Even with a dish as quick and simple as scrambled eggs, there are times when you won’t have those few minutes to spare. You might also want to deliberately make them ahead and reheat them, either just for yourself or as an easy way to feed brunch to a group. Either way, reheating them isn’t hard, but you’ll need to be careful about food safety.
Is Reheating Eggs Toxic?
If you do an internet search, you’ll find dozens of blogs and articles with breathless, clickbait headlines, all telling you that eggs are a food you should never, ever, ever, ever, EVER reheat. Most of them link out eventually to the Food and Drug Administration’s page on egg safety, which offers a much more measured and realistic take on the subject.
Here’s what you need to know: Eggs often have salmonella or other bacteria on them, so you have to wash your hands and utensils thoroughly after you’ve handled them raw. You need to cook eggs to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure food safety, cool them quickly once they’re done, and get them straight into the refrigerator. You have to reheat a finished egg dish to 165F, the same as any other leftovers. If they’re going to sit out, as they would in a buffet scenario, you need to keep them at 140F or higher, so bacteria can’t reestablish.
None of this is hard if you splash out a few bucks for an inexpensive instant-read thermometer. You can also improve your odds by starting with pasteurized eggs, either in the shell or frozen in milk-style cartons. If you’re making a batch for a large group, cartons of frozen eggs can also save you a lot of egg-cracking.
Reheating Scrambled Eggs for One or Two
If you’re reheating just a portion or two of eggs, your best options are the stovetop and the microwave. On the stovetop, heat a skillet over a moderate burner. Add a pat of butter – eggs are less likely to stick with butter than oil, and it adds richness and flavor – and then your cold eggs. Gently stir the eggs, with or without a cover, until they’re fully reheated. It’ll be quicker with a cover, but you’ll need to check and stir them frequently.
In the microwave, cover the eggs loosely with a paper towel to keep them from soiling the oven if they pop and spatter. Warm them gently at half-power or lower in 30-second increments, stirring them around to help them heat evenly. Once they’ve reached serving temperature, let them sit for a minute or two for the heat to equalize throughout the eggs.
Reheating Scrambled Eggs for Groups
If you’re heating up scrambled eggs for a family get-together or a large brunch, you’ll need to turn to higher-volume methods. Heat is important here: Warming scrambled eggs in a crock-pot is a really bad idea, for example, because it’s slow and leaves eggs in the food safety “danger zone” for a long time. It’s fine for keeping them warm once they’re fully reheated.
Your oven is definitely the better bet, especially for large quantities. Heat it to 300F, and divide your eggs into multiple baking dishes. Adding cheese, butter or cream – or their vegan or lactose-free equivalents – can help keep the eggs moist and tasty. Cover the dishes with foil and heat for 20 to 40 minutes, stirring periodically, until they’ve reached 165F when tested in several places.
In a countertop roaster oven, preheat the cooking well to 300 and either lower your pan carefully into the well, or heat the eggs in the cooking well directly. Either method works fine.
A Few Pro Tips
The recommended cooking temperature of 160F is right at that borderline where eggs verge on becoming dry and rubbery, so if you’re deliberately making eggs ahead, it’s a really good idea to incorporate butter or cream, which raises the eggs’ cooking temperature and helps keep them soft and moist. Some recipes also call for cream cheese or processed cheese, which provides moisture and flavor.
Regular cheese can get rubbery once it’s reheated, so it’s best to leave that until the end. You should also avoid high-moisture add-ins like mushrooms and zucchini, which can make the eggs watery.
Once the eggs are reheated, you’ll need to hold them at 140F or higher. After 2 hours, they should be discarded, so if you plan to do some sort of all-day brunch, you’ll need to bring out separate batches one at a time. Don’t store and re-use the leftovers.
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.