I recently poached my first egg; sounds simple enough. And yet the amount of time I spent looking up how to do it, fretting over the steps and stressing over my inevitable failure almost made the whole thing not worth it. But when I posted a photo of that sucker on social media, the hefty number of virtual back-slaps I received made it clear that I am not alone in my fear of screwing up eggs.
Friends needed to know: Had I used egg poaching cups or pan inserts? I proudly said no, feeling like Jacques Pepin standing tall on a mountain of gloriously poached eggs. I’d done it all by myself, with no gadgets or gizmos (though I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore, I must admit).
Right around that time, a link to a Kickstarter campaign featuring an egg contraption called the “Goose That Lays Golden Eggs” was making its rounds on the Internet, promising to “magically” scramble an egg inside its shell without without breaking or penetrating that shell.
Wait, aren’t scrambled eggs supposed to be simple? This gadget is sort of complicated. First you place your egg in a capsule and seal it, then pull on the handles on either end — sort of like a Victorian-era toy. The egg pops out, et voila!, it’s scrambled inside its shell. Then you can crack it and cook it as is, or boil it for a solid, golden egg with no white and no yolk. Cute, but it doesn’t fit nicely in the fork slot of your silverware caddy.
That didn’t seem to bother the people who opened their wallets to successfully fund the Kickstarter campaign, meaning the eggy gadget is now scheduled for a November 2014 delivery for backers and pre-orders.
Do people just love spending money on kitchen thingamajigs, or are so many of us just afraid of being one of those people who can’t cook a perfect egg? Why would anyone need a “Goose” — or any gadget, for that matter?
Many Ways To Cook An Egg; Even More Gadgets
A quick search on Amazon reveals countless devices that claim to be the perfect gizmo to fry, hard-boil, soft-boil, and poach.
There are egg crackers, toppers, shapers, slicers, rings, knockers, cutters, piercers, blowers, liquid egg pumps to pump eggs, yolk extractors to extract yolks, white separators to separate the whites, cups, carriers, trays and even holders to cradle the parade of eggs you have just prepared using the above contraptions. There is also something called an egg skelter, which is like a spiral staircase for eggs. It looks awesome, but is probably incompatible with cat-ownership. Yes, the “Goose” has company for sure.
Are these products a response to our collective egg anxiety, or have we, as a society, grown anxious of cooking eggs simply because of the sheer number of these devices?
Pretty heavy stuff, I know.
Maybe it’s just the fact that there are just so many ways to cook (and therefore potentially fail at cooking…) an egg. Check any diner’s breakfast menu and you will almost always find a list of egg dishes that is longer than any other category on the menu; from the humble scramble to that snobbiest of preparations, the “Benedict”.
While it would appear that yes, maybe we are a bit obsessed with eggs — one of the most basic of food items — perhaps some of this need for contraptions, this egg fear (or maybe it’s closer to eggi-tation? Oh hush; don’t look at me like that…) is born out of an unspoken acknowledgement that many of us don’t even know what makes a (literally) good egg.
Do We Really Have Anything To Fear?Image courtesy of nathanmac87
To find out, Consumerist spoke with Chef Jansen Chan, Director of Pastry Operations (real job title!) at the International Culinary Center. Eggs play a big part in the training of any chef, so we wanted to check with someone who regularly helps people through the harrowing ordeal that is egg preparation.
Chan tells us he hopes people aren’t terrified to make eggs without the crutch of contraptions, but admits that if your kitchen is full of these things you’re not alone in your lack of egg-related confidence.
“Eggs are actually one of the hardest things to cook,” he explains, adding that in many classic French restaurants, the test for prospective cooks is to make the perfect French omelet.
“It’s very difficult to make a perfect omelet; not to overcook it, not to undercook it, and to get the shape just right,” says Chan.
Chef Chan tells his students to that the key to perfecting their skills when working with this basic, yet complex ingredient, is practice.
“It’s technique and establishing criteria as a success,” Chan advises, by which he means the things you can measure: What color is it? Is that right? Should it be creamy or runny, brown or white? (See our definitive guide to ideal eggs below.)
“We demonstrate the technique, then we show our finished product, then they try it,” he says. “These are things that measure it so that when you actually go and do it, you can then use those criteria and say, ‘Well, did I successfully make the egg?'”
And just like anyone learning to do something, if at first you don’t succeed — you know where this is going — do it again.
“It’s a good thing that eggs are cheap so you can try it over and over again,” Chan says.
The most important thing to keep in mind when starting a kitchen showdown with your very own eggs?
Eggs cook quickly, so be prepared. Have everything laid out and ready to go, even the plate.
“While your eggs are cooking, you don’t want to go get a plate,” Chan explains. “You should have everything ready so that you set yourself up for success.”
What About My Fear Of Ordering Eggs?Image courtesy of Mark Turnauckas
Eggxiety (sorry, sorry) doesn’t just rear its eggly head (last one, I promise) when you’re making a mess instead of making brunch in your kitchen on a Sunday morning. Many people get flustered by dizzying number of ways eggs can be ordered at a restaurant. You may not even be aware of all the options.
It’s a lovely weekend morning and you’re sitting down to eat. The menu is staring at you. It wants you to order eggs. You want to order eggs, and you want them to be good. But what should the perfect scrambled egg look like? How will you know when you are experiencing eggy perfection?!
For advice on egg-ordering, we went to one of our favorite sources, the fine folks at America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated.
We told ATK’s editorial director Jack Bishop to act like we’d never ordered or cooked an egg before, and tell us what we should expect when we order or prepare common egg dishes.
“Basically whenever you’re cooking an egg, it’s transitioning from a liquid to a solid,” Bishop explains. “And depending on how you cook it, you end up with something that’s closer to a liquid or closer to a solid.”
But You’re Still Going To Keep Buying Those Contraptions, Aren’t You?
Oddly enough, for Geraint Krumpe, the man behind the in-the-shell-scrambling Goose gadget, it wasn’t a personal fear of eggs that drove him to invent the device. He tells Consumerist that he got the idea after watching a popular YouTube video of guy using a shirtsleeve and rubber bands to scramble an egg without piercing the shell.
“I tried to do it and I couldn’t get it to work, so I made a better prototype,” Krumpe said with a laugh. “I was able to get it to work and thought that was pretty neat — I’m in the business of designing consumer products, so I thought I’d give it a shot and try to be entrepreneurial with it and see if people liked it.”
But as for whether or not the Goose can serve as a palliative for some greater egg fear, Krumpe says he doesn’t think we necessarily have a problem with cooking eggs without these contraptions — we just like curiosities.
“A poached egg is a poached egg,” Krumpe explains. “An egg scrambled inside the shell was just something that didn’t exist. And there wasn’t really a good way to do it, so why not make a tool for it?”
Why not, indeed? But it’s not like we’re scared or anything. Not anymore. And remember, it’s okay if you mess up — you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet, after all. Or crack a lot of them because you’re just practicing.