A Basic Omelet
There was a summer many years ago when I taught cooking classes to four little girls – two sets of sisters who were homeschooled. Their mothers thought that cooking classes would satisfy many interests and teach quite a few skills to the girls. And indeed, I’ve always thought that cooking classes are fabulous for not only learning about food, but also grasping important applications like math and chemistry.
During those classes we had a session on eggs – how to appreciate them for the wonderful little package of food they are, and how to treat them with respect in the kitchen. And one thing we made together were omelets. (Also a pavlova, which was a huge hit!)
Now, it may not seem that creative to put an omelet on my blog, but on the contrary, I think that an omelet requires learning some skills. Plus, there are a lot of terrible omelets out there, so perhaps I’m doing a community service with this post. I hope so.
To me, there are a few criteria for making the perfect omelet:
1. good eggs
2. good cheese, for a cheese omelet
3. the right skillet
4. a lid
Of course it goes without saying that the ingredients that you choose for your omelet have to be good. It’s especially nice to have access to farm-fresh eggs – the kind that are almost impossible to break open because the shells are so hard.
Cheese is subjective – there’s no “right” cheese. I like Fontina, Gruyere, or even a good Monterey Jack. Who am I kidding?! Any cheese that melts well will work.
The right skillet is important because you want your omelet to end up a decent thickness. Place your whisked eggs in too large of a skillet, and you will get a thin omelet. Unless you like that kind, I don’t recommend too large of a skillet.
The skillet I use for my one-person, 2-egg omelet, is actually a crêpe pan. It’s got a flat bottom and flat sides. The outside diameter is 8″; the inside diameter, or bottom, measures 6″ in diameter.
A perfect-fitting lid is also important for making a good omelet.
And then the most important aspect of making an omelet – patience. As Rome wasn’t built in a day, an omelet can’t be prepared in one minute. I know everyone likes fast food, but if you rush your omelet, it will taste and feel like something purchased at a fast food restaurant. Which would make me wonder why you’re even bothering to cook an omelet at home in the first place…
For today’s omelet, or omelette, I chose butter, 2 eggs, grated Fontina, and some diced, leftover ham. And here’s what I did.
A Basic Ham and Cheese Omelet
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Diced ham, optional of course
Cheese of choice – grated, or sliced fairly thinly
Whisk the 2 eggs in a small bowl with a fork, before you begin heating the skillet. Also, please don’t think that brown eggs are better than white. My mother had chickens that laid many different colored eggs, depending on their breed.
Place the butter in the skillet over medium heat. It should begin melting immediately, but not burn. If you think the skillet is too hot, remove it from the heat source for a minute. Cooking is a lot about common sense.
You need to work fairly quickly at first, but don’t worry, it’s not a race. Just have all of the ingredients available, as well as the skillet lid. And don’t forget to adjust the heat on the stove. That’s why there are knobs. Or, if you panic, completely remove the skillet from the heat source and collect yourself.
Pour the whisked eggs into the skillet. The butter has browned a bit. You can see that the skillet is “grabbing” the eggs and the cooking process has begun.
Immediately place the ham and cheese over the top of the eggs and turn down the heat to the lowest setting. Trust me.
Then place the lid on the skillet. Let the omelet cook slowly, with the lid on, over the lowest heat, for about 4 minutes.
At this point, the top of the omelet will look like this:
Most of the cheese is melted, but there is still a bit of egg that need to cook through. Remove the skillet completely from the heat source, but leave the lid on.
After about 1 minute, the omelet should be ready. I prefer an omelette baveuse, or soft. Cook a little more if you can’t handle runny eggs!
You can use a thin spatula to remove the omelet from the skillet and fold over gently, or slide it out for an open-face presentation. Alternatively, use the skillet to slide the omelet on the plate, then fold it over into a semi-circle using the edge of the skillet.
The egg part of the omelet is cooked and somewhat puffy, almost like a soufflé, but not to the point of rubberyness. I don’t mind a bit of browning on the eggs.
Notice the cheese is fully melted inside because the lid on the skillet allowed the cheese to warm and melt, just like with a quesadilla.
What’s important is that in spite of the fact that this omelet took a little time, the results are superb.
I swore off omelets at restaurants a couple of decades ago. No more rubber omelets, ever!
Crisp outside and runny inside…perfect in my opinion. And butter…so yummy. I seriously can snack on butter just like I chew kidney fat.
I love butter on radishes, hot bread, steamed Brussels sprouts, but I’ve never snacked on butter!!! I do cook with it a lot!
The simplest things are often the most beautiful. Wonderful post – Happy Spring.
Thank you Bernadette!
Add a glass of champagne, and you have the perfect meal!
Mmmmmm. Like, for brunch?!! Definitely!
Yes, for brunch!
Thanks Mimi-we could all use some instruction on some of the most basic things, like omelettes. I tend to get rather impatient when I see the eggs haven’t quite cooked on top, then I feel like flipping the whole omelette over!
Do you use a lid? As I just mentioned to someone, i have friends who cook well, but they never use a lid!!! It serves a purpose! You don’t have to turn the omelet over!!! Of course as a chef you know this. Thanks for visiting!
I really enjoyed this post, Mimi! Sometimes, I think it’s the things that we think are the most obvious that most need to be said. Plus, it’s so essential as a home cook to learn technique. I’m not an expert omelet maker, so I’m glad to read what you wrote! I’m a baker, though … and a lot of times, I think that making a cake from scratch is so obvious … but its not. It comes down to the exact same things you’re describing: I use these kinds of pans, and this method of measuring, and I’m careful to allow certain things to happen at certain intervals, etc. Brilliant post!
I don’t bake (except yeasted breads) just because I prefer to throw ingredients around without measuring! Can’t do that with a cake. Some people wouldn’t want a soft omelet but you can still cook it more without turning it to rubber. I have some friend home cooks who absolutely never use a lid!!! It freaks me out!!! and use those knobs!!!
It look delicios🤗
I make omelets frequently and think I do a good job! But I learned some hints here I’m eager to try. And I think I need a crepe pan! :-)
You should have a crepe pan for making crepes!!! For an omelet just one the proper diameter is good. I hope I helped you out! But again, it’s all subjective. This is just the kind of omelet I enjoy! Soft and melty…
Dave is the omelette maker in our house but he never uses a lid. He is patient enough to make them, and I agree, that’s the secret ingredient. We also like them baveuse.
I almost make them on low and NO heat, just to allow for slow cooking. I use a lid when I need things to be cooked through – heated and melted – but without farthing cooking. They come in handy!
I’m very fond of an omelette for breakfast but not all sloppy on top. I know, I’m an outcast!! I don’t like eggs all runny except poached eggs. Yay, saved!! :))
I know your way is the proper way but please when I come for breakfast can you take mine a little further?!! :)))
Oh goodness no. there’s not one way to eat eggs. My girlfriend who stays with me often prefers omelets cooked more on the hard side. And I will do the same for you! My preference is soft, but not runny. The runny part is the melted cheese!
I love omelettes, but am not always good at cooking them. Thanks for the tips! I hadn’t thought about leaving the lid on and the omelette in the pan for a little bit after removing the skillet from the heat. Thanks!!!
Lids really work well. Even with no heat. It allows food to heat through and/or melt, without further cooking!
Mimi, I bet those four little girls are making omelettes to this day and thanking you for teaching them how. Great post/”PSA.” Russ is eating his right now. :)
Ha! Hope he’s enjoying it! Those four little girls are all four, really successful young women today, which is wonderful.
Indeed a beautiful omelet! I have only had good omelets in one restaurant in my life, and happily it is here in Tucson. They have mastered the French omelet like no other! Your omelet/crêpe pan is fabulous … worthy of Julia Child.
See what I mean? Horrible omelets, and at great, famous restaurants. It took me a long time to figure out to finally stop ordering them! There a local pizza place that’s decent, and I have to ask the cook to basically undercook our pizza, and then it’s delicious! Otherwise the crust is like a burnt cracker and the toppings are solidified!
i love a simple cheese omelette. i have been making one each week for our 90 year old neighbour. she loves them, and they are full of protein for her. i made them a bit runny inside which is the way i like them then one day i overcooked it (in my opinion) but she loved it so i realised that the runny ones were not her thing. now i blast them till they are very brown:)
Ha! I guess she didn’t want to complain. That’s such a nice thing for you to do. If I eat eggs or an omelet I’m not hungry for hours, so I usually eat eggs before a long trip!
Good post. A three star Michelin chef once said he had anyone applying for a job make him an omelet to test their cooking skills.
Oh interesting! Well I know there’s not one way to make an omelet, but you can certainly make a great one with some basic skills plus some patience.
I agree there are some terrible omelettes out there Mimi! I consider myself lucky enough to have been taught how to make a proper omelette when I worked in a kitchen as a student and watched the chefs do it. Otherwise I would have probably been one of those ones not making them properly. A tutorial on how to make a basic omelette is always welcome as a reminder!
Oh nice. How long did you work in a kitchen?!
6 years as a kitchen porter.
Oh goodness! That’s hard work!!!
Thank you!! I make a lot of omelets, but haven’t utilized the lid. Will do that from now on!!
You’ll love the difference!!!
There’s nothing like a farm fresh egg. Those deep golden yolks! Love that taught the kids to appreciate eggs and knowing how to make an omelet is a must. :-) ~Valentina
No, you’re right! Love fresh eggs. And I do think it’s important to understand that there are many different skills that can be used to make a great omelet!
That omelet looks perfect! nice browning on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside
Thank you, Raymond! That’s how I like them.
I would love to try making omelettes with the lid on. Loved this beautiful post Chef Mimi. Looking forward to see more interesting posts.
Thank you so much!!!
That was so sweet that you gave cooking classes to those young girls. I so agree that there are many things to learn when cooking and I’m sure they still use the skills that you taught. As for your omelets – the simplest things in life, in my opinion are the best! And there’s nothing better than a really good omelet with ooey gooey cheese. Thanks so much for sharing.
I very much enjoyed cooking classes, but the ones with the youngsters were the most fun. You can apply science so much to cooking.
There’s definitely an art to making the perfect omelette. Mine might be eggless, but the same general rules still apply!
Eggs are the biggest reason I can’t go vegan. I mean, I could, but I’d be very sad.
I’ve gotta say though, there are so many great alternatives available now! You really don’t have to go without eggs… just opt for plant-based ones instead. :)
I know you’re right. In the old days, especially when my husband was a vegetarian, way back when, there were very few alternatives, mostly soy, and no Amazon or Whole Foods! so people these days are really lucky with so many options, even at their local grocery store.