There is a common misconception that eggs cannot be cooked in a cast iron skillet because the eggs will stick to the skillet during cooking. However, with a little bit of preparation and patience, perfect eggs can be prepared in a cast iron with no mess to scrape off at the end. The trick is to use a warm skillet and a little bit of fat.
The first misconception of why eggs stick to a cast iron skillet is that eggs are acidic. The second misconception is that because the pan is porous and not smooth, the egg residue leaves a sticky mess. In reality, egg whites are more alkaline and whole eggs turn more alkaline after they are stored properly.
Acidity and alkaline are measured using a pH scale. The scale ranges from 0-14 where any number below pH 7 is considered acidic and any number above pH 7 is more alkaline. Egg whites have a neutral pH balance of 7. Egg yolks have a pH balance of 6.2 at the time they are laid and reach a pH balance of 6.9 after proper storage.
Eggs can be cooked in a cast iron skillet without having to scrub the pan after they are cooked. With proper cast iron seasoning, the right amount of fat and heat, and just a little bit of patience, you can prepare gourmet eggs easier than you can prepare them in a non-stick pan.
How To Fry Eggs in a Cast Iron Skillet
A well-seasoned cast ironed skillet is as easy to use as any non-stick pan. However, you can still cook eggs on a newer skillet without the eggs sticking to the surface. Ideally, the eggs should be as close to room temperature as possible before they go into the skillet. The eggs can be pulled out of the refrigerator 10 minutes before the cast iron is preheated. Pouring cold eggs in a warm pan can make them stick.
The first step is to warm up the skillet over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes. Then, add enough fat to the skillet to coat the entire bottom of the pan.
Once the fat is melted, test the temperature of the skillet by adding a couple of water droplets to the surface. It should sizzle but not smoke. If it smokes, the pan is too hot and you will need to lower the temperature.
Once the temperature is right, add the eggs to the pan and cook the eggs to the desired doneness. If the pan is too heavy to flip the eggs, using a thin spatula to lift them from the pan is a good alternative. The eggs should be removed immediately so that they won’t overcook.
What Types of Fats To Use
The most commonly used fats for frying eggs are vegetable oil, canola oil, and butter. Vegetable and canola oil are neutral oils with a high smoke point that allow the eggs to be cooked at medium-high with no offputting odors from the oil changing the eggs’ flavor. Butter is used for its flavor enhancement and creamy texture.
Sesame oil will give the eggs an Asian flair while oils like Avocado or walnut will add nuttiness to the eggs. Bacon fat is a wonderful fat to cook eggs in but, like butter, is high in calories. Any fat can be used, depending on the cook’s preference.
Scrambled Eggs and Omelettes
Perfect scrambled eggs and even omelets can also be cooked on a cast iron skillet. The preparation is similar to the preparation of fried eggs. Heat the pan on medium-low heat until warm and melt the preferred fat. Once the correct temperature is reached, use the water method to ensure the pan is at the correct temperature. Once the temperature is correct, pour the beaten eggs into the pan and lower the temperature.
Using a thin spatula, push the eggs starting from the outside and working toward the middle using long strokes. This technique produces fluffy curds and soft eggs. Cream can also be added to the egg mixture to fluff up the finished product.
Since cast iron retains heat so well, immediately scrape out the scrambled eggs once they reach the desired doneness, or else they will continue to cook. You can set aside the cast iron to wash later but it is best to wash immediately.
To prepare the perfect omelet in your cast iron pan, use the same preparation as before. Preheat the pan, add the preferred fat, pour in the egg mixture, and lower the heat. If the pan is too hot, simply remove the pan from the heat source until it cools.
Once the eggs start to cook, push the sides of the omelet toward the middle using a thin spatula. Once the edges of the omelet are set, add the filling and fold the omelet in half. If desired, add cheese to the top and broil until the cheese is melted.
The great thing about making omelets in cast iron is the ability to melt the cheese on the top of the omelet in the same pan. Cast iron can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, or even on the grill. This allows you to use one pan for many different cooking styles.
While the cast iron is heating up, preheat the oven to broiling. After the omelet is folded in half, add cheese to the top and place the entire pan in the oven for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is brown. Using a potholder, remove the cast iron and plate the omelet.
There are endless ways to make perfect eggs in cast iron. Just as eggs are the most versatile food in the kitchen, cast iron is the most versatile pan in the kitchen.
My name is Jason Phillips and I cooked for many years, primarily aboard Merchant Marine vessels and in fast-paced commercial kitchens. My passion for culinary arts led me to attend a culinary arts academy in 2019 where the instructor piqued my interest in food and beverage writing.