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The 3:20 Egg Sandwich

November 11, 2014

Kate Welshofer is a really great sport.

There’s a rumor that she has a cable TV show, but I wouldn’t know because subscribing to cable television is pure madness. More importantly, she has a quirky video blog that I watch on occasion. What can I say? I’m a sucker for goofballs. Really, it’s her comic timing, distinctive voice, and frank asides that keep me coming back.

Well, there I was, minding my own business and catching up on some of Kate’s old videos, when something jumped out at me. While standing in her kitchen (at 1:26) she says, “I’ve learned that my breakfast sandwich is ready.” And that’s when the beast first appears.

It looks like a harmless egg and cheese english muffin. Yet she’s reluctant to take a bite. She holds it and waves it around. And when she finally does take a bite, it’s painfully hot. There’s only one kind of technology that’s capable of turning a simple sandwich into a weapon of self-destruction, and that’s a microwave.

Now here’s where things started to get out of hand.

Let’s remember that the primary goal of my blog is to improve the food of the Capital Region. Part of that involves helping people eat better. But I’m terrible at Twitter, and apparently what I thought was being helpful came off looking like some kind of snobbish attack.

For the record, there is no #BreakfastSandwichMafia but I suppose even if there was, we’d still have to deny it.

And I totally understand where Kate is coming from. Those who have followed the FLB for a while know that sometimes, very occasionally, I can get a wee little bit carried away. Well, this was one of those times.

I didn’t even tell Kate about the spreadsheet.

The Fussies don’t have a microwave, although during the sabbatical one came with the apartment. I was actually concerned that I had become too accustomed to using the device, and would miss having one in New York. But fortunately that never came to pass, so all of my cooking is done the old-fashioned way.

As fate would have it, I’ve started making egg and cheese sandwiches at home. I use a toaster and a cast iron skillet. This is embarrassing to admit, but our time in New Jersey has rekindled my affection for melted American cheese slices with eggs. Trader Joe’s sells organic American cheese slices that are made without a ton of junk. I’ve been cooking one medium Stewart’s egg in a cast iron pan, and putting the whole thing on a toasted 100% whole wheat bun also from Trader Joe’s. For a treat, I’ll fry up a slice of Niman Ranch ham.

The process is incredibly quick and easy. And the ingredients are pretty darn wholesome.

But I was curious. What does a microwavable version of the egg and cheese sandwich look like, and how does it compare to the real thing? I’ll spare you the spreadsheet.

What was surprising is how long it takes to make the Weight Watchers Smart Ones using one of those newfangled quick cooking ovens. Here are the steps:
1. Remove sandwich from carton and plastic wrapper.
2. Wrap sandwich in paper towel and microwave on High for 1 minute and 15 seconds.
3. Let sandwich stand in microwave for 30 seconds.
4. Flip sandwich over and cook on High for an additional 25 seconds.
5. Let stand 1 minute.

By my calculations, that’s 3:10 of cooking and standing time. It also takes a few seconds to do step number one, and to tinker around with the oven door, its buttons, and manage the flipping of the sandwich. Let’s call it 3:20.

What wasn’t surprising is that this frozen packaged food contains a bunch of ingredients that aren’t generally regarded as food. But the truth is that it’s not all that bad. The high fructose corn syrup and azodicarbonamide are present in most supermarket bread.

I just can’t imagine getting much pleasure out of a microwaved english muffin that surrounds a puck of egg whites mixed with cornstarch and xanthan gum (with a bit of annatto added for color). But then again, I don’t have to be concerned about being on a video blog, so I can be a bit pudgy around the jowls and nobody is the wiser.

So maybe the reason to eat the frozen sandwich in a box is for the calorie count. But when I tabulated the calories from my homemade sandwich they were virtually identical. Mine was 220 compared to the 210 for Weight Watchers. The difference is largely because my sandwich uses a whole egg instead of egg whites. That also takes the saturated fat from my sandwich up to 4g versus the 3g in the skinnier version.

But I guarantee my egg and cheese is tastier. Amazingly, it also turns out to be just as fast.

I’m not a fast cooker. I cook slow. Painfully slow. But for the sake of science, I wanted to time how long it took to make this sandwich starting from a cold pan. For the sake of full disclosure, I put all the ingredients on the counter before starting the clock.

First I turned on the electric burner and preheated my cast iron skillet. Then I dropped the buns in the toaster. Back to the skillet, I cracked the egg. It did nothing. The pan was still cold. I broke the yolk to speed up cooking time. Next, I removed the bun from the toaster and placed the cold cheese on the warm bun. Afterwards I folded over the now cooked egg in the pan (to be about bun shaped), slid hot eggs onto cheese, and added the top bun. That’s when I stopped the timer.


The sandwich wasn’t pretty. Next time, I’ll melt the cheese with the eggs. I suspect it will shave off a few precious seconds. But even still, I beat the microwave on time.

Yes, one could lower the fat of this sandwich by switching to two egg whites instead of a whole medium egg, but that would slightly increase the preparation time.

So what’s the point?

There are some convenience foods that are real time savers. I imagine that there are some diet foods that can really save you calories. Certain products may be worth the sacrifice of taste and pleasure to other more pressing priorities. The egg and cheese sandwich isn’t one of them.

Of course, all of that flies out the window if Kate actually enjoys the texture of nuked bread and egg white pucks. And she might. With my new found love for American cheese, I can hardly cast judgement. But all of this is just to suggest that an alternative exists. One can eat better, more flavorful food that are just as quick to prepare, without any meaningful increase in calories.

I can see how all that can get lost in a couple of tweets. But I’m really just trying to help.

If I thought I could put together an instructional video that didn’t look like crap, I might. But making good internet video is hard. We all have things we’re good at. I’m good a cooking eggs. Kate is good at making videos. The difference is that I want everyone to be good at cooking eggs too. Maybe that’s wrongheaded. But, dammit, I’ve got to try.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian permalink
    November 11, 2014 11:33 am

    I have heard that Stouffer’s mac n cheese is just as good as homemade. The family in the commercial seem to actually prefer it…

  2. November 11, 2014 2:33 pm

    I am assuming you threw your skillet in the garbage can afterward? Otherwise, you should include clean-up time in your spreadsheet.

  3. steven s permalink
    November 11, 2014 6:59 pm

    love Kate Welshofer shes amazing

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