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How to Make the Perfect Fried Egg

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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?

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

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