Eggs are inexpensive, easy-to-make, and arguably one of the most versatile sources of protein.The most common egg dishes—among them omelet, frittata, quiche, and strata – all have differences that you can use to your advantage, depending on what your needs are for any given meal.
These standard egg dishes known for their cooking ease and versatility. They are eaten not only for breakfast but also as a main dish for brunch, lunch, and supper. All are made from eggs, as well as other similar ingredients, but they are clearly distinct recipes. So what is the difference between them?
The beauty of an omelet is that it can be as simple as eggs and milk or as elaborate as you like and have a meal on the table in a matter of minutes. The basic recipe calls for cooking a lightly whisked mixture of eggs, seasonings, and milk (if you choose) in butter in a skillet. The key here is that you don’t stir the eggs once they are in the pan; you let them sit and cook until set. If you choose, you can sprinkle herbs, cheese, vegetables, and cooked meat over the top and then either fold in half or in thirds. Only the underside of the omelet is heated with a pan. Omelets are usually made to serve one or possibly two. It can take a few times to perfect the omelet-making technique, but once you have it, it is quick and painless.
The key to a good two-or-three egg omelet is using a small 8-inch nonstick omelet pan or skillet. Cook and/or heat up your filling ingredients first. The cooking process is so fast that the ingredients, especially chunky ingredients like potatoes and some meats, won’t have time to heat up if you don’t.
Frittata, which translates to “fried” in Italian, is an egg-based dish. While it’s similar to an omelet, crustless quiche, and Spanish tortilla, the way a frittata is cooked is what sets it apart. Frittatas are generally thicker than omelets.
A frittata is made with the exact same ingredients as an omelet, but here the milk, or more preferably cream, is crucial. For every dozen eggs you use, you’ll need a half-cup of dairy. That is because a frittata is essentially a custard filled with any herbs, cheese, vegetables, cooked meat, and even pasta of your choosing. The frittata’s additions need to be mixed in with the egg and cream before cooking. Frittatas are cooked in an oven-safe skillet because they are started on the stovetop and then finished in the oven. This is to achieve the frittata’s signature top golden crust. While omelets are typically made to serve just one, frittatas can serve one or many. For service, frittatas are sliced like pie and served either hot or at room temperature.
The Quiche: A quiche is an unsweetened custard pie with savory fillings; although you can certainly make one without the crust, which would be called a “crustless quiche.” It traditionally includes milk or cream and eggs as the base, and added to that, cheese, vegetables, and cooked meats, or whatever you like. Since it is a custard, it is more delicate in consistency than a frittata. This is because it is made with more liquid than eggs, specifically, 2 to 3 eggs per cup of cream.
I recommend partially baking the crust to make sure it is not soggy. To preserve the delicate texture, quiche is removed from the oven while it is still a bit under cooked in the center; it will continue to cook when removed from the heat. Overcooked quiche has a “tough,” cracked texture around the outside.
Strata’s are egg, milk, cheese, and bread casseroles that puff up when baking. A strata has the same ratio of liquid to eggs as a quiche, although traditionally milk is used, not cream. You can put anything into it that you would put into an omelet, frittata, or quiche. The usual preparation requires the bread to be layered with the filling in order to produce layers or strata. The strata is assembled ahead of time in a casserole dish and chilled overnight or for 8 hours before bringing it back up to room temperature and baking.
These dishes are also some combination of egg and cheese. They include the addition of either flour added to the milk or a more solid dairy product such as sour cream or yogurt. They are heartier than a quiche, leaning more towards a strata in texture.
If you are dairy-free, you can use almond, cashew, coconut, hemp, rice, or soy milk, or any other non-dairy milk you prefer. When it comes to non-dairy milk, there are more choices than ever. Swapping liquid egg substitute for whole eggs is simple. Measure 1/4 cup substitute for every whole large egg in your recipe. It’s true in reverse, too: Use 1 whole egg for every 1/4 cup of egg substitute listed in a recipe if you would rather use fresh eggs instead of substitute.
What would we do without the egg? With science on our side, we can once again enjoy the wonderfully nutritious egg. Along with milk, eggs contain the highest biological value (or gold standard) for protein. One egg has only 75 calories but 7 grams of high-quality protein, 5 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids.
When I want a super-simple and quick meal, I turn to an omelet, frittata, quiche, strata, or egg casserole. They make a satisfying meal and all prove to be a great way use up leftovers!