Omelet

How to Make an Omelet, According to Pros

The tips and techniques you need to know.

January 17, 2023
Photo by MJ Kroeger

I like to think of myself as a capable home cook, but the perfect omelet remains elusive. And believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve attempted to make American diner-style omelets, much like the ones I ate in my college dining hall that came stuffed with gooey cheese, mushrooms, and spinach. I’ve followed the French techniques, cooking the eggs in a generous amount of butter until barely set. But, regardless of what I do, the omelet inevitably falls apart. What should resemble a fluffy cloud of eggs overcooks, breaks, or—in the worst cases—gets horribly stuck to the pan. What am I doing wrong? I decided to get to the bottom of this culinary mystery, once and for all.

Broadly speaking, there are two prevailing omelet styles I wanted to tackle: the French omelet and the American, or diner-style. Of course, there are countless other types of omelets in the world, from the Japanese tamagoyaki to the Spanish tortilla—but I’m focusing on the French and American styles as a starting point.

“Omelet” vs. “Omelette”

First thing's first: How is the name of this eggy breakfast dish actually spelled? Does each spelling refer to a different version (à la macaron vs macaroon), or are they interchangeable?

The distinction comes down to geography. According to Grammarly, “omelet” is the standard American spelling of the word, while “omelette” is typically used in the United Kingdom and many other English-speaking countries. The latter is also how the word is spelled in France, the dish’s country of origin.

Making a French Omelet (Or Omelette, En Français)

Is there anyone more qualified to teach the technique of a French omelet than the legendary Jacques Pépin? I began by watching a YouTube clip pulled from his show, The Complete Pépin, where the famed chef demonstrates how to make a classic French omelet (as well as a “country-style” one, reminiscent of American omelets). I know I’m not alone when I say that the video is mesmerizing—the clip has been viewed 2.3 million times, undoubtedly inspiring many breakfasts over the years.

According to Pépin, the key to nailing a French omelet is getting the curds as small as possible, which will yield a creamy (rather than fluffy) texture. To do so, the eggs must be stirred and moved as vigorously as possible upon hitting the hot, buttered skillet until just the exterior is just barely set. Then, the still-soft curds are pooled towards one side of the skillet and the omelet is folded and gently inverted onto a plate. The eggs shouldn’t have any signs of browning—instead, the omelet should be pale yellow in color and have a soft, silky interior.

Making an American Omelet

To learn about perfecting the American-style omelet, I turned to none other than food science expert J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who wrote about the topic for Serious Eats. In contrast to a French omelet, fluffy American omelets are all about keeping the eggs in large curds—and as a result, minimal stirring is best. This can be achieved using the “lift-and-tilt” method. “Use a silicone spatula to lift up the edges of the [omelet] and push them toward the center of the pan, while tilting the pan to allow the raw egg to run underneath,” writes Lopez-Alt.

Additionally, it’s important to start the eggs in a pan of hot butter over high heat. Doing so, along with minimally agitating the eggs, will encourage the exterior of the omelet to brown, a key element of this type of omelet.

Once the eggs are almost completely set, Lopez-Alt suggests you take the skillet off the heat, add your toppings (the diner-style omelet is particularly well-suited for add-ins and fillings because the large curd lends a sturdier texture), and cover. The residual heat will cook any lingering underdone egg, melt the cheese, and warm up the other additions. It’s at that point that the omelet is ready to be folded and served.

Toppings, Fillings & Add-ins

Because French omelets are all about the simplicity of a well-cooked egg, other inclusions are minimal. A handful of freshly chopped herbs is a common addition, and cheese—whether a classic Gruyère or Ludo Lefebvre’s Boursin twist—added right before the omelet is folded, is also acceptable.

American omelets, in contrast, are a format that allows fillings and experimental flavor combinations to shine. The beloved Western (or Denver) omelet, with its filling of diced ham, onions, bell peppers, and cheese, is a perfect example of this style. Other classic omelet additions might include mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, chiles, meat, avocado, and/or broccoli—but that’s only a start. Just make sure any components that need to be cooked (like onions, meat, tougher vegetables, etc.) are done so in advance, lest you end up with raw vegetables in your otherwise-perfect pile of eggs.


How do you like your omelets? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Anabelle Doliner

Written by: Anabelle Doliner

Editorial & Production Assistant

12 Comments

Karl January 24, 2023
For a moister-than-typical American style of omelet, you can use a truc that Julia Child used for scrambled eggs: reserve part of the beaten eggs to add it at the end of cooking, off heat, before final plating.

And be sure to plate on a *warmed* plate; serving any simple egg dish on a tepid or cool plate is a sure way to reduce the quality of the final result.
 
Big U. January 23, 2023
I agree with Misterj53 regarding the necessity of fluffiness for an omelette (correct spelling - the Americans always try to make things easier for themselves, ans it doesn't always work).
Personally I prefer a big breakfast omelette, so I grate a slice of bread plus a similar amount of cheese into the beaten egg with a touch of milk. I usually add a few mixed veggies just before folding and removing from the pan, which give me a solid breakfast omelette
 
[email protected] January 22, 2023
You might think that with the current price of eggs, one would have held off on releasing an article about omelets. Omelets only seem like a food for the gods at this time.
 
Kosyo January 30, 2023
I’ll bet you complain about the cost of prescription drugs too….
😂
 
Kats January 22, 2023
You have to develop patience when cooking an omelet and choose the pan. I cook in cast iron frequently but an omelet requires a non stick pan. Cook the add in vegs or meat before and remove from your pan prior to cooking eggs. Prep your cheese additions. I usually use 3 eggs and give the dog a snack too. Whisk your eggs really well and I have added water but it really doesn't make a difference. Add a pat of butter to your pan and don't have it screaming hot. Just melt the butter and pour in the eggs. Distribute the eggs evenly in the pan by picking it up and moving it with your motion. I usually have my gas stove on med low. Patiently wait until the edges look like they are drying out. Use a spatula and actually pick up the edges of the egg and allow the uncooked egg to move into the spot by tilting the pan. Continue doing this until the top of the omelet is almost done. Add your ingredients to the center off the omelet (already cooked) and put cheese last. Using your spatula pick up one side of the omelet and fold it over and do the same to the other side. Carefully flip the omelet if needed and leave on heat long enough to melt the cheese. I have really good luck making an omelet in this manner. I don't like browned eggs so it is essential to watch the temp and just be patient.
 
janet V. January 23, 2023
This sounds like the method my son-in-law uses. Do you know how irritating it is that your son-in-law has perfected something that you fail at nearly every time. Like the author, I am baffled that I can't do this. I agree with your every step and I visualize myself doing exactly so, and yet I do not succeed. I think it is similar to the art of making pie crust; You either have it or you don't, and at least I have that!
 
Misterj53 January 22, 2023
I'm going to say no to both of these techniques. Air is the highest impact ingredient and fluff is the primary goal.
 
ImpalaTommy January 22, 2023
Breakfast is the only meal I will attempt to cook and have it look and taste presentable. My method for making omelets is to use 2 large or larger eggs, add a teaspoon of warm water, whisk until your arm is tired and shaking, then add the other ingredients and pour it all in a hot, cast iron skillet lubed with a generous amount of olive oil. A few seconds should have the edges getting firm enough to push a little bit toward the center and fill the void with the liquid still in the center by tipping the skillet. Continue around the edges quickly and when it all sets enough, flip the whole thing over in the pan. Now's the time to add whatever cheese you wish to 1/2 of the eggs and after a few seconds, gently fold it in 1/2 and top it off with parsley. Give it a try and please reply with any comments, good or bad, or suggestions. Thanks for staying to the end of this treatise.
 
Christene M. January 22, 2023
I'm going to try your way! I consider myself actually quite a good cook and baker - I love to eat & entertain! However, I have NEVER been able to master the omlette. We'll see....
 
t34sos4933e January 22, 2023
Hey folks,I'm a 'super senior' learning to cook.My wife of 53 years recently became injured from a fall so I have had 'Mr. Mom" duty for 3 months.Our favorite breakfast is a nice veggie omelet,many of the online videos show,to me, too much done with the 'brown' finish. How about a nice 'soft egg' color for the finish,thanks Ron.
 
Christene M. January 22, 2023
I think you're looking more for the french style of omlette Ron
 
janet V. January 23, 2023
Try the methods that Kats or ImpalaTommy suggest. Better yet, since you're a novice cook, stick to making a "scramble."