The Secret To Better Scrambled Eggs Is Brown Butter

Cooking eggs low and slow in browned butter in a cast-iron pan give my mornings a feeling of luxury.

Scrambled eggs

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When it comes to scrambled eggs, everyone seems to have their own formula for success. Some people swear by starting the eggs in a cold pan. Others claim the addition of heavy cream is key. Chef Daniel Patterson even scrambles eggs in a vortex of boiling water. But for me, brown butter is the ingredient that ensures I get creamy, tender, tasty scrambled eggs every time. Here’s how I make them.

Step 1: Preheat a cast-iron pan 

I start by putting a 10-inch, well-seasoned cast-iron pan on a same-sized burner of my electric stove, and turn the dial to medium-low. (On my stovetop, the perfect temperature is at seven o'clock on the dial, but each stove is different, so you’ll need to experiment to find the sweet spot on yours.) 

Cast-iron has an undeserved reputation for not being the right vessel for scrambling eggs, because congealing eggs too easily cling to its relatively rough surface. But while it’s true that using a slick-surfaced nonstick skillet or egg pan is a great way to make sure your eggs don’t stick, you can also prevent sticking in a cast-iron pan by using a well-seasoned pan and by using plenty of fat when you cook in it. 

In this case, starting by making brown butter for the scrambled eggs ensures there’s enough fat in the pan to act as a barrier between the egg and the cast-iron surface. (Side note: Butter actually works better than other fats for making sure that eggs don’t stick to the pan. In 2008 in the New York Times, food science writer Harold McGee observed that the emulsifiers that are naturally present in butter give it an edge over other oils and fats.)

Step 2: Brown the butter on medium-low. Take your time.

At the same time as I turn on the stove, I put a big knob of butter into the pan, so it melts and begins to cook as the pan heats up. How much butter I use varies depending on my mood and how much butter we have in the house, but I like to slice a fat slab off of a brick of Kerrygold unsalted butter. (Let’s call it two to three tablespoons of butter, but more doesn’t hurt.) 

Then I take five minutes to make my coffee. 

Brown butter, like scrambled eggs, benefits from patience — or in my case, distraction. While I grind the coffee beans and heat the water kettle, my kids charge into the kitchen. My 12-year-old needs help reaching her mug from a high cupboard shelf. My 7-year-old is sad because she hasn’t brushed her teeth yet. In your kitchen, perhaps you’re feeding your dog or playing Wordle to fill the time. Still, keep half an eye on the pan. Are you melting, butter? When you see small grains of milk solids floating in a transparent slick of clarified butter, give the skillet a good shake to make sure the butter covers every inch of the bottom of the pan.  

A few of the things happening during this time are key to great scrambled eggs. First, the cast-iron pan is warming up, making sure that by the time the eggs go in, the pan is evenly heated at a low temperature that will gently cook the eggs into soft, tender curds. Second, while the pan is heating and the butter is gently browning, you’re using the time to make sure it evenly coats the bottom of the pan, so those eggs don’t stick.

Step 3: Scramble those eggs

I crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk them with a fork, add a pinch of kosher salt, and set them aside. I start the toast in the toaster oven, and give the pan another look. Once the milk solids take on a caramel color and give off a nutty aroma, into the pan go the eggs. (Sometimes I’ll add a little bit of shredded cheddar cheese, or strips of the pre-sliced muenster cheese we’ve got on hand for sandwiches, to make cheesy brown butter scrambled eggs.) 

I like to let the eggs set for about 30 seconds, and then use a wooden spatula to gently redistribute the curds every 20 seconds or so, until large curds have formed and the eggs are just cooked through (and the cheese is melted, if I’ve included cheese). Then I take them off the heat. 

Since cast-iron retains heat and will keep cooking the eggs even after being taken off the stove, I eat or serve the eggs right away, so they don’t dry out or overcook. So — regardless of whatever state of half-readiness my family is in — when the eggs are done, we drop everything, sit down, and eat them together.

Right out of the pan, brown butter scrambled eggs are tender, warm, and soft. And while the rest of our day might fly by in a rush, this tiny slice of opulence in the morning — dare I call it scrambled self-care? — helps get me set for whatever the rest of the day holds.

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