It’s hard to get excited about Egg Beaters. Yellow goo in a carton that’s supposed to be good for you . . . it tends to make us think about the flavorless hockey puck that comes in an Egg McMuffin (sorry, McDonald’s, but it’s true). When you’re planning that elegant brunch for a summer Sunday, we’re pretty sure that “I have to make sure I have plenty of Egg Beaters on hand!” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
But throw them in a backpack or kayak hatch, and now you’re talking. For starters, they’re extremely weather-friendly; in the summer, freeze the carton and it’ll help keep your other food cool for the first day out, and they’ll be thawed in time for breakfast. Winter…freezing doesn’t hurt them, obviously, and if they’re a brick in the morning, you can rip the carton off from around them and toss the whole eggy ice cube in the pan to thaw and cook at the same time. They’re also very easy to pack; the carton is durable, so no more worrying about eggs breaking and dripping on your sleeping bag.
Okay, but…what do you do with them? Our answer: Pretty much everything. We’ve made omelets, used them in pancakes…but their real forte is scrambles. Got leftovers from the night before? Sauté everything together, throw in the Egg Beaters, add some cheese, cook it down, and you’ve got a hearty start to a long hike. We’ve put in potatoes, sweet potatoes, couscous, pasta, sausages, leftover steak, bacon, peppers, onions; you name it, we’ve turned it into breakfast. A slab of grilled pork tenderloin may not sound like the ideal companion for your morning coffee, but when it’s in small chunks scrambled in a mess of Egg Beaters…mmm. Toss in a couple of pinches of herbes de Provence, and you’re talking gourmet.
Flaws? A couple. The first is that they’re relatively low calorie; at home that may be a virtue, but not on the trail. If you normally eat a couple of eggs in the morning, plan on doubling that volume in Egg Beaters. Lots of protein, little fat = good, healthy calories, though.
The other flaw of Egg Beaters: they have a tendency to “weep” as they are being cooked, secreting a whey-like liquid. It’s not disastrous, just unattractive. Obviously, you can cook them until there’s no liquid left to weep out, but that means tough eggs. We’ve discovered an easy way to counter that. Put some salt into the eggs before you cook them; that breaks some of the protein bonds, causing them to stay more tender, even when cooked dry. Don’t be shy with the butter or olive oil in the pan, either, as fat helps make the Egg Beaters fluffy. And, start with a hot pan, cook them most of the way quickly, then turn the heat down (an advantage of using a good microstove) and finish them gently.
We’ve found that combination is practical in the field (some scrambled egg recipes rely on half-and-half, which just might be sour by day 2 of a hot trip), and produces remarkably good results. Another way around the “tough egg” conundrum is to make breakfast burritos; carry some wraps with you, cook the Egg Beater mess until it’s fully dry, wrap it up, and the texture is actually a bonus.
The other flaw is price; Egg Beaters are, not surprisingly, a lot more expensive than whole eggs in a shell. This is sort of in the “it is what it is” category, and we haven’t found a way around it. We’ve tried less expensive options—house brands of “egg substitutes”, for instance—and universally they’ve tasted lousy, with an odd chemical flavor. Egg Beaters, while not as flavorful as the real thing, are good enough that we never notice the difference, particularly with all the other things we add to them, and when we wake up really hungry from yesterday’s hiking.
Everything in life is a compromise, but for backpacking breakfasts on the short trips we mostly do, we haven’t found a better one than Egg Beaters. Easy to carry, easy to use, they even help you use up tasty leftovers . . . and they give you a perfect excuse to eat cheese for breakfast…how can you lose?