I’m just going to warn you before we go any further that if you make this you won’t be able to eat regular omelettes anymore. The first time we tasted the Alton Brown perfect omelette over a year ago we were immediately struck by the intense flavours that come through when you don’t cook the s*** out of your eggs. They are sublime. They’re smooth and custardy in the middle, providing the perfect environment to melt a bit of cheese or sprinkle some chopped herbs…but not too much! You don’t want to take away from the beautiful decadent custardy flavour of the eggs, which is perfect with just a sprinkle of salt as well.
It’s really more of a technique or preparation method than a recipe per se. Bogdan is the one who makes them in our household and I’ve requested his expertise for this post. He’s made perfect omelettes in a variety of ways over time. Some of our favourite “recipes” include goat cheese & chive, gruyere & ham, and straight up crumbled sheep’s milk feta on its own. All taste amazing in a perfect omelette and if there’s one truth to be gleaned it’s that when it comes to omelettes, less is always more.
The weekend after we had our first perfect omelette we had a brunch date with friends. We had a fairly late start to the day and all our favourite brunch places had 45+ minute waits, so we went to a greasy spoon. Someone in our party ordered an omelette. Bogdan and I weren’t omelette people to begin with. We never would have ordered one and we never made them at home. I for one just didn’t like the intense jumbled flavours in a normal omelette. They were always so full of stuff and sometimes I felt like that stuff just didn’t go with the taste of egg. That was until we had a perfect omelette. It changed everything. We were believers. It became a fixture in our lives, taking up residence between sunny side up and eggs benny in our at home brunch repertoire.
So, after this monumental egg related paradigm shift, you can imagine we were really eager to see the (as yet totally foreign) real life restaurant omelette to compare. We waited with bated breath for what seemed like a really long time. When our server started bringing our breakfasts two at a time we watched for the omelette. When it arrived at the table we did everything not to gasp at the grotesque bloated, burned, and beyond overcooked rubber dome on the plate. As a general rule, I try to avoid any meal that’s all the same colour. Not only was this omelette all one shade of slightly browned egg, but it was dome shaped and filled to the brim with all sorts of things. As it turns out, this particular diner’s house specialty was baked omelettes that puffed up into an inexplicably sturdy dome shape.
Bogdan and I looked at each other and knew we had been ruined for omelettes forever. Thanks Alton Brown.
So here are a few of the cardinal rules of making a perfect omelette
- A perfect omelette is taken off the heat way before it’s cooked because it continues to cook with the residual heat. If you remove it from the heat as soon as it solidifies, you’ve already overcooked it. Once you taste a perfect omelette you’ll understand that overcooking is the worst thing you can do to eggs.
- A perfect omelette isn’t filled to the brim. Less is always more. A little sprinkle of cheese, a few pinches of slivered ham, a dash of chopped chives. You don’t need anymore than that and believe me it will be flavourful. For this recipe we used maybe half an ounce (15 grams or about 1 TBSP) of feta.
- If you choose mediocre eggs you’ll get a mediocre omelette. There are other preparations using eggs that don’t necessarily need the best eggs but in this case, as with custard or hollandaise, the eggs are the star of the dish so you should really use cage free and ideally organic. Farmers market would be best. The yellower the yolk the better.
- 3 eggs
- Half an ounce (15 grams/ 1 TBSP) crumbled balkan sheep’s milk feta
- Unlimited butter
- Pinch of salt (optional)
Alton Brown’s Perfect Omelette with Balkan Sheep’s Milk Feta
- About 5-10 minutes before you start put your eggs in a bowl of warm water so they come to room temperature. Putting them in the pan cold could make them cook unevenly. Likewise, if your fillings are very cold they can also affect the cooking process so those should also be taken out in advance.
- Preheat a non-stick skillet (preferably 8 inches for 3 eggs according to Alton Brown and Antonia Lofaso) on medium heat. This step is really critical. Imagine your oven dial on a 1 – 10 scale, you want to aim for 6 – 6.5 Too hot and they’ll overcook, not hot enough you might have some difficulty sliding the finished omelette off the pan.
- Prepare everything you’ll need because the eggs will only be cooking for about a minute. You’ll need to set our your butter, cheese, herbs, meat, salt, a spatula and a plate. Depending how much stuff you need to prepare you might have to do this step before you preheat your pan.
- Crack the eggs one at a time into an empty bowl. Lightly whisk until incorporated. Normally you would add a pinch of salt here but if you’re using really salt cheese (taste your feta before) it might not be necessary.
- Butter the pan. If the butter browns your pan is too hot. If it doesn’t sizzle at all it’s too cold. You want it just warm enough so that when you drop the eggs in they’ll lightly sizzle.
- When you’re ready, pour the eggs into the pan then act fast. Set a timer if you need to so the next
- Using a silicone spatula scrape up the egg in middle of the pan so the cooked underside mixes with the uncooked top. Then pick up the skillet and gently swirl the egg around the edges (not high along the edges just over the existing egg).
- Put your skillet back on the burner and use your spatula to gently scrape off the edges and let them fall as they will towards the omelette. By this point there should only be a thin layer of uncooked eggs in the centre of your pan.
- Sprinkle on your filling in the very centre, trying not to get any on the outer edge of your omelette.
- Use your spatula to loosen the omelette around the edges.
- Tip the skillet towards you and fold the bottom 1/3 of the omelette (closest to you) inwards toward the centre of the omelette. Then turn the pan toward your plate and use your spatula to slide the omelette onto the plate folded side first, flipping the final 1/3 over as you do.
- Garnish with any herbs you’re using. Serve immediately. Seriously. There’s no time for decorum here. If you’re cooking for a group tell everyone to just eat their omelette as soon as they get it because waiting even 5 minutes will really impact the final product. These are particularly nice served with tomatoes or field greens in a light lemon vinaigrette. Perfect.
Also, for anyone who wants this process from the source, check out Alton Brown’s Good Eats Season 7 Episode 3 “The Egg Files VI: Zen and the Art of Omelet Maintenance“.