You can impress your pals with pro-style flair by cracking an egg with one hand.
I once spent an afternoon cooking omelets with famed chef André Soltner. It appears to be a simple task, but it is not. As a result, chefs will ask prospective workers to create an omelet as part of their audition. As the adage goes, you can learn everything you need to know about a cook by watching them create an omelet.
Surprisingly, Soltner’s lecture did not begin with the omelet. It all began with cracking eggs. I’d been cracking eggs my entire life, but I had no clue how particular someone might be about the proper technique. His strategy was founded on ingenuity: Soltner grew up in wartime France, where food was frequently sparse. In ancient days, an egg was priceless, a source of nutrition and sustenance. It seemed unimaginable to waste even a drop of it.
He demonstrated how to break the egg, split the shell in half, scoop out the white and yolk into a dish, then cradle each half in his fingers, releasing his thumbs to painstakingly scrape every last bit of white off the shell halves. His approach was deft, efficient, and exhaustive.
That is not what I am here to show you today. Instead, I’m going to demonstrate the polar opposite. You see, there are occasions when that level of care is required, such as during wartime or on a quiet Saturday morning when you’re making the most laborious omelet of your life. But there are moments when speed, no matter how crude and rough, is all that matters.
As a guy who used to work the Saturday night dinner shift and then return to the restaurant early Sunday morning for a brunch-to-dinner shift (which amounted to at least 15 hours on my feet working nonstop from start to finish), I understand the need to crack a lot of eggs as quickly as possible.
Speed-cracking is not something that home cooks need to perform every day. However, it can be useful at times. Assume you’ve hired a lake house with your buddies, a large group of them, plus all the significant others. And you decide to make scrambled eggs for the audience one chilly morning. Sure, you could break the eggs one at a time, semi-carefully, as most of us do. But this is a situation that calls for some badassery. This is the time to stand in that rented kitchen and slug those motherf-ers like nobody’s business. Your friends will be taken aback. They’ll also be fed faster.
How to Crack an Egg With One Hand
This is one of those things that is better demonstrated than described, but I’ll do my best. First, a couple of observations:
- Not all eggs are the same: Some eggs have hard, thick shells that are simpler to neatly break; others are frail and weak, crushing and crumbling in your fingers. You can use either, but you must be prepared to adapt to the variances in shell strength.
- There is no way to perform this approach in such a way that no shell fragments wind up in the eggs. Even with two hands, it’s impossible to crack eggs carefully and always have them shell-free. If you’re only doing one or two dozen eggs, simply pick out any bits of shell that may have gotten into the bowl; if you’re doing more, you can use a classic restaurant technique of cracking the eggs into a strainer, then forcing them through by plunging up and down with the bottom of a ladle. Any shells will be strained out, and your eggs will emerge out the other side scrambled.
- This method is great for beating eggs for omelets, scrambled eggs, frittatas, and other dishes. You can make a sunny-side-up egg with one hand, but the yolk is more likely to crack.
So, now that we’re ready to get started, here’s how to accomplish it. You have two options: crack an egg with one hand as the other reaches for the next egg, or break two eggs at once, one in each hand, then grab the following two, and so on. I’m a lefty, so if I were using the first way, I’d single-hand crack with my left hand while grasping the next egg with my right. But, being a lefty, I’m used to utilizing my right hand frequently, so I’m fine with taking one egg in each hand, bashing them both out at once, and then grabbing the next two. It doesn’t matter whatever way you do it.
The One-Handed Crack-and-Reach
This action is all about well timed coordination like a competitive hot-dog eater reaching for the next dog with one hand while cramming the first down the gullet. It’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.
The trick is to be able to direct your non-dominant hand toward the next egg while firing the current one with your dominant hand. It would be like shooting an arrow with one hand while grabbing the next from the quiver if you were an archer. That’s a badass maneuver if I’ve ever seen one. As an onomatopoeia, with the cracking and reaching happening simultaneously, it would be Creach, Creach, reach, or maybe rack, rack, rack…
Okay, but Wait, How Am I Actually Cracking This Egg in One Hand?
I had hoped you wouldn’t ask that. I suspect that each person will approach this in a slightly different manner. But let me show you how I do it: I cradle the egg in my hand, using a hold that falls somewhere between all fingers and palm. I grab the bottom (wider) part of the egg with my pinky and ring fingers and the top half with my middle, index, and thumb. When employing this hold, one side of the egg should be uncovered and unprotected by your hand or fingers—I beat that exposed area against whatever cracking surface I’m using. Then, with my pinky and ring finger holding the base of the egg firmly, I pry the top half open with my other fingers. The egg should fall into the bowl or China cap beneath.
It’s similar to opening a soda can one-handed, except that with a soda can, the thumb normally joins the ring and pinky fingers in steadying the can as the index and middle fingers pry the tab. The thumb and middle fingers assist in the prying operation here.
Does this make sense? Yes? Great! No? Go get an egg; I bet you’ll figure it out. Or just have a peek at the photographs and gifs we’ve posted.
The Two-Handed Smash-and-Bash
The One-Handed Crack-and-Reach may be the best option for some people, especially those who have one hand that is far more dominant than the other. The Two-Handed Smash-and-Bash may be easier for those who are more ambidextrous. Why? Because ordering one hand to do one thing while sending brain instructions to the other to do something completely different is far more difficult for Earth’s most sophisticated living form than it should be. Mirroring each other is far less tiring on your brain if you have adequate control over both hands. This is when the Two-Handed Smash-and-Bash comes in handy.
Here, you’ll take one egg in each hand and break them against your cracking surface at the same time. It’s just stunning.
That’s all there is to it! To be sure, this isn’t a necessary kitchen skill. It might even be prohibited in the opulent galleys of Per Se, Noma, or the Fat Duck. But everything has its time and place. When you’ve got ten guys bleeding out from bullet wounds, calm and steady isn’t cut it.
You Crack-and-Reach and Smash-and-Bash your way to some hardcore badass renegade Rambo eggs in those moments.
The legal disclaimer must be spoken aloud in a lawyerly tone: No matter how quickly you crack your eggs, you are still in charge of how they are cooked: Scrambled eggs should still be soft and moist; omelets should be gently browned on the outside and slightly runny on the inside; and frittatas should be as fragile and delicate as a baby’s bottom.
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