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I'm currently at a hotel in Spain. We are having a buffet breakfast and one of the meals are sunny-side-up fried eggs. I estimate they probably fry several hundred eggs per breakfast. I wondered how they pull it off in the kitchen, especially the "breaking eggs" part.

I can imagine two extremes:

  1. A cook is breaking eggs manually, taking extra care not to put any shell onto the frying pan.
  2. Some kind of automated process takes place, e.g. eggs are put in some foamy container, the top is cut off and then the whole lot is flipped over the pan.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. Anyone with mass-kitchen experience, care to enlighten me?

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lots of junior chefs? –  Sam Holder Aug 13 '10 at 8:53
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Sorry, but the title does sound like the beginning of a joke... (: –  Kieron Aug 13 '10 at 9:19
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Since you're still there...ask one of the cooks or servers. –  Darin Sehnert Aug 13 '10 at 14:39
    
@Darin I've been mostly on my way out, but I probably should have asked earlier ;) –  Nikolai Prokoschenko Aug 14 '10 at 13:58
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4 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Chefs are really fast at cooking. It's what they do. A chef can almost effortlessly crack an egg with one-hand in about a second. Scrambled eggs would be pre-cracked and beaten prior to the cooking-shift.

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His question says sunny side up, not scrambled. –  hobodave Aug 13 '10 at 10:14
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@Hobodave Hence the third sentence. It does not specify scrambling. Scrambling is an additional step. Hence the verb 'would'. –  Ocaasi Aug 13 '10 at 10:25
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From personal experiance, I cooked on a flat top with six 8" pans for two to three eggs and three 7" pans for single egg orders. I had one frying pan with an insert for poached egg orders. Avoid electric grills, gas is much better, but a steam griddle like the AccuTemp is best as they hold a uniform temperature much better. Use an IR thermometer to make certain the surface of the grill is 325º to 335º uniformly over the surface. Take the temperature on 8" centers.

Preheat the pans on the grill, take the bottom pan for each order, add the oil, we used a mix of half butter and half bacon fat, then carefully break the eggs into a shallow bowl and gently add them to the pan. Cook to order. I would often have 4-6 orders working at once. One important item: learn to flip the eggs, a hasty spatula will break yolks.

DO NOT set precooked eggs on a buffet. Set up an egg station with 2-3 cassette stoves next to the serving line and have a Petit déjeuner Chef cook to order. Set up a dozen fillings for the scramble and omelet orders, fewer will be disappointing to the customer, but more and they take too much time deciding.

For omelets and scrambles we would break and whip ahead 15-30 eggs depending on the time of day into a gallon cup. For one egg we would measure two and a half ounces of prewhipped egg, for two eggs - five ounces, and for three eggs - eight ounces. The left over prewhipped eggs would be set aside at the end of each hour for the use of the bakery. All omelets and scrambled eggs were made as ordered.

For most days we would use a skillet with a poaching insert due to the low demand. Sometimes we would have two in use. On Sundays we had Eggs Benedict on the menu as a special, and with the high demand in the morning we would use a large poaching frame in a steamer to keep enough being made.

Incidentally my skill level is Certified Master Chef.

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The question wasn't "what is the best way to serve large quantities of eggs", but "how did they manage this particular setup, where vast quantities of sunny-side-up eggs were served from hotel pans". –  Marti Oct 2 '13 at 18:32
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As a chef, the bigger question I would have is how are they serving sunny-side up eggs buffet style without them breaking to pieces and making a mess in the chafing dish?

I wouldn't ever put them on a buffet or suggest doing them for a large group but it can be done. Most likely they are baking them on sheet pans in the oven or doing them in what we call "hotel pans" in a convection steamer covered with plastic wrap.

Large volume commercial kitchens will either do scrambled eggs in the oven (pour the egg mix into a greased hotel pan and stir periodically to break up and mix as the curds form) or in a bain marie where they also need very little attention and will cook to a creamy curd without getting crusty.

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They had those big aluminium pans (like this one) and those were mostly filled with 1.5 to 2 layers of fried eggs with a lot of oil in between, i.e. it wasn't really difficult to grab one. Breaking percentage was probably around 10-15%, but for the most part, only yolks were broken. –  Nikolai Prokoschenko Aug 14 '10 at 14:03
    
@Rassie: That's what is commonly called a "hotel pan". If there wasn't any browning around the edges of the egg white at all I'd say they were probably done in the steamer. If there was a little bit of browning, then most likely in the oven. –  Darin Sehnert Aug 14 '10 at 21:17
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For a large kitchen they would probably use a griddle for this instead of frying pans. There are griddles available about a meter across. As long as the hotel doesn't come down for breakfast en masse I imagine that would provide enough throughput.

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I should note that I've never actually worked in a large kitchen. I have a vague recollection from university that the canteen did fried eggs on the griddle. –  Chris Steinbach Aug 13 '10 at 18:31
    
I suppose they either used a griddle or were baking them, but the amount of oil suggests griddle. I can't imaging doing that many eggs on a normal household pan, even with many of them. –  Nikolai Prokoschenko Aug 14 '10 at 14:09
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