COOKING METHODS There are five basic methods for cooking eggs.
The basic principle of egg cooking is to use a medium to low temperature and time carefully. When eggs are cooked at too high a temperature or for too long at a low temperature, whites shrink and become tough and rubbery; yolks become tough and their surface may turn gray-green.
Eggs, other than hard-cooked, should be cooked until the whites are completely coagulated and the yolks begin to thicken.
BAKED (also known as shirred) For each serving, break and slip 2 eggs into a greased ramekin, shallow baking dish or 10-ounce custard cup. Spoon 1 tablespoon Half and Half, light cream or milk over eggs. Bake in preheated 325 degrees F. oven until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, about 12 to 18 minutes, depending on number of servings being baked.
COOKED IN THE SHELL (eggs in their shells cooked in water). Place eggs in single layer in a saucepan and add enough water to come at least 1 inch above eggs. Cover and quickly bring just to boiling. Turn off heat. If necessary, remove the pan from the burner to prevent further boiling. Let the eggs stand, covered, in the hot water, the proper amount of time. *
*HARD-COOKED Let stand in hot water about 15 minutes for Large eggs. (Adjust the time up or down by about 3 minutes for each size larger or smaller.) To help prevent a dark surface on the yolks, immediately run cold water over the eggs or place them in ice water until completely cooled. (Unfortunately it is almost impossible to cook eggs to this stage at altitudes above 10,000 feet.) -see Peeling
*SOFT-COOKED Let stand in hot water about 4 to 5 minutes depending on desired doneness. Immediately run cold water over the eggs or place them in ice water until cool enough to handle. To serve out of the shell, break the shell through the middle with a knife. With a teaspoon, scoop the egg out of each shell half into a serving dish. To serve in an egg cup, place the egg in the cup small-end down, slice off the large end of the egg with a knife or egg scissors and eat from the shell with a spoon.
FRIED (cooked in a small amount of fat in a pan) In a 7- to 8-inch omelet pan or skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons butter until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. (If you use a very large pan, more butter will be needed.) Break and slip 2 eggs into the pan. Immediately reduce the heat to low. Cook slowly until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, covering with lid, spooning butter over the eggs to baste them, or turning the eggs to cook both sides.
STEAM-BASTED VARIATION (a lower-fat version of fried eggs) Use just enough butter to grease a 7" to 8" omelet pan or skillet or substitute a light coating of vegetable pan spray and/or a nonstick pan. Over medium-high heat, heat the butter or the coated pan until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Break and slip the eggs into the pan. Immediately reduce the heat to low. Cook until the edges turn white, about 1 minute. Add about 1 teaspoon water for each 2 eggs. (Decrease the proportion slightly for each additional egg being fried.) Cover the pan tightly to hold in steam. Cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard.
POACHED (eggs cooked out of the shell in hot water, milk, broth or other liquid) In a saucepan or deep omelet pan, bring 1 to 3 inches of water or other liquid to boiling. Reduce the heat to keep the water gently simmering. Break cold eggs, one at a time, into a custard cup or saucer or break several into a bowl. Holding the dish close to the water's surface, slip the eggs, 1 by 1, into the water. Cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, about 3 to 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, lift out the eggs. Drain them in a spoon or on paper towels and trim any rough edges, if desired.
SCRAMBLED (yolks and whites beaten together before cooking in a greased pan). For each serving, beat together 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons milk and salt and pepper to taste until blended. In a 7" to 8" omelet pan or skillet over medium heat, heat 2 teaspoons butter until just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water. Pour in the egg mixture. As the mixture begins to set, gently draw an inverted pancake turner completely across the bottom and sides of the pan, forming large soft curds. Continue until the eggs are thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Do not stir constantly.