Kitchen Confidence

How to Make the Perfect Fried Egg

By • September 25, 2012 • 57 Comments

Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, how to achieve personal fried-egg perfection. Emphasis on the personal.

Egg in pan

As we all learn at some point in our lives, perfection is futile. It’s unattainable. It simply doesn’t exist.

That is, until we’re talking about fried eggs.

You see, fried eggs are a very personal matter. An egg, like a painting, a sculpture, or even a poem, can be a work of art – and art, of course, is subjective. There isn’t the right kind of fried egg, no correct way to cook it, no guidebook or recipe or even a textbook. There’s just an egg, a bit of fat, some heat. A sprinkle of salt, and buttered toast.

When it comes to fried eggs, there are many versions of perfection. We’re here to help you find yours. 

Frying egg

The soft, delicate, loving method
Yields: soft, spoon-able white, runny yolk
Heat a non-stick or cast iron pan on high for one minute, then melt a pat of butter. Crack an egg in the pool of butter and turn the heat to medium. Pour in a small amount of water (around a half tablespoon) and cover the pan with a lid for 30 seconds, letting the egg steam. When the white is set, slide the egg onto a plate and season with salt.

Spooning fat over eggs

The take-no-prisoners method
Yields: crispy, browned bottom, crispy edges, runny yolk
Heat a non-stick or cast iron pan to high, high heat. Pour in a generous amount of olive oil, and heat until it shimmers. Crack in an egg and turn the heat down, then spoon the hot fat over the egg white until it’s just set (focusing on the area of white just around the yolk). Or, if you’re feeling a little crazy, simply cover the pan after cracking the egg, then slide it out when the white’s set and crispy. Season, of course, with salt.

The press-down method
Yields: crispy white, runny yolk
Heat a half tablespoon of butter in a small non-stick pan over medium high heat. When  the butter is sizzling but nowhere near smoking, crack 1 egg into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. As soon as the edges look brown and crackly, gently flip the egg. With your spatula, press on the thicker areas of white near the yolk so that they flood into the pan and cook quickly. Season again with salt and pepper. As soon as your whites are set, slide the egg onto one piece of toast.

Backbone egg

The animal-style method
Yields: crispy edges and bottom, runny yolk, slightly porky finish
Heat a non-stick or cast iron pan to medium-high heat with about a tablespoon-worth of sausage or bacon fat. Cook using the take-no-prisoners or press-down method.

The oven (!) method (from Saltie: A Cookbook)
Yields: Browned bottom, speckled top. Runny yolk.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat around a tablespoon of olive oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When the oil is warm but not hot, crack the egg gently into the pan and cook without disturbing just until the white starts to set. Transfer to the oven and bake until the white sets completely, around 3 minutes.

The I-have-no-concern-about-how-much-oil-I’m-using method
Yields: Brown, crunchy sphere of white, runny yolk
Check out this slideshow from The New York Times, which features how Jose Andres fries his egg. Prepare to be amazed.

Since we now know that perfection comes in both crispy edges and soft, on the stove or in the oven, with butter and olive oil and bacon fat, we decided to ask some of our friends for their personal views of perfection – and their method to achieving it.  

Sunny side up and over easy

Kristina Huber, from Vetri in Philadelphia: 
"I always make them the same way. Just enough olive oil to lube the pan. Your intentions for your eggs are important. If you'd like a delicately plated sunny side up, you should keep the heat fairly moderate. The egg is done just as the last bit of whites cook through. If you need an egg with more of a backbone, use higher heat and a bit more fat. Halfway through cooking flip the egg and continue cooking on the other side just until the whites are set. This will produce a crusty top, bottom, and edges that will hold up on a sandwich. Season, season, season! No salt on a luscious runny egg yolk is a heartbreaking experience."

Aki Kamozawa, from Ideas in Food: 
"To be honest our perfect fried egg is more steamed than fried. As fans of eggs with soft, runny yolks and fully cooked whites we’ve found that gentle heat and a cover make much better eggs than even the best version of over easy. We put a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan set over low heat. Once the butter melts we swirl the pan to coat the bottom and break in the eggs. We prefer to use salted butter here for flavor but if we only have sweet we add a light sprinkling of salt to the bottom of the pan before adding the eggs. We do this so that they are seasoned on both sides and have flavor no matter which side hits your tongue first. Then we season them lightly on top, cover them and let them cook for 4-5 minutes until the whites are just cooked through and the yolks are still mostly liquid. When we remove them from the pan, the majority of the butter is left behind and the flavor has permeated the eggs. The gentle heat from above and below results in eggs with a delicate, silky texture that helps emphasize their sweet delicious flavor. These are eggs to be eaten slowly with good toast and are happily enjoyed at any time of day."

Wok frying egg

Amanda Li, from the home team (she’s our developer): 
"The best eggs I've ever had were cooked in a wok with gracious amounts of oil. The curved wok bottom makes a well for the egg so it doesn't spread into weird shapes.  It also cooks the egg a lot faster than a regular frying pan. Flipping is optional."

Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirscheimer from Canal House Cooking:
"There are two ways we like to make fried eggs. The first way is in good olive oil with a big pinch of pimenton, the smoky Spanish paprika. We pour a few glugs of the oil into a heavy skillet, cast iron is ideal. We warm the oil over medium heat, add the pimenton, then crack the egg into the hot oil. Once the white of the egg begins to turn opaque, we tilt the skillet and start basting the egg, spooning the hot oil over the yolk so that the thin film of egg white covering the yolk cooks. We like our yolks runny but don't like it when the white covering the yolks remains slippery and clear. As the egg white cooks in the bubbling oil, it puffs and then gets crisp around the edges. Once the white is fully opaque and the egg yolk soft and runny, it just needs a pinch of course salt. And a good piece of bread to sop up the yolk and the deep brick orange-stained oil. Why's it perfect? Because it's delicious. It's rich, savory, soft, runny, chewy, and crisp. Full of flavor.

The second way is fried in butter, actually basted in butter. This preparation relies on really good butter. We prefer Kerry Gold Irish butter, salted or unsalted, and very fresh eggs. Though it isn't always possible, it is lovely to fry one egg at a time so that all the cook's attention is centered on the few moments that it takes to transform the egg. We melt two tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet with sloping sides over medium heat until it is gently foaming. While the butter melts, crack the freshest egg available into a saucer then slide it into the foaming butter. Adjust the heat so that it is low enough that the butter doesn't brown, but hot enough that the white begins to set. Begin spooning the hot butter over the eggs until the runny whites turn opaque and the yolk sets slightly. While all this is happening toast a piece of bread until it's golden, then butter it. Slide the basted egg on top of the toast and season it with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of Maldon salt. And regardless of the hour we pour ourselves a tiny glass of Beaujolais to sip as we savor our egg."

What is your version of fried-egg perfection, and how do you achieve it?

Jump to Comments (57)

Tags: fried eggs, eggs, breakfast, brunch, , how-to & diy

Comments (57)

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6 months ago Ashley Mann

My perfect fried egg does NOT have a runny yolk! I prefer the "animal" version of the press-down method, cooked to a CREAMY yolk.

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6 months ago choclinda

What I've forgotten about frying an egg you haven't even learned yet.

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6 months ago James Rego

I like to fry the egg in a little butter. When set well, I add a teaspoon or so of water , cover the pan and steam until the top is set. Perfect egg everytime!

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6 months ago ctcbox

Most mornings I use the press-down method with herb infused olive oil, usually garlic oil. In general I never (rarely) use plain oil. It's so easy to make flavored oils and they are soooo tasty, why not...
You could really do your readers a favor and do an article about hot and cold infused oils. You could addeess matching the herb with the oil, herbaceous vs woody stemmed, hot vs cold, infusion time, etc. i'll bet it would be a big hit. AND you would be doing a great service to society by helping people get away from the same old bland and tasetless...
I enjoyed your egg article. Thank you.

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3 months ago Paula E

I agree with that, ctcbox. I would love to know about cooking eggs with herbaceous oils.

Stringio

10 months ago Gregg Eshelman

I like my eggs fully cooked but without any of that nasty burning around the edges. Heat the skillet, put in a little butter or olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Crack in two eggs, break the whites and yolks. When the bottom is firm enough, flip then turn down to warm or simmer and cover for a couple of minutes - however long it takes to just fully cook the eggs.

Stringio

10 months ago Manuel Boyet Enicola

My version: Separate yolk from white. Cook the white in butter until set. Turn over. Add the yolk on top and serve after a minute. You get crispy and fully cooked whites with a runny yolk. Bon apetit!

Stringio

10 months ago Stephanie Wilson

thanks manuel & gregg. 4 the tips. ill try both. appreciate the help.

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10 months ago Tessa Giselle

I like my eggs cooked so that the whites are completely solid, & the yolks are like pudding. I crack the egg & let the white drain into the bowl while keeping the yolk inside the shell. Then I use a spoon to remove the "umbilical cord" from the yolk (yuck!), & gently slide the yolk into the bowl with the white. The pan I use to make fried eggs doesn't need oil or anything to keep the eggs from sticking. I heat the pan over the lowest flame I can get. When a drop of water sizzles, I slide the egg onto the skillet (Since I have separated the white & the yolk, I've popped the sack that normally forms in the white, around the yolk. This helps to get all of the white cooked. If i crack the egg directly onto the skillet, I take a knife & cut around the yolk, breaking this sack, otherwise, the white tends to stay runny along the edge of the yolk.). I salt & pepper the egg, then use a glass domed lid to cover the egg, & let it cook slowly, until the white is almost entirely solid, then carefully turn it over with a spatula, & place the lid over it again. I take it out of the skillet when the yolk feels sponge-like when you poke it with your finger.

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10 months ago mike

How long do you take for breakfast? 2 hours...you're worried about the 'umbilical cord of the egg? please...think about what you eat..well don't because you might like it.

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10 months ago TJ Baltimore

I am happy to hear that I'm not the only one in the world who removes the yolk's "umbilical cord" (or chalazae). I don't know why, but it freaks me out.

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10 months ago Tessa Giselle

I'll totally admit that I'm weird when it comes to eggs. It only takes about ten minutes, at most, for me to cook them the way I like them. When it comes to food, I believe that you should make it how YOU like it. Otherwise, why bother?? When I cook, it doesn't matter how long it takes to achieve the results that I want (I once stirred a pot of polenta for four hours!). What matters is whether or not it tastes good to me. I never said that my way of cooking eggs was the best or only way of cooking eggs. I simply described how I make fried eggs. Time is not a factor when I cook... results are.

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10 months ago Tessa Giselle

I've had people tell me that the eggs have the chalazae, as you put it, when they are not fresh. I've had people tell me that they have it when they are too fresh. I've had eggs straight from the chicken's butt, & they still had it. Around 95% of the eggs I've cracked have had it. All brands, brown, white, speckled... it doesn't matter. I remove it because I am personally grossed out by it. I find it in my eggs when I order them out. I find it in cakes. I find it in anything that has been made with whole eggs. It's a little white cord that never mixes in or breaks up. I'm also glad to hear that someone else removes it & finds it icky!

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10 months ago ruth

Best fried egg with yellow yolk and no crisp edges: oil in moderately hot pan. Crack egg(s) into pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. As soon as the egg(s) start to sizzle cover the pan, turn off the heat and let them finish cooking while you make your toast. To me these are perfect.

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10 months ago Mary

The very best way I have found to fry an egg is to melt butter in the pan, when it is hot evenly coat bottom of pan. Add egg and cook on medium to high heat until the whites are about 80% done. Take 1/8 cup water, pour in the pan, cover, reduce heat and the steam generated cover/cooks the yolk tops. Ready to serve! Perfectly done whites, gently covered but soft yolks. A real breakfast treat!!

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10 months ago Stephanie Wilson

i trie ao damn hard to cook the whites thru w/ out over cooking the yolk & i fail all the time. what am i doing wrong?? seems like the only way to have runny yolks is to half cook the whites! ughhh. sucks cause i love eggs! i like what im reading here but the instrucions seem complicated. help.

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10 months ago martinlaw

Stephanie, not to worry. It's not rocket science. A little butter or margarine in, preferably, a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Once the whites start to turn opaque, add 1-2 tablespoons of water to the pan (I like to put it into the lid and dribble it around the outside of the egg. Put the lid on, and when the yolk starts to 'cloud over', the whites will be done and the yolks still runny. Cook them as little or as much as you want. Hope that works for you.

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10 months ago Stephanie Wilson

oh thank you so much. ill try it. i appreciate it.

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6 months ago Ashley Mann

Wish I had your problem! My difficulty is getting the yolk firm enough without over cooking the white!

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6 months ago Stephanie Wilson

too bad i cant trade you. haha

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about 1 year ago Barbara Hinson

I love my whites as crispy as I can get them, with a totally liquid yolk, so when I have the time and energy to devote to this, I separate my eggs, and cook the whites alone over fairly high heat until they're as crispy as I have the patience for. Then I add the yolks and swirl the pan to quickly warm them, and plate. Crispy whites in a yolk sauce - yummers!

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10 months ago Stephanie Wilson

mmmmmmmmmmmm. great idea!

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over 1 year ago Doug Edwards

For me the best method is fried in a non stick pan in fresh bacon fat from quality cured middle bacon. Crack the egg into the pan with a reasonable heat as I like a slightly crispy edged white to compliment a luxuriously runny yoke. Let egg settle then baste with the bacon fat and 'brown bits' until the yoke has 'whited' over. Serve immediately ideally with a bacon fat fried slice, black pudding and the bacon that gave off the glorious fat. Salt and Pepper to taste. Yum!

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over 1 year ago Christina @ Christina's Cucina

Just add toast, Heinz beans and potato scones for ultimate perfection! ;)

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over 1 year ago Bruce McNair 1

Hi Christina, This is a cousin to martinlaw's recipe. As a kid, I spent years in post-war Japan. My folks were busy doing what they did and my brother and I were left in the hands of our cook (and chief domestic tyrant) named appropriately "Cooksan". As kids we really enjoyed what she did with eggs. Take one slice white bread, cut out a generous hole big enough to accommodate a yolk and fry it in butter to crisp on one side, medium high heat. Flip the bread and immediately slide an egg, yolk in the hole. The white should ooze over the bread. Fry a minute or two and flip for over- easy. This was called a "Flag" because you had a Rising Sun on a square white background. Frying it in butter gave a good crustiness. My 24 year-old son still likes this.

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over 1 year ago Christina @ Christina's Cucina

That is so cute! My post was shared on a FB for ex-pats from the UK and people were commenting on how they used to eat "egg in the hole" too! I think a lot of people don't put any effort into making food "fun" for kids. Your "Cooksan" obviously made an impression on you and your brother, which you've obviously passed on to your son. I love stories like this-thanks for sharing, Bruce :)

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over 1 year ago Bruce McNair

With all due respect to the myriad of fine, mouth-watering approaches to friying, I think this one is incomparable:
(1) slowly fry a pound of high-quality bacon in a Griswold
(2) remove bacon when done, as per taste,
(3) with bacon fat medium hot, slide the eggs in
(4) as the bottoms gently fry, baste the topsides with the hot oil with a tablespoon, until done to taste. No salt required.
Bung on to toast, serve with ketchup, bacon and coffee. I learned this method from the mother of an old school buddy from Ottawa whose roots were Norwegian.

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over 1 year ago Christina @ Christina's Cucina

Bruce, that's SO British! You'll love my photo-exactly what you described (sans ketchup) :) http://christinascucina...

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over 1 year ago martinlaw

I see no one has mentioned the one-eyed jack, a go-to breakfast treat that's easy to cook and a delight to eat. Take a slice of bread (I prefer regular, run-of-the-mill white bread but any will do, I suppose) and tear out the center about the size of a half dollar. Remember those? Spread patches of butter on one side, and a couple of tablespoons in the pan. I find a non-stick is easiest to work with, but to each his own. Crack the egg into the pan and once it starts to set, place the slice of bread, buttered side up, on top of the egg so the yolk is visible in the hole you tore. As soon as you can slide your spatula under the egg without disturbing the yolk, flip and brown to taste, swirling it around in the butter to make sure it gets soaked up by the bread. Flip back over on the plate and sit back and wait for your kids (or you) to ask for more! Our kids are long gone, but I still make these for the wife and I. Egg and toast all in one!

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10 months ago Stephanie Wilson

my mom called them eggs in a frame. wow. i thought she invented it. haha.

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6 months ago choclinda

my friend calls it "egg in a window"

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6 months ago Stephanie Wilson

cool! like that one!

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over 1 year ago unique_name_here

late to the party as always.

Cast iron skillet. No oil of any kind. S&P, 1 splash of water in skillet lid and cover til over medium.

This way I can pretend that I'm being virtuous, as no oil/butter added. ;)

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over 1 year ago John Ebel

I like to fry and scramble eggs in duck fat. Tasty and half the cholesterol of butter.

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almost 2 years ago Arnie Kappeler

Two eggs at room temperature, cracked into a bowl (no broken yokes). Nonstick pan, slightly buttered, on medium heat. Pour eggs in center of pan and leave them untouched until all egg whites are opaque. Gently shake pan to make sure that all of underside is released, and flip eggs by tossing sharply and catching gently. Slide directly onto plate. If done correctly, no spatula is left in the utensil drawer.

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almost 2 years ago Linda Bender

I always cook my fried eggs on a griddle, medium heat with butter. Low to medium heat so there are no crispy edges at all. That is the way my husband likes his eggs. Salt and peppered. Peppered on the top after the flip. And always crack your egg in a bowl first then slide onto your cooking surface. Helps to keep them in a more round shape. I go to an egg farm about every three weeks and buy eggs fresh. What a difference this makes. I also buy doubled yolk eggs when I go. They are perfect for frying. These eggs are anomalies and they happen when a chicken is new to laying or they had a scare that prevented them from laying their daily egg. We consider ourselves egg people and would eat them everyday. The perfect food.

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almost 2 years ago MaggiMae

Maggie says:
I like to use an 8" cast iron frying pan, heated over med heat. when hot, add a tsp or so of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Crack my organic egg directly into the pan and cover to let cook for three minutes or so. The yolk is soft and runny and the white is set with some crispy outside edges..Perfect! Serve with a side of toast? !