5 Ways to Mess Up a Frittata—And How to Fix Them
The frittata—an Italian cousin to the French omelet—looks like a simple egg dish, but it’s much more technical than you’d expect. Yes, a frittata is easy to cook, but it’s also easy to ruin. Forget to grease your pan or overcook the eggs, and you’ve quickly ruined it.
My egg-xiety over this unassuming dish traces back to culinary school. During week two—also known as “Egg Week”—we tackled every egg dish imaginable, from omelets to quiche to scrambled eggs (another deceptively difficult egg dish).
After his demo, the chef-instructor barked orders in his strong French accent before releasing us to the kitchen. The perfect frittata is yellow—not brown! Watch the heat! Don’t burn your frittatas!
RELATED: How to Make a Perfect French Omelet
Our task? To cook a flawless, sunny-yellow frittata with a simple filling of Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, and mushrooms.
Unfortunately, my frittata was an overcooked, spongy mess. Half of it stuck to the skillet, and the other half was overly browned on the underside.
In front of the class, the instructor made sure I knew exactly what I’d done wrong, and exactly what I needed to do it fix it.
Now, after culinary school and a short stint as a restaurant line cook, few dishes intimidate me. Whether it’s a roasted beef tenderloin with bordelaise sauce, crispy skin-on salmon with tapenade, or whole chicken with chimichurri sauce, I’m all for a challenging recipe.
However, cooking a frittata still puts me on edge. On a recent Sunday morning, I decided to master it, even if it took 40 failed attempts.
Cooking for one, I needed a solo serving size frittata—Tim Cebula’s delicious and simple Kale and Mushroom Frittata recipe perfectly fit the bill.
Tim’s recipe calls for an 8-inch cast iron skillet, which I don’t own, so I used a small stainless steel skillet instead. After sautéing the mushrooms, kale, and eggs together, I popped the skillet in the broiler. After removing it, I flipped the skillet upside down to release the cooked frittata onto a cutting board. Oops.
This time, I used my large, 10-inch cast-iron skillet. When I pulled it out from the broiler, I was horrified. A two-egg frittata is simply too small for a large skillet. Frittata pancake, anyone?
Frustrated, I purchased a smaller cast-iron skillet (Lodge makes a handy 6 ½-inch skillet—find it on Amazon). After adding the eggs, I broiled the frittata for one minute. It appeared undercooked, so I broiled it one additional minute. While the frittata popped cleanly out of the skillet, the underside was crispy and thoroughly browned. The inside had a rubbery texture, evidencing a very overcooked frittata. (Boo.)
Tim’s frittata calls for goat cheese or feta, but I’d used a mild cheddar cheese (because that’s what was in my fridge). I couldn't taste anything. I’d used a full tablespoon of cheese, but you’d never know it was there.
Determined, I leafed through my old culinary school notes. I found a page from Egg Week: Frittata should be all-yellow, NOT BROWN. Use a salty, full-flavored cheese for best flavor.
With my culinary lessons (and a few pointers from Cooking Light Executive Food Editor Ann Pittman Taylor) fresh in my mind, I gave the frittata a fourth attempt. I used the right cheese—feta cheese, monitored the stove top heat, and broiled the frittata for one minute. Success! It slid out of the skillet cleanly. The eggs were tender (without a spec of brown on the underside) with pockets of creamy feta.
Making a perfect frittata requires patience, perseverance, a bit of trial and error, and in some cases, an entire carton of eggs to perfect. If you don’t nail yours the first time, don’t panic. Think of it as an opportunity to improve next time.
From the culinary school classroom to my home kitchen, my frittata attempts suffered from five major mishaps. Find each mistake below, plus tips from Ann and myself on how to fix each one.
Problem #1: Half of my frittata is stuck to the skillet!
WHY: You might be using the wrong type of skillet.
THE FIX: Since my mishap, a cast-iron skillet is my vessel of choice for frittatas. It’s naturally non-stick, oven safe, and full of flavor-boosting potential. While a stainless steel skillet is great for all-purpose cooking, it’s only non-stick when used with high-heat. Because a frittata demands lower heat cooking, a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet does just the trick. If you’re broiling your frittata, Ann discourages using a non-stick skillet because it’s not oven safe.
Problem #2: The underside of my frittata is too brown.
WHY: Your stove top burner might be too hot.
THE FIX: To avoid burning the underside of your frittata, pay attention to heat control. Here’s my trick: After sauteeing the other ingredients in your frittata, check the stove top temperature before mixing in the eggs. If your skillet is blazing hot, remove it from the stove for a few seconds to cool it off, then cook your eggs gently over medium-low heat. If possible, let most of the cooking happen underneath the broiler. Lastly, sliding your frittata out of the skillet as soon as you remove it from the oven will help keep the bottom from browning.
Problem #3: My frittata is as flat like a pancake.
WHE: Your skillet is probably too large.
THE FIX: If you like your frittata on the thicker side, opt for a smaller-sized skillet than you think you’d need. Ann always considers how many extra ingredients she’s adding to her frittata, as you may need a slightly larger sized skillet to accommodate them. Try these trusted ratios:
- 2 eggs > 6 to 8 inch skillet
- 4 eggs > 8 to 10 inch skillet
- 6 eggs > 10 to 12 inch skillet
Problem #4: My frittata is rubbery and crumbly.
WHY: You probably overcooked the eggs.
THE FIX: Ann has a clever trick for perfectly-cooked eggs: Remove your frittata from the oven when the eggs are still a little loose in the center. Let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to fully set before cutting.
Problem #5: I added cheese, but I can’t taste it!
WHY: You’re probably not using the right cheese.
THE FIX: When making a frittata—especially a healthier one—you want a saltier, more flavorful cheese. You won’t need to use very much, and you’ll also save on calories, fat, and sodium overall. The sharp saltiness of feta cheese or goat cheese works well, as well as a harder, aged cheese such as Parmesan. Ann also recommends trying blue cheese.