In Essential Pepin, Jacques Pépin's tome of the recipes he loves most, there's an entire chapter devoted to eggs and cheese. In this book full of recipes he's created throughout the years, which he describes as "the diary of my life," the prominence and celebration of eggs is unsurprising if you're familiar with Pépin's finesse with an omelette; his classic method for poaching eggs; or his recipe Eggs Jeannette, the dish of seared and dressed hard-boiled eggs named after his mother.
Throughout his long history of elevating the egg, Pépin has shared incredible tips and insights on how to make the most of this kitchen staple. Here are a few that have left an impression on our own cooking.
1. Use the pushpin technique for perfect boiled eggs.
There seem to be an infinite number of ways to make hard-boiled eggs. Some use science to give you the ultimate method, some are based on a rich anecdotal experience, and some, like this method consistently used and popularized by Pépin over the years, is still in effect because it has worked for so many cooks.
To begin, Pépin pricks the side of the egg with an air chamber (the rounder end) with a thumbtack or pushpin so the pressure is released when the egg is dropped into barely boiling water. You'll see bubbles shoot out from the egg right away once you drop it in the water.
But my favorite trick from his method of making boiled eggs is how he cracks them. After draining the water, he gives the pot a shake so all the eggs crack against the side. It's an action full of such nonchalant confidence, you can't help but feel so capable and in-the-know when you do it in your own kitchen.
2. Make your omelets in a nonstick pan.
No other dish proves the value for a nonstick pan like the omelet. Pépin has been using one to make his omelets for as long as I've been watching him make them on public television, giving a whole generation of cooks the green light to use this tool to make better eggs (along with the generous knob of butter that's also added to the pan).
The French omelet as made by Pépin requires eggs that slide around a pan very easily. Butter and a nonstick pan ensure this happens without any resistance.
Pépin's technique for the classic French omelet has been immortalized in numerous videos, so you can see his method in action whenever you need a visual.
"Eggs are delicious and versatile. They are also beautiful and very secret. The ultimate comfort food."
3. Use this trick to never overcook scrambled eggs.
I learned this trick from a headnote for scrambled eggs in bread cases with caramelized mushrooms in Pépin's cookbook. I have to admit, I've never made this entire recipe, but I've followed the tip he's given for never overcooking scrambled eggs with much success.
When making ultra-creamy scrambled eggs — the kind you can basically pour — save a bit of the uncooked eggs and mix them with cream to add at the end of cooking. Once the eggs are cooked long enough to hold a line drawn across the bottom of the pan, remove them from the heat and stir in the reserved egg and cream mixture. The uncooked eggs slowly cook in the residual heat, leaving you with creamy, velvety eggs.
4. Sear your hard-boiled eggs.
I remember watching an episode of Essential Pépin where he declares eggs his "desert island food." It reminded me of the story behind one of his more famous egg dishes, Eggs Jeannette, named for his mother. This dish of seared hard-boiled eggs dressed in a mustardy vinaigrette is one he often ate growing up.
Despite the "put an egg on it" moment we're having right now in food, seared hard-boiled eggs still isn't something you come across often, but it's such a delicious yet simple way to eat an egg.