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What Is an Omelet?
Omelets, made of beaten eggs fried in fat in a pan, have likely been eaten in Europe since medieval times. They can be folded, rolled, or cooked flat like a pancake. They can be served stuffed with toppings or plain. The word comes from the Latin lamella (“thin plate”), and as such, most omelets should be cooked in a thin layer—about a quarter of an inch thick.
8 Omelets Around the World
There are hundreds of varieties of omelets and omelet-like dishes around the world, including:
- Tamagoyaki: A Japanese rolled omelet made of thin layers of egg traditionally cooked in a rectangular pan.
- Omurice: Also popular in Japan, omurice is a take on the western omelet, filled with fried rice and served with ketchup.
- Masala Omelets: Indian masala omelets are made with onions, chilis, tomato, and cilantro.
- Khai Jiao: Crispy Thai omelets are flavored with fish sauce and full of lumpy air pockets.
- Oyster Omelet: These Taiwanese omelets are packed with shucked oysters and leafy greens and thickened with sweet potato or tapioca starch. They're served with a gelatinous sauce made of more starch, ketchup, and soy sauce.
- Potato tortilla: An extra-thick Spanish omelet layered with potatoes, baked in a round pan, and served at room temperature.
- Frittata: Similar to a Spanish tortilla, Italian frittatas are thick and baked, but they can be found with any variety of fillings, often whatever is available and seasonal.
- French omelettes: The American word omelet comes from the French omelette, which has a tender, lightly cooked interior. They're mostly found plain, if you don't count the copious amounts of butter in which they're bathed.
How to Fill and Serve an Omelet
Omelets are mild on their own, so they make the perfect base for all kinds of fillings, including the classics: bacon, diced ham, sausage, soft goat cheese, grated cheddar cheese, spinach, onions, and bell peppers. Sprinkle a cooked omelet with a little chopped fresh parsley or chives for brightness, or drizzle with hot sauce or ketchup for acidity. Serve omelets for breakfast with toast, hash browns, or fruit salad. A dinner omelet goes great with a simple vinegary green salad.
Tips for Making the Perfect Fluffy Omelet
- A good nonstick pan and flexible rubber spatula are the best tools for making omelets, which are notoriously fragile and sticky.
- Try using clarified butter, which has a higher smoke point than regular butter, to fry omelets that are rich and buttery, but not burnt.
- When beating the eggs, whisk until just fully incorporated, with no streaks of white, but don’t get it too bubbly (unless you’re trying to make a baked omelette soufflée).
- You can strain your beaten egg mixture through a fine mesh sieve to get an extra smooth texture.
- Top your cooked omelet with a little bit of butter for a glossy exterior.
- Serve immediately after cooking—omelets tend to turn rubbery if they sit too long.
Foolproof Omelet Recipe
Prep Time3 min
Total Time6 min
- 2 large eggs
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (or olive oil)
- 2 tablespoons cheese or other filling, optional
- ½ tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, such as chives or parsley (optional)
- Use a fork to beat the eggs, a couple pinches of salt, and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper just until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.
- In a 7- to 9-inch nonstick pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat until just frothy. Swirl butter around the pan to coat. Pour in the eggs, and using a rubber spatula, quickly and constantly stir the eggs in a circular or figure-eight motion toward the center of the pan, occasionally scraping down the edge of the pan. When the eggs are almost cooked through on the bottom but still runny on top, about 1 minute, remove from heat and let rest 1 minute. Add filling, if using, and gently roll the omelet into thirds.
- Tilt the pan to gently slide the rolled omelet onto a plate and top with ½ tablespoon butter and herbs, if using. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.