When it comes to feeding a crowd of people for breakfast or brunch, many people, (and by many people I mean me), swear by a make-ahead dish like a strata or even a grilled cheese strata, or a frittata situation to get through your morning. But what if you aren’t planning some fabulous brunch way in advance, or have a houseful of overnight guests and a fridge crammed to the gills with everything you need to feed them and no room for a casserole dish, or no time to make something ahead?
Scrambled eggs are your morning savior. They don’t need anything with them except toast to make them a full breakfast, no matter what IHOP says. Sure, they are great with some bacon or sausage, pancakes or hashed browns, but you? Are not a short-freaking-order-cook, and you have a tableful of hungry morning people who will eventually be eating lunch, so there is no shame in the egg and toast game. Maybe some fruit, but only if you have it lying around. They are quick and easy, a child could make them (and at least one of yours should be taught how immediately).
Scrambled eggs for two or even four people is a no-brainer, because everyone is usually gathered together so getting them cooked and on the plates fast is pretty easy. But what if you are eight people or even a dozen? Now you are battling everyone’s morning routine. Someone is invariably trying to get a quick email off, or completing a complex dental hygiene or face management protocol, someone is taking FOREVER to get dressed, and someone else has decided your French press regular coffee isn’t really up to their standards and has departed in search of an artisanal flat white in the neighborhood.
So now you are herding cats and trying to get some protein in them that is hot and delicious and not cold and rubbery. What is a host to do?
Enter my foolproof scrambled eggs for a crowd. These eggs are just as super-fast as any other scramble, but they can hold for up to an hour in a low oven or slow cooker without turning into silly putty. So, you can get all your slippery guests a plate of breakfast on their schedule and not the eggs' schedule. You’re welcome.
Here’s how to do it:
First things first, if you are going to hold your eggs in a low oven, place your oven-safe egg bowl in your oven and turn it as low as it goes, usually between 150-200, as soon as you hit the kitchen. The bowl will warm so that it will help keep the eggs a good temp, even once you put it on the table or buffet. If you are going to hold your eggs in your slow cooker, plug it in and set it for warm, so that the insert starts to heat up. You do not want your hot eggs to hit a cold serving vessel, the outsides will seize and rubberize.
Now that your vessel is heating up, you want to get your equipment together. You will need a large nonstick skillet or wide low-sided pan that is large enough to hold the amount of eggs you intend to make. A heat-proof rubber spatula, a microplane or box grater, a bowl for the eggs, and a large fork.
How many eggs are you gonna need? Usually when cooking small, you would budget for two eggs per person, and would use the standard large eggs that you keep in your fridge for cooking and baking, since that is the size most recipes call for. Because you are just going to divide what is in the pan by either two or four people, which is easy to eyeball.
But these eggs are self-service, and someone will get piggy, and someone will be left with no eggs or just a sad spoonful of egg crumbs, and let’s be real, that person will be you. So, since eggs are fairly inexpensive, and you are preparing for a crowd, splurge and buy the extra-large or jumbo size, and budget two eggs per person, plus an extra egg for every four people. In math terms, this means that 8 people need 18 eggs. Which is good, because most places will sell cartons of between 6 and 18 eggs, so you will never be more than a couple eggs over your needs, and to be honest, if you have fewer than 4 eggs left in any sized carton for this, I would just add ‘em in. What is the worst that can happen? You’ll have leftover scrambled eggs, and tomorrow you’ll put them on toast with a slice of cheese or some avocado over them and be glad all those people are gone.
For every 6 eggs you will need 2-3 tablespoons of frozen unsalted butter. So, for the assumed 18 eggs, budget one stick. And yes, I said frozen. More on this anon.
To start, break all of your eggs into a large bowl, being sure to fish out any bits of shell that escape. Using your large fork, poke every yolk in the bowl to break it, which will help them blend and is also weirdly satisfying. With your fork, beat up your eggs until well mixed and no large streaks of whites remain, about 20 good fast whips in a circular motion. You don’t want to use a whisk for this because of what comes next.
Take your frozen butter, and unwrap it, leaving the paper covering the last two tablespoons, and grasp it firmly by this end. Grate it right over the bowl of eggs with your microplane or box grater, making a snowy butter iceberg floating on top of your beaten eggs. When you get down to the last tablespoon and a half (or two if you are a nervous grater) stop. Place the remaining nugget of butter into your nonstick pan and set it over medium-low heat.
Using your fork, whip the grated butter into your beaten eggs till well blended. Here is why: eggs are mostly water and protein. If you add more water (or milk) you will get eggs that are watery, and will weep when you hold them for any length of time. If you add nothing, the proteins will seize and get bouncy. Butter is fat, which is perfect for tenderizing and adding flavor, but if you just cook them in a lot of butter, your eggs get greasy. By putting the chilled grated butter into the eggs, the butter will slowly emulsify into the eggs as they cook, in a suspension, so they will keep the eggs tender and moist and delicious, and not at all greasy or watery. And which is most important for this recipe, will allow you to hold them for much longer than eggs cooked another way. I use the grated butter technique for any scrambled egg or omelet I make, but it really shines when doing these large-scale scrambles for a crowd.
Once your eggs are mixed with their butter, check your pan. Your butter should be melted and maybe a bit foamy. Add the eggs to the pan and begin slowly moving them around with your spatula. I do a slow up and down from one side of the pan to the other, like mowing a lawn, allowing the eggs to form large curds, and just moving back and forth. You are not trying to make fancy almost-custard eggs, and you definitely don’t want browning. When you start to get decent large curds, turn the heat to low and keep stirring around slowly. Larger curds are both easier for serving and will hold temp better than little bits. When your eggs are almost fully cooked but still slightly moist looking, turn the heat off. These are not to-order eggs, so everyone is getting the same cook and that means fully done. Not dried out, but not in the least runny or wet. Because a runny egg person will still eat a tender fully-cooked scrambled egg, but a dry egg person will not eat a wet egg for love or money, so they win.
Give your eggs one more good stir in the hot pan off heat, and transfer to your warm bowl in the oven or the warm slow cooker. In the oven, leave uncovered. For the slow cooker, place a clean, lint free kitchen towel (think linen or woven cotton and not terrycloth) over the top and then the lid, to prevent condensation falling on your perfect eggs. Hold in the slow cooker on warm or in the low oven until you are ready to serve, up to an hour is fine, but 30 minutes or less is ideal. This window allows you to get some toast done or other breadstuff on the table and gather the troops.