Scrambled eggs are a breakfast staple, but is there a way to make the curds even tastier? Learn what happens to the texture when you add liquids like water, milk, or cream.
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Making a big batch of golden scrambled eggs is simple. But, can we make them even better- lighter, fluffier, and more rich-tasting? I’ve heard of people adding water, dairy products, mayonnaise, vinegar, and even baking powder on the quest for the perfect eggs.
The basic scrambling technique is limited to controlling the heat level and agitation, but there are ingredients that you can add to help improve texture. In this article, I test the most common additions- water, milk, and cream. The results are fascinating. It’s worth experimenting the next time you find yourself at the stove in the morning.
What’s happening when raw eggs are heated?
Eggs are composed of water, dispersed in hundreds of chained amino acid proteins, plus additional fat in the yolk. When you whisk the albumin (egg white) and yolk together then cook, the molecules move around, and the proteins rearrange.
The proteins unfold and create a bonded web-like structure with prolonged heating. Some of the water turns to steam, helping fluff the egg, while the proteins turn solid and eventually set. For a whole egg, this happens between 144 to 158ºF (62.2° C and 70°C) [source]. Eggs become dry and rubbery when heated for too long, and the moisture gets squeezed out of the curds.
Should you add water or milk in scrambled eggs?
Yes, but to a limit. The reason some recipes call for water, milk, cream, or half-and-half is mainly as extra insurance to prevent a rubbery texture. A small amount of liquid dilutes them, which stops the proteins from bonding too fast and tightly together.
The more liquid you add, the softer and moist the curd. The more fat used, the more firm the texture. Water turns to steam, which helps the eggs puff up more, creating a lighter product.
Are there any downsides to adding liquid?
Too much liquid can dilute the savory flavor of the egg. Also, adding too much water will cause it to seep out, leaving an unappetizing puddle, especially if cooking until very firm. This mess often happens with vegetable scrambles if not pre-cooked to remove moisture before adding in the egg.
There is also a limit to the amount of fat you should add. A small amount provides a lovely richness, whereas too much can make it overly decadent and heavy. It’s a delicate balance.
Effect of liquid and fat levels
I was curious about the effects of the amount of liquid with varying fat levels on the egg texture. I tested adding 1 to 3 teaspoon of water, milk, half-and-half, and cream into 1 large egg seasoned with ⅛ teaspoon salt.
Here are my key observations:
- The more liquid you add, the lighter the color and softer the curd. However, the egg flavor becomes very diluted.
- The higher level of fat added, the richer and lingering in mouth coat.
- Adding 1 tablespoon of heavy cream (36% milkfat) was too heavy, giving a custard-like texture.
- Whole milk or half-and-half provided just enough richness without feeling too heavy, but don’t add more than 2 teaspoons.
- Water yields an incredibly light, fluffy, and soft curd. However, at 1 tablespoon, the egg lost it’s savory, buttery taste.
Recommended liquid levels
For every 1 large egg, I recommend:
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of water
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of milk or half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon of heavy cream