all that remains fluid, sprinkle on the cheese. Continue cooking over gentle heat until as set as you'd like, and turn out onto a plate, folding the top half over the bottom as you slide it out of the pan.

Grated cheese melts more quickly than chunks. A relatively cold pan & cold eggs cook slowly, preventing the browned, tough outside. Slow cooking allows you to multitask, so you can pull a shot of espresso & make an omelette at the same time. But slow cooking requires a heavy pan that won't heat up in an instant.

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The snack bar at my college made what I considered the perfect omelet: delicate, pale, tender, runny in the middle, with a thin flat sheet of egg (as opposed to what I describe below). As I recall, they cooked them on a griddle.

My omelets, however, turn out brown, puffy, and tough, with a thick dry layer of egg. Can anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong? 

1. I beat cold eggs with a fork and add a little salt. (Should I warm them up first? I don't think I overbeat them, but next time I'll try to incorporate less air...)

2. Then I heat a 10" nonstick skillet over high heat, add butter or oil (I've tried both), turn down the heat to maybe medium; switching to a griddle is not an option for me, but I'd consider a larger pan if that helps. I saw Alton Brown recommended a cheap Teflon pan instead of my All-Clad nonstick, which has a rougher surface and unfortunately holds on to the eggs.

3. I pour in the eggs and usually cover the pan for a moment to let the eggs cook partway through.

4. I add some shredded cheese and sometimes cooked veggies, fold the omelet in half, and cover again to cook through until the cheese melts.

By the time I slide the omelet onto a plate, it is overcooked, puffy, dry... ugh!

Can any omelet experts advise me... warm up the eggs, bigger pan, different heat setting, avoid covering it...?

Thanks!

fendel

Where did you go to college, J&W?

Anyway, you've got too much heat. Too high and too long.

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I think there is a distinction to be made between a diner-style omelet made on a griddle and a French-stlyle omelet made in a pan. In the diner style, the eggs are spread out over a very large area of the griddle so that they form a very thin sheet of cooked egg. Then the fillings are sprinkled on and the omelet is quickly folded up. You really can't do this without a griddle unless you make a two-egg omelet in a 12-inch or larger nonstick pan -- although even that is tricky, because the spatula access is much better on a griddle than it is in a frypan.


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I make what we consider a pretty damn good 2 large-egg omelet in my 7" non-stick All-Clad that I've had for years and years - it's the only thing it gets used for.

I always add a tablespoon or so of water to the eggs when I'm beating them...salt and pepper too.

Heating the pan over medium heat till warm - add the butter and once the foam has subsided and the butter is just the point of coloring, add eggs (itf the butter immediately foams and browns, the pan is too hot). Keep the pan moving back and forth with one hand, and while using the fork in your other hand, stir the eggs continuously till the eggs set into a nice soft custard. Add filling (don't use a lot, 1/4 cup works) and fold out onto plate. Whole procedure once the eggs are added shouldn't take more than a minute.

Shirley Corriher, in Cookwise, recommends room temperature eggs. If eggs are cold, the eggs on the bottom will overcook before the eggs above cook fully.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I think there is a distinction to be made between a diner-style omelet made on a griddle and a French-stlyle omelet made in a pan.  In the diner style, the eggs are spread out over a very large area of the griddle so that they form a very thin sheet of cooked egg.  Then the fillings are sprinkled on and the omelet is quickly folded up.  You really can't do this without a griddle unless you make a two-egg omelet in a 12-inch or larger nonstick pan -- although even that is tricky, because the spatula access is much better on a griddle than it is in a frypan.

Right, the only way you'll come near a griddle omelet is if you do 2 eggs in a 12" skillet. Otherwise you're making a different sort of omelet. You can do a French omelet with near-constant motion and limited or no fillings. Or if you do, say, 3 eggs and lots of fillings in a 10" skillet, the depth becomes such that you're making more of a borderline frittata -- frittomelet, as it were. A lot of hotel restaurants do them this way.


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So, use a bigger pan, swirl the egg around (or pull a bit of the cooked egg back with a spatula and let the wet egg run under it onto the pan). Add your fillings (not too much) to one side while the egg mixture is still wet and fold onto your plate. And for goodness sake, top it with some Frank's Hot Sauce! :wub:

K

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I make great 3 egg omelets in my square griddle pan, it's pretty heavy nonstick, and 3 eggs beaten with about a tablespoon of half and half spreads very thin.

Heat to med-low, a little butter spread over the surface, then pour the beaten eggs, tilting the pan gently so they spread. The fillings get sprinkled over the whole thing, sparsely. They go on immediately, because the egg is so thin, it sets in no time. I gently fold it in thirds, diner style. It winds up being very delicate thin layers of egg, with the filling distributed evenly throughout. I make it softly set the way my family likes (though it makes a good dry omelet too, if you don't like your eggs runny).

The outside is not really browned, save for a few speckles of color, here and there.

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Plain and simple, from what you describe as your method, your temp is too high. Covering your pan traps heat and will produce overcooked (tough, dry) results.

for a 2-3 egg omelet, I use a 12" nonstick pan, heat over medium heat until the butter foams, then reduce the heat to low. The higher heat at the beginning will assure your eggs start to set the second they hit the pan. Add your beaten egg and swirl the pan so the bottom is covered. Gently pull the set egg from the edges to the middle with a spatula or fork, tilting the pan so the uncooked egg runs into the vacated space. You can also "lift" the set egg up so he uncooked eggs run under the set eggs. Do this until the eggs are soft set and too thick to run into empty spaces. Add your room temperature ingredients (cheese, onion etc) and fold. Remember, the added ingredients will drop the temp of the overall dish. Let sit for several seconds and then slide it off onto your plate.

Carry over heat will finish the omelet and you should have an omelet with a pale tender outside and soft set egg inside.

Hope this helps

Berta

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Also, covering the pan may steam the eggs which will cause them to puff up.

edited for clarity


Edited by Toliver (log)

 

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http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?mkt=en-us&...36-9b7903c8db3e

Classic technique video from Jacques Pépin.

That's the technique I (try to) use. It's not easy, but when they come out right, they're great.


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I have found that if you use higher fat milk or cream instead of water makes the eggs smoother. I seem to see more puff with water. I always assumed it was a steam thing. I think they stay moister longer in the pan, so if you're eggs are too cold or your pan is too hot, you have a bit of wiggle room.

(PS - Did you go to Marquette, too? There was a guy who made the best omeletes in Cobeen Hall when I was there! It was the only reason to get up before noon on Sunday !:D)


"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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Thanks for the Pepin video; it's very sweet--and the technique clearly takes some practice. His eggs look such a mess in the pan and then suddenly it's this perfect thing on the plate. He does a lot of stirring for even cooking and then rolls instead of folds, so the layers are thinner, allowing for more consistent texture.

Milk/cream vs. water: I noticed that Jacques puts neither in his eggs. I was told many years ago that water makes eggs tough and milk makes them tender, so out of blind loyalty I always dribble in a little half and half when whisking. My dad always added water, and indeed his eggs were a bit chewy. Good, but chewy.

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For technique-Pepin is the man! That is an impressive video for something so simple yet complex.

I switched from water over to the half and half camp myself a few years ago.

Jeff

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You guys are great! Thanks so much for all the tips, I am going to pore over these replies some more and make some changes to my omelet technique (sounds like fewer eggs, larger skillet, lower heat, no covering - for starters).

(To answer a couple of questions, I was using 2-3 eggs and a moderate amount of filling... and the great snack-bar omelet was at Vassar College in the late 80s.)

I knew I could count on eGullet to get me on the right track.

thanks again,

fendel

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