How to Make the Perfect Fried Egg

September 25, 2012

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.

Shop the Story

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?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • allisonking
  • Leo Langlois
    Leo Langlois
  • Mona T. Han
    Mona T. Han
  • lisina
  • Ryan Poppi
    Ryan Poppi
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


allisonking November 13, 2018
Perfect to me means fully set whites with soft edges, and a runny/creamy yolk. Heat olive oil on medium, add egg and let sit just until the edges start to set, then add just enough water to protect the edges from crisping. Cover til whites are fully set.
Leo L. August 5, 2015
Turn off the heat means a whole lot more if cooking with gas or electricity. Turning of gas means your cooking with holdover heat of the pan your using. Turning off electricity and your are dealing with holdover heat of the burner and the pan with entirely different results. The comments don't speak to the cooking method gas or electricity.
Mona T. July 29, 2015
The best fried egg/omelette I've had was on a street side breakfast stand in Luang Prabang, Laos. Scramble 3 orange-yolked eggs with salt and pepper, in 1T shimmering peanut oil in a wok, med-high heat, fry sliced shallots and scallions (white and green parts) briefly, and pour the eggs. When the bottom is golden and shallots/scallions caramelize (1 min max), flip it over and fry 1 min. Served with steamed sticky rice and papaya/mango/watermelon smoothie, it was heavenly breakfast.
lisina July 29, 2015
The Jose Andres fried egg is a revelation. Especially atop a spicy plate of chilaquiles at Oyamel.
Ryan P. March 26, 2015
heat pan, drop in some Fromager d'Affinois, crack egg over the top. guaranteed best egg you've ever eaten.
Astrid O. March 25, 2015
Jose Andres' egg is the way Dominicans typically make fried eggs.
Sally Z. March 25, 2015
hot cast iron pan, knob of butter that browns immediately. crack egg or two into middle of pan. Sprinkle lightly with montreal seasoning. let cook until edges are set and brown. Flip for just a cursory warming, then lift onto plate. yields crispy bottom, runny yolk. be sure to have some good toasted whole grain toast to sop it up.
Tony January 27, 2015
Over easy in either olive oil or butter, and seasoned with a sprinkle of Balsamic Vinegar
Ashley M. March 8, 2014
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.
choclinda March 2, 2014
What I've forgotten about frying an egg you haven't even learned yet.
lisina July 29, 2015
James R. February 26, 2014
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!
ctcbox February 26, 2014
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.
Paula E. May 8, 2014
I agree with that, ctcbox. I would love to know about cooking eggs with herbaceous oils.
Gregg E. November 4, 2013
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.
Manuel B. November 4, 2013
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!
Stephanie W. November 4, 2013
thanks manuel & gregg. 4 the tips. ill try both. appreciate the help.
Tessa G. November 3, 2013
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.
mike November 3, 2013
How long do you take for breakfast? 2're worried about the 'umbilical cord of the egg? please...think about what you eat..well don't because you might like it.
TJ B. November 3, 2013
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.
Tessa G. November 4, 2013
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.
Tessa G. November 4, 2013
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!
ruth November 3, 2013
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.
Mary November 3, 2013
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!!
Stephanie W. November 1, 2013
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.
martinlaw November 1, 2013
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.
Stephanie W. November 1, 2013
oh thank you so much. ill try it. i appreciate it.
Ashley M. March 8, 2014
Wish I had your problem! My difficulty is getting the yolk firm enough without over cooking the white!
Stephanie W. March 9, 2014
too bad i cant trade you. haha
Barbara H. June 3, 2013
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!
Stephanie W. November 3, 2013
mmmmmmmmmmmm. great idea!
Doug E. May 19, 2013
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!
Christina @. May 19, 2013
Just add toast, Heinz beans and potato scones for ultimate perfection! ;)
Bruce M. February 23, 2020
Bingo Doug! Except for the Black Pud!😱.