Elevate breakfast by making a Denver omelet that has the perfect ratio of protein-to-vegetables. I share my simple technique for creating light and fluffy eggs with a golden brown surface. The ingredients briefly saute to enhance the taste and prevent a soggy center.
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When scanning the menu at most breakfast restaurants and diners, a classic Denver omelet is likely to be spotted. Also called the western omelet, it’s no surprise that this popular favorite makes the list. It’s a tasty way to start the day with crunchy onions and peppers, chopped ham, and melted cheese hidden between puffy eggs.
There are just a few essential techniques to ensure the best tasting omelet. Sauteing the filling ingredients first draws out excess moisture while creating a more flavorful surface. Paying attention to how the whisked eggs are cooked forms tender curds on the inside, with a light brown exterior for the ultimate texture contrast. The cheese melts and locks all the flavors together.
Saute the ham and vegetables first
It’s best to saute high-moisture ingredients until crisp-tender before adding them into the omelet. This process removes excess moisture that would otherwise seep out if not cooked first. I use ham steak in the recipe to give nice chunks of meat, but ham slices will also work.
I like to use both red and green bell pepper, and purple onions for color and flavor. The red tends to be sweeter and green, more bitter. It’s a nice contrast. Chop the filling into uniform, small bite-sized pieces, about ¼-inch dice. The light browning adds a more complex taste.
Prepare the egg mixture
To make light and fluffy curds, whisk eggs with a little bit of milk, half-and-half, cream, or water. Adding liquid to the eggs prevents the proteins from binding too tightly together. It also creates a more moist and tender texture. Using dairy adds a hint of extra fat for richer curds without it being too heavy.
You only need a small amount, about 1 teaspoon liquid per one large egg. I keep the seasonings simple with salt and pepper. Use a quick back and forth motion for whisking to create well-mixed eggs, but don’t over whip as you’ll start to deflate the air inside, making a flatter omelet.
Use a nonstick pan. It makes it easier to stir the eggs and remove the omelet from the pan. I use a small 8-inch pan, which is about the right size for two eggs. A larger pan will make a flatter omelet.
Omelet cooking technique
Melt the butter over medium-high heat, pour in the egg mixture, and immediately stir with a spatula to create curds. Let the raw eggs run into the open areas of the pan to help it set. The high heat makes the eggs puffy and cooks quickly. The process takes only a minute, so don’t walk away from the stove.
The omelet should be circular, with bumpy pockets of egg evenly dispersed throughout. The surface will look slightly wet, similar to soft scrambled eggs, but don’t worry; it will finish cooking after filling. Turn the heat down to low when you’re ready to add the filling.
Add the filling
Add the sauteed vegetables to one side of the omelet. Evenly sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top, and then fold the other half of the egg over on top to cover the filling. To melt the cheese and allow the eggs to finish cooking, I cover the omelet and let it sit off the heat for a few minutes. Garnish with sliced green onions, and serve with your favorite side dishes like crispy hash browns and ketchup!
What to serve this with
Butter and heat makes a browned surface
American-style omelets traditionally have a golden surface. To create the color change in just a few minutes, I use medium-high heat to kickstart the process but then turn the heat down after a minute to prevent burning or drying of the proteins. Using a small amount of butter accelerates the browning because the milk solids turn from white to hazel, leaving toasted nutty aromas in the process.
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- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons milk, whole milk or cream (optional)
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, or olive oil, vegetable oil, divided
- ¼ cup thick-cut ham, ¼-inch dice
- ¼ cup red onion, or yellow, ¼-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons green bell pepper, ¼-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons red bell pepper, ¼-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, ½ ounce
- 1 tablespoon sliced green onions, (optional)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, liquid (if using), and salt. Whisk the eggs in a side-to-side motion until uniform in appearance, do not over mix. Set aside.
- In an 8-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon butter over medium heat until it just begins to bubble and foam, but does not brown. Add the diced ham, saute until lightly browned, 1 ½ to 2 minutes.
- Add the diced onions, green and red bell pepper, saute until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer ham and vegetables to a bowl. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
- In the clean pan, heat 1 teaspoon butter over medium-high heat until it just begins to bubble and foam, but does not brown.
- Add the eggs to the pan, use a spatula to immediately pull the cooked curds from the edges of the pan toward the center, allowing the raw egg to run underneath, tilting the pan to help move it to the bottom of the pan. Start from the top of the pan, and work around to create curds around the entire omelet, about 45 to 60 seconds.
- Once the eggs are mostly cooked, similar to soft scrambled eggs with a glossy and slightly wet surface, turn the heat down to low.
- Add the ham and vegetables to one half of the omelet, then sprinkle on the cheddar cheese. Turn off the heat and move the pan to a cool part of the stove, cover the omelet and allow it to finish cooking, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Using a spatula, fold the other half of the omelet on top. The surface will be lightly golden brown.
- Transfer omelet to a plate and garnish with pepper and chives. Serve immediately.
- Mixing Bowl
- For a less browned surface on the omelet, use medium instead of medium-high heat.
- I use ham steak to give nice chunks of meat, but ham slices will also work.
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