Microwave eggs according to manufacturer’s instructions
Make adjustments to cooking time and power level
Cook eggs three times in a row to assess consistency
Cook omelets with asparagus and cheese (omelet makers only)
Cook omelets with zucchini and cheese (omelet makers only)
Wash by hand at least once
Run through dishwasher 10 times
Microwave egg cookers offer the allure of quickly cooked eggs without the need to stand over the stove or clean a pan. Given our experience with microwave ovens’ uneven radiation—they’re fickle when it comes to precision cooking—we were skeptical that these containers would consistently produce properly cooked eggs. To determine if they were worth buying, we bought and tested seven microwave egg cookers priced from $5.12 to $14.90: two omelet makers and five poachers. Each was made of either silicone or plastic, with a lid, latch, or folding mechanism. We didn’t expect them to replicate perfect stovetop eggs, so we primarily evaluated the microwave egg cookers on how easy they were to use and clean and whether they produced eggs that were fully cooked without being drastically over- or undercooked.
Most manufacturer instructions did not specify microwave wattage, so we tested products in both 800-watt and 1,200-watt microwave ovens. We also tested the egg cookers at different power levels, experimenting to find the optimal power setting and amount of time for each model.
However, no amount of tinkering could compensate for the microwave oven’s unevenly distributed electromagnetic waves (aka “microwaves”). The egg poachers simultaneously overcooked and undercooked the eggs, giving us runny whites and too-firm yolks. In addition, the models designed to poach multiple eggs cooked each egg to a different degree of doneness. On the odd occasion that an egg poacher produced favorable results, we weren’t able to replicate the results in later tests. On a whim, we tried poaching eggs in the microwave in a bowl of water: We nuked the water until it was boiling and then added the egg and cooked it for 30 seconds. This gave us poached eggs that were superior to what came out of the gadgets but still far short of what you can make on the stovetop.
Why were the microwaved eggs inferior to stovetop eggs? Egg yolks contain less water and more fat than egg whites, so the two parts of the egg absorb energy at different rates, making it challenging to get nicely cooked eggs in a microwave oven.
The two omelet cookers in our lineup fared marginally better, producing eggs that were not quite an omelet and not quite scrambled eggs but something in between. But the microwave oven again took its toll; uneven radiation distribution sometimes caused overcooked gray spots in our omelets even though other parts of the omelet were properly cooked. The cause of these ashy spots? When eggs are overcooked, sulfur released in the egg white reacts with iron in the egg yolk, forming ferrous sulfide—and an accompanying grayish-green hue. (You may be familiar with ferrous sulfide if you’ve ever overcooked hard-cooked eggs and noticed gray rings around the yolks.)
Microwave egg cookers are ultimately thwarted by the fact that microwave ovens just don’t heat evenly enough for precision cooking. However, if a microwave is your primary means of cooking or if you’re in a hurry and simply need a cooked egg fast, one egg cooker gave us just that. We recommend the Nordic Ware Microwave Omelet Pan ($5.12) with reservations, as it cooked eggs in a mostly consistent manner with minor issues when we included raw add-ins such as cheese, asparagus, and zucchini. The add-ins were nicely cooked, but the egg was slightly mushy in the center of the cooker. Eggs also occasionally stuck to the pan, but they released easily when nudged, and cleanup was a breeze. For a perfect poached egg or a delicately folded omelet, though, we suggest skipping the microwave and using the stove.