How to Make a Foolproof Omelet

See how this omelet isn't at all brown? That's what you're going for.Omelets are kind of like parallel parking. They've got a reputation for being tricky, but once you've mastered them, you've got an official license for kitchen competence. We picked the brain of Marie Simmons, author of nearly two dozen cookbooks including the James Beard Award-winning The Good Egg, to learn how to master an omelet. (It's not as hard as you might think!)

Watch: Fabio Viviani makes a creamy, salty Italian frittata

Two or three eggs is the perfect size for a single-serving omelet. "If making an omelet for two people, make two separate omelets or use 4 or 6 eggs for one larger, thicker, sturdier omelet. But an omelet cooks so quickly, it's easy to make one right after another."

When beating the eggs, some cooks swear by cream. Others by milk, water, or nothing at all. It's simply a matter of personal preference; experiment to see what you like best. "I prefer water because I find it steams the omelet and makes it fluffy and tender. Other cooks claim the same for the milk or cream." If you do choose to add a liquid, add it at a ratio of 1 tablespoon per egg.

Use the right pan. "A heavy-duty nonstick 8-to-9 inch skillet with gently sloping sides and a comfortable handle is perfect for a 2 or 3 egg omelet."

Grab a spatula. "I like to use a thin slender flexible rubber spatula for getting under the edges of the omelet and allowing the undercooked eggs in the center of the pan to ooze to the edges."

Related: How to make perfect scrambled eggs

Remember: the cooking part goes fast, so you want to be prepared before you start. "Have all of your filling ingredients (either at room temperature or slightly heated) ready to go."

And don't let your eyes get bigger than your omelet. One-fourth to one-third cup filling for a 2 or 3 egg omelet is sufficient.

Don't overheat the pan. "To test the heat of the pan, hold your hand about 1 inch above the surface of the pan. It should feel hot. Another way to check the heat is when using butter: let it melt and begin to sizzle. The sizzling indicates the right temperature. Then swirl [the butter] in the pan to coat the bottom."

Don't overcook the eggs, which will result in a tough omelet. "The eggs should not get brown."

Rolling the omelet out of the panAvoid egg-folding anxiety by following Marie's final steps. "Once the edges of the omelet are set and the center has just a bit of moist egg showing, spoon the filling on the third of the omelet closest to the handle. Using a rubber spatula, fold the third of the omelet (the portion with the filling) onto the center third of the omelet. Then, grasping the skillet by the handle, tilt the pan over a plate so that the omelet rolls onto itself and then out of the pan onto the plate."

Watch the video below for a demonstration on how to glide (even the most stubborn) eggs out of the pan.

RECIPE: The Basic Omelet
from The Good Egg (Houghton Mifflin 2000)

A plain omelet made with two or three eggs is the fastest meal on earth. I sometimes add a few tablespoons of water to my basic recipe to make the omelet a little fluffier. Traditionally a French omelet is topped with a dab of softened butter before serving.

2-3 large eggs
2 tablespoons cold water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus (optional) 1 teaspoon soft butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley, tarragon, chives, lemon thyme and/or savory (optional)
4-5 tablespoons warm or room temperature filling (optional)

1. Combine the eggs, water, salt to taste and a grinding of pepper in a medium bowl and gently whisk or beat with a fork just until blended.

2. Heat a medium nonstick skillet with low, sloping sides over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the 1 tablespoon butter—it should sizzle—and swirl to coat the pan. When the butter stops sizzling, pour the egg mixture into the center of the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the bottom is set, about 10 seconds. Using a heat proof rubber spatula or wooden spoon, pull the set eggs at the edges of the pan toward the center allowing the unset eggs to run from the center to the sides. Adjust the heat, if necessary, so the bottom doesn't brown. Continue cooking until the eggs are soft set—just a thin layer of unset moist egg should be visible on the top of the omelet—adjusting the heat if necessary so the bottom doesn't brown. The total cooking time should be less than 2 minutes.

3. If adding herbs and/or filling, do so now: Slide the pan off the heat and sprinkle the herbs over the surface of the omelet, or spoon the filling over the omelet surface closest to the handle. Using a spatula fold the third of the omelet closest to the handle over the center third. Then, holding the pan by the handle, tilt it so that the omelet rolls out of the pan and onto a plate seam side down. Serve at once topped with the 1 teaspoon butter, if using.

5 Suggested Omelet Fillings:
1. 4 ounces broccoli rabe, spinach, Swiss chard or other greens sautéed in olive oil with garlic. Topped with Parmesan cheese.
2. 1-2 slices bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled, ½ cup diced avocado, ¼ cup diced Brie cheese
3. 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 tablespoon salmon caviar, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
4. 2 tablespoons prepared chutney and 2 tablespoons sour cream
5. ¾ cup lightly packed chopped spinach leaves sautéed in olive oil with garlic until wilted, ¼ cup chopped tomato, 1 tablespoon fresh dill and 2 tablespoons crumbled feta