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I made an omelette today, and it turned out gray. I'm supposing this is because I did some things wrong, the question is what?

  • Beating the eggs too long
  • Mixing the eggs with cream cheese before beating the eggs
  • Too much oil in the pan

My guess is the first two reasons. Do you think that's likely or could it be something else?

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Describe the pan in which you cooked it. Also, did you stir or flip it at all? If not, was the grey only in the part that touched the pan/oil or was it throughout? – Kate Gregory Sep 24 '11 at 14:36
Were you using an aluminum pan? – jeffwllms Sep 24 '11 at 14:51
@KateGregory: The pan is a non-stick (probably teflon). I didn't stir, but did flip. The gray was throughout. No, not aluminum. – BaffledCook Sep 24 '11 at 17:33
That's a new one on me. Must be some kind of reaction with the cream cheese. What kind of cream cheese was it? How did you get it soft enough to mix in the beaten egg? Alternately, is this a new pan which might be defective? – FuzzyChef Sep 24 '11 at 19:26
@FuzzyChef, Kraft Philadelphia. I mixed the cheese, the other day, with walnut, hazelnut and chive. Straight from the fridge into the, fresh, unstirred, eggs. That's why I think the eggs were beaten too long. – BaffledCook Sep 24 '11 at 21:26
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I have a theory about your omelette (and sadly, no means to test it). But I think it is plausible, please feel free to point out logical errors.

I think that the unappetizing coloring is due to the creation of sulfur salts in your pan. Egg whites are rich in sulfur, as are all alliums (including chives). If you heat them enough (you don't mention whether you overcooked the omelette, but it happens often enough), the heat changes the molecules in which the sulfur is bound, and the sulfur atoms (or sulfur containing ions) are free to react with whatever they find around. If they happen to find iron or copper, they form sulfides and sulfates with them. These sulfides and sulfates have colors ranging from blue to green, and pure iron sulfide is black. A mixture of them with the yellow yolk can easily look gray, especially when the color is desaturated through the addition of white cream cheese.

You say you used a coated pan, but there are still possible sources for the iron and copper. First, nuts contain trace elements, including iron and copper. Second, yolks too contain iron (in fact, the bluish coloring on the surface of a hard boiled yolk is an iron sulfide created when the proteins in the egg white denaturated from the heat). Third, you can't exclude contamination of the ingredients (plants sometimes store metal ions from the environment).

I have no way to prove any of the above, but at least it sounds like a good working theory. But I will understand if you aren't eager to reproduce in order to investigate the effect closer.

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I think it's a nice enough theory. I did use more heat than other times because normally the omelette doesn't develop a crust. However, the omelette was by no means overcooked. I was going to reproduce the effect beating the eggs less and adding the cheese later, but haven't gotten around to do it yet. – BaffledCook Sep 25 '11 at 16:29


While I love Rumtscho's highly chemical theory above and will probably use it to explain why my own cooking doesn't look right in the future, I have a more mundane explanation, based you the information you omitted from your original question (bad submitter!):

Kraft Philadelphia. I mixed the cheese, the other day, with walnut, hazelnut and chive. Straight from the fridge into the, fresh, unstirred, eggs.

The walnuts are critical here. Cooked walnuts exude a powerful blue-purple dye. Walnut sourdough bread, for example, is frequently purple inside. I think your eggs were grey because of the walnuts, and not because of beating too long, the cream cheese, or the pan.

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I'm afraid I'll come with my chemistry again. This powerful blue dye is iodine from the walnuts reacting with the starch in the dough. The omelette as listed doesn't have enough starch for the reaction to happen. (It has to be starch and not other carbohydrates). But yes, good observation. – rumtscho Sep 25 '11 at 20:07
Bad submitter... I did say cream cheese. I never thought the walnut, hazelnut or chives could have that impact. – BaffledCook Sep 25 '11 at 21:20
rumtscho, I will have to cede any chemistry argument to you, since I'm a software geek who stopped at high school chemistry. – FuzzyChef Sep 26 '11 at 0:02

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