Published March 1, 2013. From Cook's Illustrated.
It’s like a soufflé in a skillet—or would be if we could figure out how to keep it from collapsing before it got to the plate.
A different breed than French-style rolled omelets or diner-style omelets folded into half-moons, fluffy omelets are made by baking whipped eggs in a skillet in an oven, where they rise above the lip of the pan. Most recipes for fluffy omelets result in oozing soufflés and dry, bouncy Styrofoam rounds, as well as some omelets that barely puff up at all.
A fluffy omelet with lofty height and a delicate, airy texture.
The initial attempts were cooking up tough without dairy, so we knew we had to weaken the structure of the egg foam—the cluster of air bubbles made by whipping them. Adding dairy seemed logical, since it contains the dual tenderizers water and fat (we add it to scrambled eggs for these very reasons). Dairy alone wasn’t working, so we separated the eggs, whipping just the whites to form stiff peaks (think meringues) and whisking 1 tablespoon of melted butter with the yolks before folding them into the whites. We also added cream of tartar, which acts as a stabilizer.
Then we needed fillers. The delicate nature of this omelet meant that we couldn’t throw just anything in there—and certainly not in large quantities. We went with a version with Parmesan, one with asparagus and smoked salmon, one with mushrooms, and another with artichokes and bacon. Sprinkling them on after the omelet had baked meant that the filling rested on—but did not mesh with—the puffy bed of eggs. Filling the omelets before they went into the oven was a better solution.
To make sure that the eggs set but didn’t brown too thoroughly, we poured them into the hot buttered skillet and then immediately removed the skillet from the heat to sprinkle on the fillings. Then into the oven it went. When we pulled the baked omelet from the oven, the eggs were beautifully puffed up and, what’s more, gently surrounded the fillings. Each bite contained a flavor and texture contrast: rich but delicate eggs, a hit of salty Parmesan, and savory vegetables or meat.list of recipes