Omelets are a beloved breakfast food the world over, but depending on where they are ordered, different meals may be served. Two of the most popular styles are the American omelet and the French omelet, each with a distinct flavor and texture. Beyond that, however, there are a few more key differences between the two.
French omelets are served plain or with light fillings, folded tightly with a soft interior. American omelets are thicker and crispier and often served with heavier fillings. Although the ingredients are often the same, every other part of the process is different.
From preparation to serving and eating, these omelets are actually quite different. But. between the two omelets, both have a wonderful taste and texture that is entirely unique. The French omelet is more difficult to make and easy to get wrong, while the American omelet’s simplicity is a great reason why it is so popular.
What Defines A French Omelet
French omelets are the most popular variety available throughout most of Europe and much of the rest of the world. It can be considered the original omelet and is fairly difficult for first time creators to cook correctly.
A french omelet is defined by the technique used to cook it, and a skilled chef will have a much easier time with some of the advanced techniques required. Other differences include the use of fillings and serving method.
When looking to create a French omelet, it is important to remember that practice makes perfect. The first attempts of yours to produce a true French omelet, with its uniform color and tight role, are almost certain to fail. Try to improve each time and get closer to the ideal.
The ideal French omelet is simply eggs and butter cooked to have a soft and tender texture. The outside is uniform in color and just hardened enough to stop the inside, slightly gooey egg from leaking out.
Many Americans may consider a French omelet undercooked due to the wild difference in texture from what they are used to. However, many chefs and other omelet lovers swear by the softer texture of the French omelet. Getting this correct relies almost entirely on technique.
The Technique For Making A French Omelet
Proper technique for making a French omelet is fairly easy to explain but difficult to master in practice. All that is needed to start is eggs, butter, salt, and a medium-sized non-stick pan.
- Whisk the eggs and salt together
- Heat the butter in a nonstick pan and pour in the eggs
- Keep the pan and eggs moving at all times until the texture no longer levels itself out
- Reduce the heat and begin rolling the omelet into a cylinder shape in one corner of the pan
- Fold the final part of the omelet onto itself and serve flipped, seam side down, on a plate.
This process may seem complicated, and it is likely that you will mess up a few steps the first time. However, remember that everything can be fixed until the texture and shape are fixed. Exploring the details of each step of the French omelet technique may be helpful for learning.
Whisk The Eggs Together
Whisking the eggs together is the easiest process of preparing a French omelet. Simply crack and whisk together your eggs as normal. The yolk and whites of the egg should be entirely blended together to get the classic, all yellow look of a French omelet. Leaving streaks inside of the mixture this early will have little effect on the taste and texture but will influence presentation.
Some chefs prefer to add a small amount of water to the eggs at this point to thin out the mixture and achieve lighter eggs. This is personal preference; experiment with and without water to discover what taste you prefer.
Adding seasoning at this stage is uncommon for a French omelet, although some salt is acceptable. Wait to add extras such as pepper until after serving.
Pouring The Eggs
Before pouring out the eggs into the pan, you must first heat up butter. Use a nonstick pan for any omelet making, as it is important that the mixture can freely slide around the pan. If any part of your omelet gets stuck or caught during cooking, it will ruin the texture and could even cause the outer layer to burst.
After choosing a medium-sized, non-stick pan, put it over medium to high heat. When you add your butter, it should sizzle a bit and melt without burning. You will need to add quite a bit of butter; the main goal here is flavor, not lubrication for the pan.
As the butter begins sizzling, add your eggs. Stir it in briefly with a spatula (a rubber spatula works best), continuously moving the eggs.
Keeping It Moving
Do not stop moving the pan or the eggs around once they have hit. This constant movement creates the texture and uniform color that French omelets are known for. If any part of the egg is allowed to cook without moving, you will get an outer, slightly crunchy texture and a darker color. While this is not bad to have, it is not a part of a French omelet.
Shake the pan consistently in a circular pattern over the heat with one hand. This is a continuous motion that should not stop. Especially early in the process, when the eggs are fresh, the goal is to move around the liquid and not allow it to set.
While one hand shakes the pan, the other will hold the rubber spatula and lift and scramble the eggs. This is also a continuous motion. As the egg scramble warms up, it will begin forming into soft, light and fluffy bits of egg. This is a good sign that the omelet is beginning to come together. Do not stop stirring!
The combined movement of the pan and the eggs will continue until shaking the pan no longer levels out the mixture. Figuring out when you should stop moving everything will take some time to get right; the exact amount of time depends on your stovetop, pan, number of eggs, and other factors. Show patience while learning.
Another way to know when to stop is when, after running your rubber spatula through the mixture, liquid no longer immediately pools back in. This means that the eggs are beginning to set and should be taken off of the heat.
Once the eggs have begun setting just a bit, it is time to reduce the heat. Keep it very low; the goal here is not to truly cook the eggs anymore, but to deal with any final runny areas.
The first task after lowering the heat is to smooth out the surface of the eggs, pushing any runny egg toward thicker spots. Ideally, as the omelet cools, you will achieve an even thickness. Again, this is a part of the process which requires a personal feel for getting right, so do not be discouraged if the omelet ends up slightly lumpy or thick in some areas.
When no runny parts of the egg remain, take it off of the heat entirely. It is possible to go right from medium heat to off heat if you have kept the eggs moving enough earlier, but the transition of heat is often useful for home chefs.
Folding Into A Cylinder
With the heat entirely off, it is time to begin forming the omelet. Take your rubber spatula and start at one end of the pan. Slowly begin rolling the omelet into its famous cylinder shape. Try to keep the number of rolls to a minimum while ensuring that no parts are left behind.
During rolling, you should clearly see the outer area of the omelet have one, uniform color. It should not break or tear at any point. If it feels too weak to properly form a cylinder, the eggs need to be cooked more while still moving to form the outer skin of the omelet.
Roll until there is very little area left of the omelet, a last flap that needs to be rolled over. If you are adding any fillings such as cheese, now is the time to add them. Note that, traditionally, French omelets are not served with fillings. Add the fillings into the small pocket remaining, where the last flap has not been folded over yet.
This folding process should result in the omelet being entirely on one side of the pan. If it slipped out at any point into the middle, do not worry. Simply tilt the pan and slide it back, using the rubber spatula to guide the whole piece. Once the omelet is in place and any fillings are inside, fold over the last flap and create a seam. Use your spatula to fold it over and try to smooth it out.
Once the basic shape of the omelet is formed and the seam is finished, baste it in some of the butter leftover. Feel free to add a bit more if you are running out in the pan.
With the omelet formed and properly full of butter and eggs, flip it onto a plate with the seam down. Ideally, this flip will be done once and achieve the true, cylindrical form of the French omelet.
However, that is almost certainly not going to happen the first time you try; that is perfectly acceptable. Just get it onto the plate with the seam down, then the shape can be fixed lightly with your hands.
After touching up the shape to be a tight cylinder with no edges sticking out, brush the top down with butter once more. If you are adding additional spices such as pepper or chives, add them atop the French omelet now. Admire your handiwork and you are done! The omelet should be uniform in color and have a soft, light texture that is quite different from an American omelet.
Finally, it may be helpful to watch someone make a French omelet live to compare your techniques with a professional’s. There are many great resources available online for this purpose, such as this video:
Simplistic Ingredients Are Essential For A Proper French Omelet
Depending on who you talk to, they may have some strong opinions on what ingredients are actually allowed in a traditional French omelet. At the least, everyone recognizes and respects the eggs and butter. However, even the addition of salt can be considered too much, changing the French omelet into something else.
For the majority of people, these arguments are not necessary. Adding some ingredients such as salt and even pepper are becoming common, and you should not worry about what exactly needs to go into your French omelet.
However, some fillings and spices that may be common to an American omelet may have difficulty fitting in a French omelet or ruin the texture it attempts to achieve. When adding anything to a French omelet, consider carefully the effects it will have on the light and airy taste.
Fillings such as meat, heavy cheeses, and vegetables like onions may make the French omelet feel more like an American one, or even be too heavy for the thin skin and slightly undercooked egg to handle.
What Defines An American Omelet
American omelets are simple to make and often defined by their ability to host a variety of fillings and flavors that accompany the egg. There is little to define an “ideal” American omelet; however, some basics like shape and texture tend to be universal in application.
When compared to a French omelet, an American omelet is much easier to make. They require less movement and advanced techniques, can be flavored in a variety of ways, and are fairly difficult to overcook. American omelets are a perfect breakfast food for those looking for an entire meal in one.
The different ingredients available in an American omelet and the wide variety of flavors this type supports is truly incredible. For a basic look into how to make one, you can view this video:
Remember that you can add all sorts of meats, herbs, cheeses, and vegetables to the mix without compromising the integrity of an American omelet. Be creative!
The Technique For Making An American Omelet
The basic way to make an American omelet is fairly simple. Compared to a French omelet, anyone with some cooking experience should be able to learn how to make one quickly and simply, slowly improving on their technique over time. The process can be broken down into a few steps:
- Whisk together eggs
- Add fillings to half of the pan over butter
- Add the eggs and let them set
- Fold over the eggs
- Flip the omelet and cook both sides
It is a simple process that results in a delicious, flaky egg that is soft inside and houses all sorts of different ingredients. The main difference between a French omelet and an American one is that, in this case, we allow the eggs to set before moving them at all. This is what achieves the denser and crust edge of an American omelet. No eggs are moved until the omelet has been set.
American omelets are cooked over a high heat throughout the process to accentuate the craggy and uneven finish of the outside. This also makes the eggs’ outer surface cook quicker. Like a French (or any) omelet, it is vital to use a nonstick pan.
Although American omelets move much less, it still should not stick at any point. Ruining the “flip” of an omelet can break the outer crust and ruin the structural integrity of the dish.
Finally, an American omelet is served simply as a fold from the pan, rather than a rolled-up cylinder. This is a more basic presentation that is easy to nail and truly accentuates the different fillings and nice outer texture of the American omelet.
A Large Variety Of Fillings Can Be Added
The fillings available in an American omelet are one of the things that set it apart from the French omelet. They are added directly into the omelet, rather than being added afterward, and are often an essential part of the flavor and texture of the meal rather than an addition.
If you are adding meat or raw ingredients to an omelet, be sure to cook them beforehand. The meat will simply not have time to properly cook in the time that the omelet does. Things such as onions or garlic can also benefit from the same treatment of cooking beforehand, but it is not as essential.
Common fillings include breakfast meats like ham, sausage, and bacon, as well as a variety of vegetables. However, it is certainly not limited to these options. As you become accustomed to the flavors of omelets, you can get truly creative with what is put inside.
Whether adding leftovers from the night before, cutting some vegetables before they go bad, or choosing herbs from your garden, it can all find a place.
The fillings of the American omelet represent not just the hearty, thick aspect of the omelet, but also the sort of everyday feel that accompanies the food. This aspect is one of the key differences between the delicate and delicious French omelet, and the hearty and thick American one. Both are fantastic, but they could not be more different.