American omelet vs. French omelette: what is the difference between the two, besides the spelling?
They’re both delicious and, if you love eggs, you’ve probably enjoyed more than one omelet in your lifetime. A beloved breakfast food, omelets can serve as a full meal.
But omelets aren’t just relegated to the morning meals. It’s not uncommon to see people enjoying these delicious and filling entrees for brunch or even dinner.
American omelets are typically crispier and thicker, with a wide variety of hearty fillings. Alternatively, French omelettes are served with light fillings, are much plainer than their American counterparts, and have a runny center. But the main difference between the two lies in how they are prepared.
Let’s dive in and explore the difference between the American omelet and the French omelette.
The pan and cooking technique give American omelets a golden speckled crust, and the surface is usually quite uneven and cratered.
In most cases, fillings like cheese, vegetables (mushrooms, bell peppers), and meat (cubed ham, thick chunks of bacon, pulled pork, or sliced chicken) are added while the omelet is cooking.
French omelette is defined by the few ingredients and the cooking technique.
In French omelettes, the only fillings are usually cheese (traditionally, Beaufort, Gruyère, or Fontina) and herbs, which are added to the center before the omelette is rolled up.
French omelettes are smooth and pale, without the signature golden color seen in American omelets. To achieve the prized pale appearance, the pan is shaken constantly as the omelette cooks.
Another thing that makes a French omelette distinctly different from an American omelet is that a French omelette’s filling is soft to the point of being runny. The word for this in French is baveuse, which actually means “runny.”
How to Cook American Omelet
In all honesty, it’s kind of hard to mess up an American omelet. Some people even mix all of their fillings directly into the eggs and call it an omelet. However, the method for preparing a French omelette is very precise.
To prepare an American omelet, the rules are a bit looser than those for the French omelette. Most commonly, the whisked eggs are poured into a pan and left untouched as they cook over high heat.
As the eggs start to solidify, the French-trained chef gently lifts up the edges of the cooking omelet with a spatula and tilt the pan, allowing uncooked eggs to go underneath the already set portion. Slowly, most of the eggs will eventually have contact with the pan.
Desired fillings such as cheese, vegetables, and cooked meat are added on top of the eggs when the omelet is nearly finished cooking. Then, the omelet is folded in half and served.
Ingredients for American Omelet
When it comes to American omelets, you are limited by only your imagination. All you need to do is glance at the menu at any popular chain breakfast restaurant to understand the dizzying array of omelets you can make.
In addition to eggs and butter, any of the following ingredients can work with American omelets: cream, milk, vegetables, red meat, poultry, seafood, herbs, sauces, or salsas.
Also, keep in mind that you can make an American omelet with just eggs and cheese if that’s what you like.
How to Cook French Omelette
The French omelette is deceptively simple and easy to get wrong when you’re making this delicious entree for the first (or tenth) time. To read an eloquent ode to the beauty and uniqueness of the French omelette, check out this blog post from Serious Eats.
The technique for cooking French omelette involves vigorously and constantly shaking your pan to prevent the eggs from sticking to the pan’s bottom. At the same time, you must whisk the eggs with a plastic fork (to keep from damaging your pan) so that the eggs cook uniformly. The goal here is to keep the eggs in motion as you stir.
Once the eggs start to form a solid sheet on the bottom of the pan, you stop whisking. You want to avoid stirring after they begin to fuse because you don’t want them to form separate curds that have no chance of ever coming back together again.
At that point, use your fork to smooth out the egg and scrape it down around the edges. When the top part of the eggs is solid but still runny, it’s time to fold your omelette over. Instead of folding in half as done in the American omelet, you’re going to roll it so that it forms a cylinder and looks like it’s rolled up.
Ingredients for French Omelette
French omelettes have very few ingredients. Typically, that includes butter, eggs, white pepper, and salt.
Although both styles of omelets call for pepper, when making a French omelette, most chefs recommend using white pepper so that your omelette doesn’t have black specks of pepper in it.
White pepper is totally optional, of course. You can use black pepper if that’s what you have on hand. Otherwise, if you’re going to the trouble of making a French omelette, why not do it as the pros do?
What Kind of Cookware to Use for Each
Whether you’re preparing an American omelet or a French omelette, one thing you have to get right is the pan size. If you use a pan that’s too small, you will overwhelm it with the number of eggs. Worse, you may end up with an omelet that will be too thick to fold in half.
Conversely, a frying pan that is too large will dry out the edges of your eggs. We have found that the perfect pan sizes for cooking eggs are an 8-inch skillet for 2-3 eggs, a 10-inch skillet for 3-4 eggs, and a 12-inch skillet for 4-5 eggs.
This isn’t a perfect science, and you can vary the number of eggs +/- one egg. If you’re cooking for several people, you may have to cook your eggs in batches.
You will need a few things for making perfect omelets:
- One of these three types of pan: non-stick or ceramic pan;
- Wide plastic spatula (a fish spatula works nicely);
- Fork or whisk for stirring the eggs;
- Plastic fork for whisking French omelettes as they cook;
- Chopsticks for stirring eggs (optional).
The slick coatings on either style of pan will keep your omelet from sticking to the pan’s surface. And if you have a nice wide but flexible spatula, you will be able to slide easily underneath your omelet to fold it.
French chefs typically use seasoned carbon steel pans. Alternatively, the more experienced chefs have some success with using stainless steel or even cast iron cookware. However, most of us need to have a good non-stick skillet for the arduous job of making the perfect omelet.
Which Is Better?
Your favorite omelet will depend on two things: How done you want your eggs to be? What types of fillings do you like in your omelet?
If you like a hearty omelet with tons of veggies and meats, the American omelet is for you. However, if you want a light meal, the simple French omelette might be your best choice. Above all, we recommend trying your hand at both.