For Splatter-Free Fried Eggs, Skip the...Heat?

Consider the fried egg: slid into searing hot oil so it forms lacy, shatteringly crisp edges; steamed in a covered pan with a pat of butter until the whites are just set; flipped and pressed and seasoned with a healthy dose of salt and pepper. There are as many ways to fry an egg as there are cooks in the kitchen.

On this very site, we offer suggestions from basting to adding spices to going “animal-style” and cooking the whole thing in bacon fat. No matter how you do it, cooking an egg is messy. There are splatters. There’s grease. There’s turning your head and saying “eh, I’ll clean it up later.” And while you can lower the temperature (and, yes, have less splattering), this leads to its own challenges. Like, for example, the whites might well cook through, but the yolks will be overcooked.

So, forget all this. The easy way to make splatter-free fried eggs: don’t use heat—at least not at first. This less-mess method comes from New Orleans chef John Besh (August, Domenica). He learned it in Germany, where he did his apprenticeship at a restaurant in a hotel called The Spielweg, not far from Basel, Switzerland.

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“I thought I knew a thing or two about eggs,” Besh says. He grew up with crispy-edged, Southern-style eggs cooked in bacon fat, having them on a fairly regular basis. So, when his chef asked him to fry an egg, “I went about cooking it the way I knew how and he was like, ‘Oh, no. It’s all wrong.’” Basically, the chef threw a fit before showing Besh the right way to fry an egg.

It’s like [a] beautiful, warm egg yolk pudding.
John Besh

Here’s how that chef did it, and how Besh fries an egg to this day:

1. Take a cold pan (a small cast-iron skillet works well for this) and rub it all over with the best butter. (Besh says they used “mountain butter” in Germany.)

2. Place the pan on a medium burner and (don’t wait until it’s hot!) and crack an egg right into the center of the pan.

3. Turn the heat to low, and allow the egg white to slowly cook—so it’s not popping and sizzling. By the time the egg white is completely cooked, the egg yolk will also reach the perfect temperature.

The result of this patience: “It’s almost like this beautiful, warm egg yolk pudding on top of these perfectly coagulated egg whites,” Besh says.

As for what to serve your perfectly cooked eggs white with, here are some ideas:

  • Besh suggests cheesy grits, bacon or sausage, and biscuits
  • On their on, with toast (obviously)
  • On top of a bowl of pasta that might need a little bulking up
  • On top of salad (they’re like their own kind of dressing)
  • You could go fancy and serve them with caviar and fresh shaved porcini mushrooms, like Besh does at his restaurant August.
  • On polenta (less fancy, but very delicious)
  • On fried rice
  • With a stir-fry

And with literally anything else. Because as Besh says, “What’s not to like with an egg on top?”

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