Recipe Review

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Scrambled Egg Method Is Like Nothing I’ve Tried Before

published Mar 3, 2021
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Credit: Sara Tane

One of the first things I learned in culinary school was how to soft scramble eggs. We’re not talking about the dense, stiff scrambled eggs you might get in the dining hall — we’re talking about soft, pillowy, light-as-a-cloud scrambled eggs. I will never forget my chef instructor telling the class that if you master the art of soft scrambling eggs and make them for another person, then that person will have no option but to ask for your hand in marriage right then and there on the spot. Well, I cannot confirm that this theory is true, but I can confirm that there is a lot of love (ahem, elbow grease) that goes into a traditional soft scramble.

The classic French preparation for soft scrambled eggs requires patience, and lots of it. Your pan should be on low heat and you’ll need to stir the beaten eggs around for at least 15 minutes before you start to see the curds forming and the scramble taking shape. It’s an incredibly therapeutic process, yet it’s one that feels agonizingly long. Hand somebody a plate of scrambled eggs that you stood over for 15 minutes, and they should have no choice but to love you.

In this updated soft scramble in The New York Times, though, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt makes some tweaks to the classic preparation to shorten the cook time for a more attainable weekday breakfast without sacrificing those luscious curds and irresistibly creamy texture. I absolutely had to try it out.

Get the recipe: This Is How You Get the Best Scrambled Eggs

How to Make J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Scrambled Eggs

These soft scrambled eggs come together, start to finish, in less than 10 minutes, which is a true miracle. To start, you’ll need to make a slurry by whisking together starch (potato, tapioca, or corn) and water. This is the first inclination that this recipe will be totally different from traditional scrambled eggs. Then you’ll add 2 tablespoons of cold, cubed butter, eggs, and salt and give it another good whisk, ensuring that the eggs are completely homogenous.

Next, you’ll cook off 1 tablespoon of water on a nonstick pan until only a few drops remain, which is an unusual step for scrambled eggs. Then, you’ll melt another 2 tablespoons of butter, swirling it around in the pan until it’s foamy. You’ll then add your egg-slurry mixture, folding it around in the pan until the eggs are just slightly undercooked (this should take no longer than one or two minutes). After this quick bout over the heat, your eggs should be transferred to a serving platter, finished off with some flaky salt and black pepper, then served immediately.

Credit: Sara Tane

My Honest Review of “The Best Scrambled Eggs”

The true revelation of this cooking method is the time-saving aspect. Rather than spending 15 minutes stirring eggs over lower than low heat, your eggs are in the pan for no longer than two minutes, yet still light as a cloud. I was definitely skeptical of the slurry, mostly because when I think of a slurry, I think of it as a thickening agent, and I’m not particularly interested in thickening my soft scrambled eggs. Lopez-Alt explains that the slurry helps to prevent proteins from linking and helps to bind in moisture. Basically, that means it’s OK if the eggs are slightly overcooked because the slurry promotes a light and fluffy texture instead of a tough or rubbery one.

Another aspect of this recipe that should not be overshadowed by the starch slurry is the 1:1 ratio of eggs to butter. This is something that I really appreciate. Soft scrambled eggs can only taste rich and luxurious if they are cooked in ample amounts of fat, and there’s no way around that. Do I need to say that louder for the people in the back? When you first put your cold, cubed butter and egg mixture in the pan, it might seem like there’s no way that those cubes of butter will melt before the eggs are done cooking. I was pleased to discover that the timing of this dish is absolute perfection. The butter cubes melted just in time for the eggs to finish cooking, and there were no miscellaneous bits of unmelted butter in the eggs.

Credit: Sara Tane

The end result was that these eggs tasted exactly like the eggs I normally make, but it was way faster. But here’s the thing: I genuinely enjoy the traditional method of soft scrambling eggs. I am fascinated by the process of cooking something slowly over low heat, watching it gradually evolve from a raw, runny egg mixture to a delightfully fluffy cloud of scrambled eggs. I don’t really make them unless I’m cooking for somebody else, so it feels like a loving gesture of 15-minute, from-the-heart eggs. 

If you’re a person who wants to incorporate soft scrambled eggs into a busy, weekday breakfast routine, then this slurry technique is without a doubt going to make your mornings easier and quicker. However, if you’re like me and you only make soft scrambled eggs infrequently and typically for guests, then it’s really up to you. I’ll probably stick to the traditional method because I want friends and family that are eating my food to feel like they are greatly indebted to me for the time and love that I put into their meal. But that’s just me.

Credit: Sara Tane

Two Things to Consider When Making These Scrambled Eggs

Frankly, I don’t have a ton of tips for this method. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt knows his stuff, and I am in no position to dispute his research. The slurry is effective, the butter is essential, and warming the pan by cooking off water is a mind-blowing trick. Read his article, which thoroughly explains the science behind the recipe, and familiarize yourself with the ingredients and the order of operations before you dive into cooking. If you follow exactly what he says, then you’ll be in great shape.

  1. Have all of your ingredients ready before you start cooking. The recipe does make a note of this, but it’s worth repeating. Since the cooking happens so quickly (less than two minutes), you definitely don’t want to be scrambling (see what I did there) for a serving platter and garnishes. If you’re going to top it with some fresh herbs or serve it with toast, make sure those things are ready to go when you add the eggs to the pan. There is nothing worse than cold eggs, so make sure to square away all your garnishes beforehand.
  2. Listen to the recipe and pull the eggs when they seem just a tad underdone. Again, Lopez-Alt does note this in the recipe, but I just want to stress the sentiment. Pull the pan off the heat when it looks like the eggs are just shy of a soft scramble. Even though this technique will give you a little buffer to help prevent you from overcooking your eggs, I think it’s better to err on the side of caution. Worst case, if you pull it way too soon and the eggs need a little more time, just put it back on the stove for a few more seconds until they’re delightfully soft and fluffy.