Let’s Get Cracking: How to Make an Omelet

by Matt Moore on January 31, 2012 · 57 comments

in Cooking, Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

In October, we received an incredible response from our article on “How to Make Better Eggs.”  As many of you highlighted in the comments from that article, we left out one important method of preparation: the omelet.  Of course, this was done for good reason, as we felt that omelets deserved a post all their own.  So gentlemen, we continue our discussion today on the manly topic of breakfast with an exploration of how to make an omelet.

Enjoy!

MM

How to Make an Omelet

I know you’ve seen him.  The guy on the breakfast buffet line that’s standing over the stove churning out omelets made to order.  That guy!  Seriously, who doesn’t love the omelet guy? The next time you find yourself at a breakfast buffet or crashing at an Embassy Suites, make sure to pay special attention to the man behind the fire.  The “hotel omelet” (as I will refer to it in this post) is one of the easiest omelets to prepare.  Let’s do a play-by-play:

You order up an omelet featuring one of several items sitting on display.  The pan hits the heat along with a generous portion of melted butter or oil, followed by an array of finely diced ingredients.  To finish, a pour of 2 – 3 frothy eggs, a quick scramble and a flip, cheese, and the essential fold.  In less than 3 minutes you’ve got a perfectly satisfying meal.  Who says you don’t have time to make a killer omelet in the morning?

Okay, so with all of that ease, why is it that the omelet is considered one of the more difficult breakfast dishes?  It’s all about the details.  New chefs looking for work are often required to make an omelet as part of their evaluation process.  With so many techniques and varying opinions, even the slightest mention of proper omelet preparation definitely draws in critiques.  For simplicity, in this article I’m only covering the two techniques that I use most often in the kitchen.  The first, as described above, is what I will dub the “hotel omelet.”  The second, we’ll just call the “classic.”

The “classic” omelet usually features heartier fillings that are prepared aside from the surrounding egg.  Instead of finely diced and meager portions, the classic omelet is bursting with ingredients and fillings. For example, in one pan let’s say that I’ve sautéed some roughly chopped vegetables. To go along with the vegetables, on the side I have a generous portion of shredded cheese to use as my filling.  Preparing all of these ingredients in the “hotel omelet” manner would be way too heavy and cumbersome to flip and cook appropriately.  Instead, we simply prepare the egg portion on its own, and as the egg sets, we add the other cooked ingredients, fold, and serve.  Seriously, it’s that easy.

The key in either method is preparing the actual eggs.  Think of our Hot and Fast method for scrambling eggs.  As the entire egg portion begins to set on the bottom, we begin to gently lift the cooked eggs off the surface and tilt the pan to allow the runny portion to run towards the heat.  In this instance, instead of scrambling, the goal is to keep the entire egg portion intact, holding the shape of the pan.

The best quality of an omelet is its versatility.  The eggs are a blank canvas for an endless combination of ingredients and flavors.  I’ve highlighted some of my favorite combinations below.

Western:  Onion, Bell Pepper, Mushrooms, Ham, Cheddar Cheese
Coastal:  Onion, Mushrooms, Crab Meat, Mozzarella Cheese
BBQ: Pulled Pork, BBQ Sauce, Green Onion, Cheddar Cheese
Veggie:  Onion, Spinach, Mushrooms, Tomato, Provolone Cheese
Greek:  Onion, Tomato, Spinach, Artichoke Hearts, Feta Cheese
Arizona:  Pico de Gallo, Diced Chicken, Sliced Avocado, Pepper Jack Cheese
Mediterranean:  Onions, Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Feta Cheese
Creole:  Red Bell Pepper, Crawfish Tail Meat, Chives, Gouda Cheese
Lorraine:  Caramelized Onion, Crispy Bacon, Gruyere Cheese
Spanish:  Chorizo, Piquillo Peppers, Green Olives, Manchego Cheese

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get cooking.  Remember, today’s article focuses on two simple omelet preparations dubbed the “hotel omelet” and the “classic omelet.”  Feel free to share in the comments your preferred method and tips for other readers.

Hotel Omelet – finely diced, minimal ingredients, all cooked together in a single pan.  (Serves 1 – 2, Prep 5 minutes, Cook 10 minutes)

1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
2 Tablespoons Green Bell Pepper, finely diced
2 Tablespoons Onion, finely diced
1 Tablespoon Tomato, finely diced
2 Tablespoons Mushrooms, finely diced
3 Large Eggs
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
¼ Cup White Cheddar Cheese, grated

Preheat a 10 inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat; add and melt butter.  Add the next four ingredients and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes, or until just tender.

Meanwhile, whisk together eggs until frothy and combined and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Add eggs to pan and cook undisturbed for 45 – 60 seconds.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula, carefully lift the cooked portions from the bottom of the pan while tilting the pan to allow the runny portions to reach the hot surface.  When the majority of the eggs have set, and with the top portion still moist, carefully flip the omelet over using a spatula–or score some bonus points by flipping the omelet in the pan by using a quick back and forth motion, gravity, and the lip of the pan (Note: you might want to do this over the sink on the first try).

Sprinkle cheese on one side of the omelet and cook the underside for another 45 – 60 seconds.  Finally, serve the omelet out of the pan, folding over the other side as you plate to melt the cheese and finish the presentation.  Serve.

Classic Omelet – ingredients prepared separately from the eggs, and then assembled together just before serving.  (Serves 1 – 2, Prep 5 minutes, Cook 10 minutes)

2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, divided
½  Green Bell Pepper, roughly chopped
¼  Onion, roughly chopped
3 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
¼ Cup Mushrooms, roughly chopped
3 Large Eggs
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
¼ Cup White Cheddar Cheese, grated

Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat; add and melt butter.  Add the next four ingredients and sauté for 5 – 7 minutes, or until just tender.  Meanwhile preheat a 10 inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat; add and melt remaining butter.  Whisk eggs together until frothy and combined and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Add eggs to the non-stick skillet and cook undisturbed for 45 – 60 seconds.

Using a wooden spoon or spatula, carefully lift the cooked portions from the bottom of the pan while tilting the pan to allow the runny portions to reach the hot surface.  Continue in this manner until no more runny portion remains.

Remove the sautéed ingredients from the cast iron skillet and place on one half of the eggs; top with cheese.

Using a spatula, carefully fold the omelet over and remove from pan.  Serve.

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brett Morrison January 31, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I eat an omelet almost daily. My recent favorite is sautéed spinach and kale with two organic eggs and egg whites. I add a side of lintels and some tomatoe slices. Delicious! Although, reading your list of options is making me want to try some more variations. And you are right… the omelet did deserve it’s own post.

2 caleb January 31, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I believe what you called the “western” omlet is actually the “Denver” omlet. At least here in the west :)

3 ARthur is 15 January 31, 2012 at 10:05 pm

What a great way to seal the deal…

4 Dan January 31, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Can’t say I’ve ever seen someone make an omelet in the “classic” way, but that’s just me. I always thought an omelet was an omelet, with everything made together at once. That being said, I’m now hungry from reading this post.

5 Ryan January 31, 2012 at 10:26 pm

After reading this I know what I am having for breakfast. Can’t wait until morning.

6 Jeremiah Warren January 31, 2012 at 10:58 pm

99.9% of the people read this article to find out how to do the omelet flipping thingy. :-P

7 Tyler Smith February 1, 2012 at 12:19 am

gosh, that looks delicious.

8 Andrew February 1, 2012 at 12:43 am

Was in upstate New York and they had a Mountain Omelet: Bacon, Sausauge, Ground Beef, Green Peppers, and w/e Cheese you’d like

9 Luke February 1, 2012 at 12:54 am

To Dan:
I’ve honestly never seen an omelet made the “hotel” way. Even the hotels here (Idaho) make them the “classic” way. However, after reading this article, I must admit it is much easier to make them in that style.

10 James @reddirtrunner February 1, 2012 at 12:59 am

Here’s a tip: farm fresh eggs (like the ones I get from my cage free, pasture raised hens) are infinitely better than the ones bought at your local big box mega-mart. I realize that not everyone has 2 dozen layers in their backyard. Look for fresh eggs at your local farmers market or use http://www.LocalHarvest.com to find a local supplier.

Cheers!

11 BenG February 1, 2012 at 1:12 am

Nice post. It sounds very doable and a step up from my usual fried egg/toast/Tabasco breakfast sandwich, geez I love those though–I’m heading to the kitchen. Incidentally, the crepe guy is the buffet character that has always mesmerized me most, like watching a good taper finishing drywall. Yum.

12 Alvaro February 1, 2012 at 2:01 am

Please, as an spaniard myself, the fact that you haven’t included the real spanish omelette i find it even offensive! Its as simple and as tasty as they come. Eggs + Potatoes + a little bit of garlic. No brother nor lover will be more pleased than with this dish. Although the rest of the recipes are welcomed, ;).

13 chuck February 1, 2012 at 6:17 am

Man! No Jacques Pepin method? He does a sort of scramble and set, then a tri fold with toppings in a slit on top.

14 Dan Smith February 1, 2012 at 6:41 am

You know, it’s a Navy tradition that at least on Sundays we get omelets made to order. They are almost always the classic style, which I found nearly impossible to make. I can’t wait to try the hotel style. Thanks for the post!

15 Brandon February 1, 2012 at 8:05 am

I agree with everything in the directions it just looks like your “hotel style” is overcooked for my taste. Not sure to the validity of this, but my former boss used to say “omelette is french for ‘runny in the middle’”. That’s how i’ve always eaten mine anyways. Spinach and feta is my personal fave.

16 Richard February 1, 2012 at 8:19 am

Is it Omelette or Omelet ? I was having a debate with my wife as she was writing her cooking blog entry for a smoked salmon omelet http://www.asimplehomecook.com/smoked-salmon-omelette-or-omelet/
Omelets should be in every man’s arsenal as a food to prepare.

17 Will February 1, 2012 at 8:28 am

I believe the best way to make an omelet is the way Alton Brown did on Good Eats. It involves two folds instead of just one. Also using a larger pan allows you to spread the eggs out allowing the middle to have a custard texture with a crispy outside without drying out the eggs.

I really recommend watching that episode if you want to learn to make an omelet. It can be very hard to describe cooking instructions with only words and pictures.

18 Andrew February 1, 2012 at 9:10 am

I like making frittatas. They’re similar to your hotel omelet but with more fillings and no flipping, and it gets finished off with some cheese on top and a couple of minutes under the broiler.

19 jeff February 1, 2012 at 10:05 am

Excuse me, but a “classic” omlette doesn’t have a filling, it is just egg and a little butter.

20 Chris February 1, 2012 at 10:16 am

Many years in my past were spent in kitchens. For those of you who haven’t worked in kitchens, there is a definite heirarchy, with the grill cook being near the top. First day, I show up to work the breakfast shift at a local greasy spoon. After about 10 minutes of buttering toast the grill cook says “Do this omelette – let’s see ya flip it.” Never flipped an omelette before, but I figure what the hell, go big or go home. Used the pan toss method I remembered reading about in my Boy Scout handbook many, many years ago. Nailed it! The grill cook grunted “Nice” and I was on the grill for the rest of the shift.

The classic method is OK, but you can’t beat the pan flip for flair!

21 Drew February 1, 2012 at 10:17 am

i love making omlets like this. when i was at school, the highlight of my morning would be to get a ‘hotel’ omelet from the omelet guy. the guy was intense about his omelet. like the soup nazis without yelling or talking. your best hotel omlet will be done on an 8 inch pan, over an open flame. the open flame provides you the ability to heat any part of the pan which is imperative when lifting and setting the runny part. also the omelet guy used a prepackaged egg. sounds disgusting but it was runnier and allowed for a more evenly cooked omelet. the same way to mimic this is to add 1-2 tbsp of milk/water to the egg when you are whipping it prior to adding it to the heat.

22 Clay February 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

@Alvaro, you are correct in being a little upset with the mislabeling of the Spanish omelet. Although I do think the “Spanish Omelete” as described sounds pretty tasty. I have not been so happy with an Omelete as when I had the ones in the Paradores of Spain.
For everyone else, the adding of crushed dry tarragon to the whisked eggs has always been a family secret. I highly recommend trying it at least once.

23 dango February 1, 2012 at 10:45 am

@ drew – right on about adding a bit of milk or water. counter-intuitively, the water is the better option. … and remember to whisk! air adds lightness.

my wife made me a sturdy omlet this morning and, since I was in a hurry, she put it in a tortilla for me to eat as I drove :-). (remember a napkin to tuck into your shirt behind the wheel !)

24 Paul February 1, 2012 at 10:46 am

Hi,
Just one thing to add to this article. Pour the eggs into the pan through a sieve. It catches any particles of shell, and those connective strings that hold the yolk of the egg in place.

Just makes for a finer omelete!

25 GiJo February 1, 2012 at 11:49 am

where’s the meat??

26 Tim Hardy February 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Perfect timing! Today my hens have laid the first of what I hope will be many eggs!

27 Jensen February 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm

My recent favorite omelet filling:
diced roma tomato sauteed in olive oil with garlic and basil and grated parmesan cheese

Super simple, super good

28 Rey February 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I like the hotel method because it incorporates the fillings in the egg as opposed to the classic method where the fillings are simply blanketed by the egg.

29 Josh February 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I now have an inexplicable craving for an omelet. Curse you!

30 Rob S. February 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm

A suggestion from a family tradition: when mixing eggs, a bit of milk, add a splash of Worcestershire sauce, seasoning salt, and a bit of garlic powder. Flavor is never lacking in my eggs.
That’s my constant base and from there I vary it up every morning.

31 Joey D February 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Microwave-Omelet

Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather work on a range (and I definitely favor the “classic” method), but when I feel like making an omelet at work, this microwave method delivers a more-than-acceptable product.

32 Nick G February 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I enjoy making my omelet the hotel way, but instead of worrying about folding it over I cover it with a lid until the eggs are set. If you beat enough air into the eggs they will really puff up. More of a soufle than an omelet but it looks impressive. Thats the way we did it in the Diner I work in. We would take three eggs and throw them in a blender for two minutes and pour right into our hot pan. Puffs up like crazy. You can use a wisk for easier clean up. Its worth a try.

33 Bellaisa February 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Oh you are doing a great service to single guys and girls everywhere with this. The guy will have an amazing line to get a girl to stay over “I can make a mean omelet…” and the girl will actually get fed something better than a bowl of fruit loops! Everyone wins!

34 Shane February 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm

It should be pointed out that this method is for what is known in the culinary world as an American omelet. That “classic” omelet is the same thing, just overstuffed. A more impressive method is the French omelet, which a couple people mentioned, the way Jacques Pepin and Alton Brown do. It takes a bit of practice but is well worth it. Also, a Spanish tortilla isn’t really an omelet, but probably the best thing that ever happened to eggs.

35 Devin February 2, 2012 at 2:15 am

Omelet for breakfast it is then.

36 Jeff Schoolcraft February 2, 2012 at 11:00 am

Hi! I included this article in the inaugural issue of Paleo Weekly (http://paleo-weekly.com/issue-1)

37 Richard February 2, 2012 at 11:29 am

A little part of me wonders how many omelette recipes were first invented by a guy waking up the Morning After the Night Before and looking in the fridge to see what sort of breakfast he can conjure up for his lady friend while she goes through her morning ritual…

“Hurrrr…. let’s see…. I’ve got the usual eggs, bread, butter, milk… darn, that pepper got smashed on one side; if I don’t use that cheese right away, the mold will cover all of it; I really do need to do something with that leftover roast chicken; maybe I can use those bacon bits…

38 Andrew February 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I used to be that guy in the hotel buffet line. Make sure your pan is either very non stick, or well seasoned. Also a perfect omelette should not have any brown on it, the egg should be completely yellow (easier on a french omelette than your “hotel omelette”. Very good article, I will be trying some of your combinations.

39 Eddie February 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Have perfected a technique on my stove that demands exacting temperature control and timing. I add one tablespoon of milk per egg when whisking the eggs. I cook my sausage and set my burner on medium so the non stick skillet temperature is even and stable. I wipe the sausage out with a paper towel and hit the skillet with cooking spray. Pour in the eggs and cover the skillet. Set timer for 1 minute. Covered cooks through so I do not do the lifting thing. I test from the edge to the center with a spatula to make sure it is not stuck. Add ingredients to half and then fold the loose half over. Move to center, cover for one more minute. Perfection!

40 Leigh February 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm

When I was a wee lad, mt grandfather taught me his trick for getting a cheese omeltte perfectly cooked and gooey. He’d get the egg portion 95% cooked, then sprinkle the cheese over and pop it under the broiler until the cheese melted.

41 REN February 3, 2012 at 5:18 am

Three egg omelet serving two people? I spill that much on my lap.

42 John February 3, 2012 at 8:44 am

Andrew @39 is correct. There should be no brown on the outside of the omelet.

I used to be the omelet guy and my omelets were as yellow as the mid-morning sun.

You had to wear sunglasses to eat them.

43 Kent Hovind February 3, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Classic, classic, classic. I like onions, hot peppers, pepper jack, and bacon. ;)

I will often use an omelet as the filler in a wheat wrap so I can add some crunchy lettuce and mayo, making a great wrap/sandwich for lunch. Or dinner.

44 Guilherme Mulinde Da SIlva February 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Never before I was striked with the feeling of actually cooking something, but after reading this I say’d ” f*ck this im going to make this dish and it’s going to be awesome”. And it was. I even managed to do that epic flip to make the omelet look like a taco. Tasted like victory.

45 molove February 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Not really impressed as the eggs are bunred…try cooking at a lower temperature to bring out the sweetness in the eggs and not have all that nasty burned egg…that looks more like a fritatta than an omlette

46 Adam February 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Agreed. Let’s all watch Julia Child make an omelet 32 years ago:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video?id=8109928

…I happen to agree that if you’re doing it right, the egg spends less than a minute in the pan and yet is fully cooked.

47 James February 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Great article! I eat them almost daily too. Farm eggs are the best. I have found that 2 chopsticks are the best for beating the egg and moving it around the pan to set. It does not incorporate too much air, doesn’t scratch the pan and is usually easier to find than a whisk in the morning.

48 Brent February 4, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I made a killer veggie omelet today using the classic technique. It turned out delicious!

49 Pete February 4, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I second watching Alton Brown’s episode on the omelet. He also recommends using a silicone spatula–heat resistant AND flexible for getting underneath the edges.

I’ve always told my son that a great way to “impress” a woman is to be able to cook. There’s nothing like coming home from a night on the town and being able to whip up something on the spot. Whether he’s listened to me is yet to be seen as he lives 250 miles away, but I can hope….

50 Caveman Doctor February 4, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Make sure to use grass-fed butter so you get all the benefits of CLA!!!

http://cavemandoctor.com/2012/01/23/can-eating-fat-stop-cancer-in-its-tracks-what-is-cla-and-why-do-we-care/

51 Fred February 5, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Hi Matt,

I appreciate your article, the art of the omellette was always one more facet in being a hit with the lady-friends of my twenties.

I am also a fan of Alton Brown and agree with Will and Pete in seeing it done, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=741_xfb1xZs. I too cook it yellow, with a slight hint of tan.

Great article, thanks for writing it.

~Fred

52 slk February 5, 2012 at 11:36 pm

A nice variation: if you have some leftover chili con carne, a couple tablespoons in the middle of the omelet gives good flavor. Don’t really need other ingredients.

Also, try some diced potato sauteed in butter with the tomatoes, onions, & peppers.

53 JD February 5, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Great article! When I have time and want to get fancy I use this French trick: separate the eggs (real easy using the shells) and whip the whites until they’re really foamy, then fold back in the yolks and cook on low heat. Make sure they set a bit before adding the fill, and you get a thick fluffy omelette that looks 3X the size.

54 Thomas February 6, 2012 at 1:13 am

The Thomas way:

Fry the eggs, do not beat them. Don’t break the egg yolk!

Let the eggs fry up as usual, then put either saute veggies on top of the egg yolks, or raw veggies. Put a good dose of cheese over it, then flip..still leaving the egg yolk intact. The cheese should be sufficient to keep the fold together when you flip it on the other side.

For those that like the yolk..

55 Evan M February 8, 2012 at 9:24 am

No self respecting Californian would eat an omelet without avocado in it. Most places make a Californian with avocado, bacon and swiss cheese (just like a California style burger) but really, the avocado is the key.

56 Jimmy W February 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm

When I make an omelette I use the broiler. First step is to turn on the broiler so it is good and hot when you use it later. Second I whisk 2 eggs (the perfect omlette is made with 2 eggs and not 3 according to chef LL Cool J on Deep Blue Sea) in a bowl/coffee cup/whatever. I then add a dash of salt and pepper and just a little water to the eggs. Next I melt a little butter in an omelette pan. Once the broiler is properly heated pour the egg/salt/pepper/water mixture into the pan and place on stovetop at medium high heat. Leave on the stovetop until only the bottom is starting to cook and then transfer it to the broiler. The eggs will rise rapidly and within a couple of minutes you will have a perfect fluffy omelette. Depending on what you are stuffing the omelette with you can add the ingredients before the broiler or after. I usually just do a cheese omelette so I add the cheese after it has been under the broiler for a minute or so and then once it is done the cheese is nice and melted. Dont knock the broiler method until you try it.

57 rita January 12, 2014 at 2:45 am

You really should invest in a good heatproof rubber spatula. If you were to cook the egg on medium low heat in a well oiled stainless pan and cover the pan with a lid, your omelet, will actually cook much faster, evenly and wont taste like icky denatured protein glass ( which is not insanely healthy)

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