It is true that one can not make an omelet (or any egg dish) without breaking a few eggs. And even if you’re the most patient egg cracker around, some shell from time to time will get into the pan. This may not seem the disaster, but it’s annoying.
Before you tell me to just “crack it on a flat surface,” I need you to know I don’t think it works as well as people say. I’ve cracked many eggs on many flat surfaces and on many hard edges, and I’ve concluded that, unless you’re absolutely ramming your egg into that hard edge, one way isn’t better than the other. Both can result in shell bits in the oven. But again, it’s not a big deal, as there are some ways to get them out.
There are two popular “hacks” to remove these errant shell bits: using a larger piece of shell itself (which we haven’t covered in the last 15 years of the existence of this website), and using a wet finger (which we’ve covered). The reasoning behind using the big shell relies on the principle that “like attracts like;” the small bit of shell will be drawn to the membrane still attached to the larger shell. The wet finger approach promises similar results, saying a wet finger would “gravitate.”
To check this, I cracked some eggs. I’m a hands-on egg cracker, so only a bit of shell ended up in the pan, even though I was pretty rough. I added more shell bits (about seven), just to give me more data points. Then I tried removing shells. I tried to remove half with a large shell and half with a wet finger.
The small bits of shell did not gravitate to the larger shell at all, but as a scoop, the jagged shell edge was helpful. It took two or as many as five attempts to fish out a little shell using this method. A wet finger proved successful. Shell bits were drawn to it, and on the first or second attempt I could remove them.
The wet finger definitely won as the superior shell removal method, but with one small caveat: inserting one’s (wet) finger into a cold egg sitting in a cold pan is not dangerous, but when that pan is hot, things get a little more complicated. Seeing as I fry most of my eggs in hot olive oil, sticking a finger into my frying pan is rarely an option. Ah, but this problem is also elegantly solved: just crack the egg in a teacup or ramekin first. Not only does that give you the opportunity to remove any bits of shell, but the yolk is less likely to break, as you can gently slide the egg into the hot pan, rather than crack it directly into hot, violent oil. And you’ve got it: no burnt fingers and a perfect, shellless fried egg.