An open letter to breakfast cooks everywhere

by Lindsay Mattison

Dear breakfast and brunch cooks,

Hey there. I know you’re tired and grumpy as you read this. Trust me, I’ve been there. I spent years waking up at the crack of dawn to sling eggs and French toast to hungover guests, all while feeling the effects of my own drinking session from the previous night. Although you rarely hear it, we appreciate you. Without you, we’d have to dirty our kitchens and make our own bloody Mary’s (which never turn out the same at home, not sure why that is). Seriously, thank you.

But, if I may, I’d like to humbly request that you please stop under-cooking my egg whites. It’s not just you. Really, I’m not singling you out; I’m talking to every breakfast cook everywhere. I’ve had brunch in small towns and large so-called foodie cities, and the same thing happens: I order x, y, or z delicious-sounding breakfast with an over-easy egg on top, and it comes out with undercooked egg whites. Snotty, gooey, super gross looking egg whites. I try to push them politely to the edge of the plate, but they stare at me the entire breakfast, wiggling around if I happen to jostle the table. These egg whites don’t just look disgusting, either. Not that you want to know anything about my GI tract, but I guarantee that if I accidentally consume a bite with one of these whites, I’ll be rushing to the bathroom within an hour. Maybe sooner. Gross, and definitely not the way I want to start my day.

So, I started ordering over medium eggs. Guess what? Those same mucus-looking undercooked whites made their way to my plate. How is that even possible, you may ask. Isn’t an over-medium egg cooked longer than an over-easy one? Yup, you got it right, so I really can’t fathom the reason this happens. I decided to switch to sunnyside eggs. Surely, since you can physically see all the whites on a sunnyside egg, there’s no way anyone on the line or in quality control would let undercooked eggs make their way on my plate. Wrong again, and now those whites are really staring at me, creeping out my stomach with just a glance.

At this point, I’ve been left with two options (scrambled or over hard), which is what I’ve been ordering since I realized that hopes and dreams won’t cook egg whites thoroughly. Life really isn’t worth living without a runny yolk, and while I could eat breakfast or brunch without eggs, I don’t really want to.

So here I am, humbly asking you to figure it out. By this point, I’m sure you’re mad at me for criticizing your cooking skills. After all, what the heck makes me such an expert in egg cookery? I could tout my credentials, tell you how I spent an entire week cooking nothing but eggs at culinary school, and how I was the chef of a restaurant that served breakfast, lunch, and dinner for years. But, if you want to say I don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s fine. I won’t take it personally. Let’s just say I know what I like SO MUCH that I’m going to do this anyway: describe what a properly cooked egg should look and feel like. And none of these eggs involve runny whites. Ready? OK.

Over-easy eggs have set whites and very runny yolks. Notice how I said the whites are set. Not globby, not raw, not snotty. Set. Poke them lightly with your finger, and the yolk will jiggle but the white will not. In case you’re wondering, poached eggs have a similar description: firm whites with gooey-but-runny whites. Okay, moving on. Over-medium have the same set whites but the yolks are firmer. Still runny but firm. Again, use the finger test or give the pan a shake. The yolks should lightly jiggle around but have some spring-back when you poke ’em. Then there are over-hard, which should be pretty easy to pull off cause they’re just firm all the way through. No jiggle, no wiggle, completely set. Finally, sunnyside eggs are just over easy eggs that never got flipped. When you shake the pan, the yolk should jiggle around but the whites look firm.

So there you have it. I’ve spoken my peace. Eggs are hard to cook, and I know you’re doing your best. I know that cooking brunch is like being stuck in purgatory, and you want to come out to the dining room and murder everyone every time a yolk breaks as you flip an egg. But, if you could, please just try to cook the whites through. I would be eternally grateful.

Lindsay Mattison


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