Scrambled eggs for a crowd

One morning last week I and a couple colleagues cooked scrambled eggs for brunch for about 100 people. Although we didn’t have access to a full kitchen, cooking the scrambled eggs wasn’t difficult. One of us cracked the eggs while the other two whisked, then cooked 1-1/2 dozen eggs at a time in electric frying pans. (We prepared about 3 eggs per person.) Once cooked, the scrambled eggs were kept in large covered stainless steel bowls until about 25 minutes before the start of the brunch. At that time, we placed the eggs into a warmed chafing dish.

The group we were preparing the brunch for arrived about 20 minutes late (they were coming a distance by chartered bus). A few speeches preceded the meal which meant that brunch didn’t begin until nearly an hour after the eggs had been placed in the chafing dish.

If eggs are held too long over heat (like on a breakfast or brunch buffet table where they are kept in a chafing dish or steam table), “greening” can occur. This is a natural reaction which causes the eggs to turn an unappetizing drab greyish-green colour. We wanted to avoid this so we took a few precautions to try to prevent the phenomenon.

These tips can usually prevent greening in eggs:

  1. Use fresh eggs. Greening will occur more readily in older eggs.
  2. Use stainless steel equipment and utensils.
  3. Whisk in 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) lemon juice for every 1-1/2 dozen large eggs or 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) citric acid crystals for every dozen eggs.
  4. Cook eggs in small batches no larger than 3 L (3 qts).
  5. Once cooked, avoid holding the eggs over heat for more than 30 minutes.

We were able to follow the first four suggestions above (opting to add lemon juice as per #3 because that’s what I had on hand). We also cooked the eggs until softly scrambled instead of cooking them until they formed very firm curds since we knew the eggs would sit in the chafing dish for a while where they would continue to cook from the heat. We didn’t want them the proteins in the eggs to tighten so firmly from the heat that they squeezed additional moisture from the eggs causing them to weep or exude moisture.

Unfortunately we didn’t anticipate the delay in the start of the meal and the long length of time the eggs would sit in the chafing dish. By the time brunch concluded, the eggs had been in the chafing dish for nearly 2 hours. At that point, some egg had stuck to the pan, although it was not burnt on. (It washed off later with a little soaking and scrubbing. Next time, we’ll spray the chafing dish with cooking spray before adding the eggs.) There was also some minor greening of the eggs that were in contact with the chafing dish. Nothing too serious. No doubt following the tips above helped prevent a full-blown case of “green eggs” and bacon!

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