A Genius Way to Upgrade Your Fried Eggs

June 26, 2017

You've probably heard by now about the joys of frying your eggs in a sloshy pan of a little too much olive oil—the crispy edges and luscious middles you get, the adrenaline of spooning hot oil over a delicate protein, the control it affords you as you determine which corners need more cooking and aim your spoon.

Your own hand is more viscerally and immediately connected to cooking than in just about any other form, including black magic and Searzalls.

But, with olive oil-fried eggs being a near-perfect, near-instant food, had you ever thought to tinker? I hadn't, but Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton at Canal House had. They toss a half teaspoon of smoked paprika into the oil as it sizzles. That's it.

But this teeny, micro-upgrade accomplishes a number of things: The heat of the oil toasts the ground spice, deepening its flavor. The smokiness infuses and unleashes into the oil to season the eggs as you splash over them. And the oil itself, now richly flavored and the color of brick, is justifiably a sauce—you're encouraged to dunk bread in it (and in the yolk, too, of course).

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And when you're out of smoked paprika or not in the mood, there are as many variations as your spice drawer and your imagination will allow. I tried a series of colorful and delicious renditions on our shoot day—turmeric, then za'atar, then chile flakes—and we couldn't decide our favorite. I could also see this being a lovely way to use up fresh herbs like sage or thyme, or alliums like garlic or shallots or ramps.

You don't have to worry much about any spices or herbs burning in the sizzling oil, because before you know it, the egg is done, and so is your breakfast. Food52er mikeficus, who sent this tip to me, likes to serve it with, as he says, "a mound of Virginia ham." I love the idea of stirring in a little wine vinegar or lemon juice at the end to brighten the sauce.

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Top Comment:
“My mother and every diner across America have been making BASTED eggs for at least 75 years, usually using bacon grease which is much more flavorful than olive oil. The technique thoroughly cooked the white of the egg (yes, with crispy edges) but allowed the yolk to remain runny. Nothing wrong with changing to the healthier olive oil and adding spices, but they are still basted eggs.”
— ddh77

I did have one last question: the mess. I tested a lower, slower variation on the technique on Facebook Live, to see if I could minimize the (colorful) spattering on the stovetop. In case you don't feel like watching the 34-minute comedy of errors, I'll spoil the ending: The lower the temperature, the less spattering, but also the harder it was (for me) to get the whites to cook through without also overcooking the yolk.

So I recommend committing to the spatter and just cooking the things medium-high, as Canal House intended. The best way to cook the bundle of contradictions in a whole egg (runny yolks=food porn, runny whites=anathema), much like its forebears: as hot as possible.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to Food52er mikeficus for this one!

Photos by James Ransom

This article was originally published in May 2016, but we're sharing it again in case you missed it.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • karenheff
  • Letscook
  • GigiR
  • Marsha
  • Jo
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


karenheff October 5, 2022
I’ve basting my fried eggs for as long as. I can remember. Just made these (using the “simply genius” cookbook). WOW! My favorite way to eat fried eggs from now on. I didn’t get any splatter, but the dunking was SOO good!
Letscook September 23, 2020
I have some lovely duck eggs in the fridge. Can’t wait for lunch, think I’ll try half teaspoon smoked paprika.
Thanks for sharing 💕🍳
GigiR September 23, 2020
Is there some reason you wouldn’t use a screen spatter cover, or a semi solid & screen spatter cover? It actually catches spatters. No?
If you use a spatter cover which is more like a lid with a circle of mesh in the middle, your egg whites while steam a tiny bit more and the yolks will be just right.
Marsha May 28, 2020
I just made these eggs and they are wonderful!
I actually made dual duty out of the spicy oil. Spicing the oil to follow the Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid's Spicy Cucumber Salad - with hot peppers, Sichuan peppercorn, chili flakes & paprika. After spicing the oil, I made the eggs, which were amazing. Then I poured the oil over the seasoned cucumbers. Dual duty and both are fabulous!!
Jo June 23, 2019
Keep a few pieces of folded up foil in your oven. When you are going to make this messy dish, unfold the foil and surround the pan on the stove. Cover up the other burners and stove around the egg pan and your work just got a lot easier. Fold the foil in half when done and put it back in the oven for next time. Or use new foil each time. You could put a pan screen or pot cover on top but you still have to remove it from time to time, so not very effective.
ddh77 June 22, 2019
I have to laugh when I see this "NEW" method for cooking eggs. My mother and every diner across America have been making BASTED eggs for at least 75 years, usually using bacon grease which is much more flavorful than olive oil. The technique thoroughly cooked the white of the egg (yes, with crispy edges) but allowed the yolk to remain runny.

Nothing wrong with changing to the healthier olive oil and adding spices, but they are still basted eggs.
Emily B. June 21, 2019
Fried eggs are staple breakfast in my house. They are able all I can cook in the morning before coffee. I would say, regarding the temperature, I use an electric skillet with tempterature control. I keep the warm up temperature at 225 degrees, and if that's too hot, I'll lower as low as 200 degrees. The egg cooks through perfect.
Anonymous July 23, 2018
I make this ALL the time now!!!!! Unbelievable! What an easy upgrade to fried eggs! It does spatter, so I put a lid on the skillet, which helps cook the top of the eggs. Highly recommend these!
richard July 11, 2018
Traditional Spanish technique for frying eggs.
Mary September 21, 2017
I am thinking that this is the perfect way to upgrade my favorite breakfast, egg on grits.
David September 20, 2017
I like to fry off a generous lump of sobrassada in some olive oil and push to to the side of the pan as it starts to brown and drop the egg(s) into the pan oil. Serve on toast with the slightly crisp Sobrassada sprinkle over. You get a similar result to this recipe with added pork deliciousness! I've also done this with Nduja too for a spicier kick though missing the smokiness of paprika.
Cookie September 20, 2017
Try it with a lump of nduja, it melts beautifully into the oil, and gives you a smokey, spicy, flavor that's perfect with fried eggs (and potatoes), and a beautiful rich color.
sewold September 20, 2017
I'd love to go back to the old baste with bacon fat fried eggs but I try to stay away from that much fat now. We used the pancake turner (spatula) to "splash" the fat back up onto the yolk to cook it to perfection!
Brigb July 3, 2017
I'm sorry to say but overcooked eggs don't taste very good, are rubbery and looks awful. Very sad that people pay to eat those.
karenheff October 5, 2022
Not sure what you are referring to, but the eggs not overcooked. If yours are overcooked, that’s your error.
Lynne G. July 2, 2017
Do away with the spattering!?! Get the deep silicone 'collars' from "the Grommet" and high heat fry with no mess!
ewinrus July 2, 2017
Try this variation: heat a bit of coconut oil, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and let them pop for a bit before adding a touch of powdered turmeric. Add your egg (I like mine over-easy) and serve on steamed rice.
Terry July 2, 2017
Would a saucepan or something with higher sides not help to contain the splatters? How would switching implements affect the egg?
Lauren K. July 2, 2017
Took this advice to heart and tried it this morning! Loved my fried egg with brown butter and smoked paprika on a bed of kale, red onion, carrots, and Portobello. Topped with my infused olive oil (mint, basil, lemon, and garlic) and a good balsamic. Thanks Food52 for the idea! Of course, used all local produce either purchased, grown, or given.
Sherman K. July 2, 2017
I tried and experiment yesterday that will now become a standard procedure. I wanted to melt a slice of emmenthaler cheese over the yoke but realized my skillet would not achieve that. So, when the egg was still runny and the whites formed but not done, I popped the cheese on top and put the skillet under our oven broiler for a few minutes, watching very closely. It worked and I got a very tasty fried egg with melted cheese on top.
Brenda K. August 28, 2016
I used curry powder. then served the egg over fresh arugula-wow!