When Julia Child made her first television appearance in 1962, she didn’t prepare boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin. Instead, she introduced Americans to the art of French cooking with a simple staple: the omelet.
Omelets have existed in some form since ancient times, but the French word “omelette” came into use in the 16th century. In the years since, the delicious egg dish has become an icon of French cuisine.
But preparing a proper French omelet involves a different technique and presentation compared to the classic American style. If you really want to nail this classic recipe in the way it was intended to be enjoyed, it’s important to pay attention to the precise steps and best practices to avoid making an eggy mistake.
Below, culinary experts break down how to make the perfect French omelet.
“What makes a true French-style omelet different from an American omelet is that it is made with only eggs and butter and the texture is soft and particular,” Benigno Armas, co-owner of La Boulangerie Boul’Mich in South Florida, told HuffPost. “A French-style omelet has a perfectly even light yellow color with no browned spots.”
While American omelets are folded in half, French-style omelets are rolled into ovals or cylinders ― many people believe the ideal presentation resembles a football or rugby ball.
But before you get to shaping, you’ve got the cook the eggs properly.
“The first tip to achieve the perfect French-style omelet is to always use fresh eggs,” Armas said. “It is ideal to make omelets with two eggs and with a hand whisk, beat both eggs for at least 30 seconds.”
Once the eggs are fully beaten, season with salt and pepper. Next, you’ll need a nonstick pan.
“It’s important that your pan is the correct temperature,” Herve Malivert, director of culinary affairs at the Institute of Culinary Education, told HuffPost. “Heat it over medium heat and add butter, and when the butter melts it’s ready to go.”
Malivert recommended adding the eggs to the pan quickly and all at once.
“Move the pan and mix with a spatula simultaneously to make an emulsion,” he advised. “When the eggs are creamy, tap the pan to smooth the eggs and make sure there are no wrinkles.”
If you want to add filling like herbs and/or cheese, make sure the omelet is warmed and forming already. Malivert believes it’s best to wait until the eggs are 85% cooked. Next, it’s time to roll.
“Roll one side of the egg over to the middle to make the first one-third fold, then roll the other side towards the middle so it’s in thirds,” he explained. “Flip it out the pan so it’s served seam-side down.”
Although the instructions seem fairly simple, there are plenty of ways to mess up a French omelet.
“One mistake is that people get too much color on the omelet, often because the pan is too hot,” Malivert noted. “A pan that’s too hot will also overcook the eggs; the perfect French omelet should have no color and a creamy texture.”
Armas also advised against cooking over heat that’s too high.
“Cooking the omelet on one side and then turning it over to cook on the other side is another mistake and is not how you make a French-style omelet,” he said.
Failing to grease the pan with a generous amount of butter can make the omelet stick and create inconsistencies. And don’t try to make a French omelet with too many eggs.
“Using a lot of eggs is another common mistake because it will require a lot of cooking, which will change the flavor and texture,” Armas said. “Using too many eggs will also not allow you to create a thin circle when you spread the egg over the pan.”
Even if you fall into one of these traps, don’t be discouraged. Perfecting the French omelet takes practice. And as Julia Child said, “If you’re not going to be ready to fail, you’re not going to learn to cook.”