Wayne Schmidt's Egg McMuffin Page Their history and how to make the best Egg McMuffins in the world.
It may seem odd to list the making of Egg McMuffins under the Hobbies section of my website, much less devoting a separate page to it. After all, Egg McMuffins are simply an egg-based breakfast sandwich. The answer is that for more years than I care to count I've slowly developed a recipe and cooking techniques to create what I believe is the best Egg McMuffin in the world. With so much time and effort invested, not to count a few extra inches to my waistline, I felt this noble meal deserved its own page.
Before getting into the recipe a little historical perspective will help increase appreciation for this humble-seeming dish.
Egg McMuffin History:
Egg McMuffins began 110 years ago with the creation of Eggs Benedict. Two stories have equal credence for the origin of this Egg McMuffin precursor:
1. In 1893 (or the 1860s or 1880s depending on the reference) Mrs. Legrand Benedict was lunching in the world-famous restaurant Delmonico's in New York when she asked the chef, Charles Ranhoffer, to come up with something new. His response was toast topped with ham, a poached egg and topped Hollandaise sauce (beaten egg yolks cooked and thickened with hot drawn butter and flavored with lemon juice and sometimes paprika or other spices.) The dish caught on with the patrons and became a regular offering. The recipe was included in chef Ranhoffer's 1894 cookbook The Epicurean and was called Eufa a' la Benedict or Eggs a' la Benedict.
2. One morning in 1894, the New York banker Lemuel Benedict was suffering from a hangover. Entering the Waldorf Hotel's restaurant looking for a cure, he directed the chef, Oscar Tschirky, to place two poached eggs and crisp bacon on some buttered toast and top it with Hollandaise sauce. The dish became a favorite and over time chef Tschirky changed the recipe to use Canadian Bacon and English muffins.
Over the years various family members related to either Mrs. Benedict or Lemuel Benedict, and several food historians, have offered evidence that one or the other is the true origin. To date the weight of evidence is equal for both arguments.
(A third story with little historical support is that Eggs Benedict was invented at Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans.)
From the 1890s to 1970 Eggs Benedict remained in their original form and were featured as high-end breakfasts in better restaurants. Then everything changed.
In 1971 Mr. Herb Peterson, owner of a San Diego-based McDonald's franchise, called Ray Kroc, president of McDonald's, and told him he'd invented an new breakfast offering that he wouldn't believe. Mr. Peterson refused to describe the dish until Mr. Kroc could taste it in person. They got together and Peterson served him a sandwich consisting of a sliced and buttered English muffin filled with a hard-cooked egg, a slice of Canadian bacon and a piece of American cheese. Kroc must have liked it because in that same year McDonald's began test marketing its new breakfast sandwich, named an Egg McMuffin. The test was successful and in 1973 it was offered through all McDonald's franchises. Egg McMuffins quickly became one of the most popular sandwiches sold and were immediately copied by virtually every fast-food business in the world.
Interesting Trivia: April 16 is national Eggs Benedict Day.
My Thoughts about Egg McMuffins:
I was hooked on Egg McMuffins with the first bite. The combination of bread, eggs, bacon and cheese satisfied me better than anything else. While gourmets across the world lamented at reducing the elegance of Eggs Benedict to fast-food fare, I believed the American cheese was a distinct textural and flavor improvement over the traditional Hollandaise sauce.
(Note: although the original Egg McMuffin was superb, I have compared similar offerings from all the fast-food franchises and have come to believe that Jack-in-the-Box's Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich (without the mayonnaise) is the heartiest and most flavorful rendition of this meal.)
As good as these sandwiches were, after a few years I began wondering if they couldn't be improved. So began the saga of the development of the Egg McMuffin recipe that follows.
I wanted to increase the flavor of the sandwich and the creaminess of its texture. To do this I decided to take a step backward to the original Eggs Benedict and serve the sandwich open-faced with the eggs fried so that the flavorful yolks were cooked but still a creamy liquid. In this way they become the sauce for the meal. This worked great but one yolk wasn't quite enough sauce for one sandwich so I increased it to two yolks. I kept the American cheese but instead of toasting the English muffin, which made it too crunchy for me, only warmed it in a microwave. Finally, one sandwich didn't completely satisfy me so the recipe was increased to two. This created the problem of the meal being too rich so I added two more English muffin halves, one topped with strawberry preserves and the other with grape, to act as palate cleansers. What resulted is a breakfast that so completely satisfies every taste and textural desire that after finishing it I glow for hours.
The recipe is not complicated but does involve careful preparation and timing to insure the egg whites are thoroughly cooked but not tough, the yolks are heated to a thick creamyness but not cooked to dryness and the cheese is melted to perfect smoothness yet not so liquid that it flows off the sandwiches.
My Egg McMuffin Recipe:
The following recipe contains enough cholesterol to clog the
arteries in half of the people in New Jersey.
Proceed at your own risk.
The most important step in this recipe is to have everything prepared before cooking starts. This is because several of the steps have to be timed to within seconds and leaving anything to be done during cooking invariably ends up with something wrong in the resulting meal: usually over-cooked yolks or over-melted cheese.
1. Slice two Thomas' Original English muffins in half. (Use a knife. Fork splitting creates more crannies for butter or margarine to hide in but using that much butter results in greasy Egg McMuffins.) Rub off any cornmeal crumbs from the bottoms and lightly dampen the bottoms with a little water to keep them soft and moist. Lightly butter the tops. Place a 1/8th-inch thick slice of Canadian bacon on the two larges halves. (I prefer the flavor of Jones' Canadian Style Ham. Rosa's is too thin and has an odd rectangular shape.) Spread top-quality strawberry preserves on one of the other halves and grape jelly on the last.
(I prefer the flavor of Knots strawberry preserves and Welch's grape jelly.)
Place all four halves on a large microwavable plate and cover with a microwavable lid to keep them from drying out. Put this in the microwave.
2. Divide the whites and yolks of two eggs, each into four separate bowls.
I found the
best tasting and looking eggs to be Healthy Horizons.
Their chickens are fed a special diet that makes the yolks darker
and more flavorful.
The best way
to separate eggs is to use a large spoon.
Run a finger around the spoon's edge to make sure it
doesn't have sharp burrs that may pierce the yolk.
Separate two more eggs adding one yolk to each of the bowls already containing a yolk. Discard the second pair of whites. Using them makes the final Egg McMuffins too rubbery.
3. Use a 3 and 1/2-inch diameter cookie cutter to cut two pieces of American cheese (I prefer Kraft) into circles. Place the trimmed corners on the circles of cheese to form a hollow. (This will help hold the cheese on the eggs.) Cover the cheese with thin plastic wrap to keep it from drying out but leave it out to warm up to room temperature.
4. Assemble the table setting so you are ready to eat the second the dish is finished.
5. Start warming a non-stick electric griddle with two 3 and 1/2-inch diameter cookie cutters on it. (I use a waffle iron with the plates reversed to the smooth side.) Spray the insides of the cookie cutters while they are on the griddle with non-stick oil, then lift the cutters off and lightly wipe down the griddle. You want an almost invisible layer of oil to prevent even the slightest sticking. (A thick layer will cause the whites to bubble while cooking.) Replace the rings and let the griddle heat up. You want it warm enough so that the whites start cooking as soon as they hit the surface but not so hot that they sizzle and bubble.
6. Warm two oven-safe metal pan lids in an oven set to 170-degrees.
7. Once everything is ready, review the following cooking procedures one last time because once the whites hit the griddle the sequence of cooking is going to be too tight to pause and look up something.
8. Pour the egg whites into the rings. If one ring is smaller than the other, as it will be if they both came from the same set, pour it first, wait 15 seconds then pour the second ring. This gives the smaller but thicker white a little more time to cook through so both whites end up with the same degree of doneness. Cook the whites for one minute.
9. Run a sharp knife around the inside edge of the rings to break the whites loose. Remove the rings.
10. Use a spoon the push some of the uncooked egg white from the middle to the edge of the white. This creates a well to hold the egg yolks. Without doing this the yolks tend to spill off the whites and onto the griddle. Make sure the wells are large enough to hold two yolks.
11. Cook the whites 45-seconds more.
12. Carefully pour two yolks into the well of each white. Cover with the pan lids that have been warmed in the oven and cook for 1 minute. (Not separating the eggs and cooking the yolks and whites together invariably results in the yolks getting over cooked.)
13. Remove the English muffin halves that have jelly on them and warm the halves with the Canadian bacon in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Return the jellied halves and warm for another 40 seconds. (Keep them covered so they don't dry out during warming. Also, the exact times for warming may vary depending on the microwave's power. Finally, if all four halves are warmed for the same time the jellies will get so hot they'll boil and dissolve into the muffins.)
14. After one minute of cooking, remove the covers from the eggs and careful place one of the cheese circles on each one. Do not cover because this will cause the cheese to melt too fast.
15. Immediately turn around and take the warmed English muffins out of the microwave. (They should just be finishing.) Carry the plate to the eggs and using a pancake turner, gently scoop up the eggs and place one each on top of a muffin half that has the Canadian bacon.
At this point the cheese should just be starting to turn smooth and shiny without melting to a liquid. Be careful to keep the egg as level as possible or the cheese may flow off to one side. By the time you move to the table for eating the heat in the eggs should finish the job of softening but not melting the cheese.
16. Transfer the plate to the table setting, gently slice off a bite and eat. Ahhh... life is good.
Cut the Egg McMuffins with small snips using a sharp thin knife. The cheese is slightly sticky and trying to cut an entire Egg McMuffin in half in a single motion is likely to cause the cheese to stick to the blade and get dragged off.
The yolks should be cooked to a creamy consistency without being dry. After the first cut they should flow out onto the plate. Dip each bite in the yolk to act as sauce.
Eat slowly to savor each bite.
After finishing the first Egg McMuffin, eat one of the jellied muffins to act as a palate cleanser. Eating both muffins at once gets to be too much of a good thing. I usually prefer the grape-jellied muffin between the two Egg McMuffins so I can finish with the strawberry.
I've tried many different drinks with this meal and have decided that the best option is to not drink anything during or after the meal. Doing so dilutes and dissipates the meal's rich flavor. Rather, I sip light tea while preparing and cooking the Egg McMuffins to satisfy any thirst ahead of time.
I admit that this meal is closer to the original Eggs Benedict than Egg McMuffins. Yet I retain the fast-food name because that was the seed from which this meal grew. I sincerely hope you enjoy this breakfast, or at least found this page entertaining.
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