Perfect Fried Egg
April 1, 2005 9:18 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for advice on how to make the perfect fried egg (in your opinion). Much more inside.

I am pretty good at poaching, scrambling, and omlette-ing eggs. I have always hated fried eggs, but recently starting making them and am a convert. What is the best way to cook them, please be as specific as possible, include things like:

Pan type
Fat used (butter, oil, none, etc)
Heat setting
Cooking Time (I generally like yolks to be runny, whites not)
Egg Introduction Method (crack in pan, crack in bowl...)
Any other tips...
posted by jonah to Food & Drink (38 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Do you like bacon? I'm a big fan of using the bacon fat to cook eggs in, while the bacon is dripping on some paper towels.

The key thing is to not rush the cooking of the egg. The pan can't be too hot, you want to cook the egg very gently to avoid it getting rubbery. I like my white completely cooked, and my yolk runny too, so what I do is gently cook the egg until all the white looks cooked (adding a bit of salt and pepper while I'm cooking) then flip it for about 30 seconds just to get the last bit of white done. I hate runny whites.

They are my key things. Other than that I use a normal skillet, and crack into the pan.

Now I'm hungry, dammit.
posted by gaspode at 9:26 AM on April 1, 2005

Response by poster: I have seen the bacon method, my room mate in college (a collegiate track star) had two fried eggs cooked in the fat of two strips of bacon every morning. I don't generally have bacon around the house though.

I have run into the rubbery egg white. When you say gently cook the egg, do you mean low/medium low/meidum? Also, when you flip, how do you keep the yolks from breaking and running?

Normal skillet = non stick? thanks!
posted by jonah at 9:29 AM on April 1, 2005

Response by poster: Another thing to mention, I generally do two eggs at a time in a small omelette pan. Is it better to do one at a time?
posted by jonah at 9:30 AM on April 1, 2005

Experiment. There is no perfect egg for everyone.

That said... a cast iron skillet, butter, med-high heat, I overcook cause I like the edges crispy, flip, crack into pan, green onions and feta, slide onto plate and join with two fresh sausage links.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:31 AM on April 1, 2005

I use butter.

I like 'sunny side up medium.' I find that cracking the egg into a medium heated (not too hot but ready to go) cast iron pan dripping a bit of water in there (too make steam), and covering, make the best egg.

If done right it's perfect. It's not too mucousy (read, sunny side up regular), picture perfect, and not totally covered in oil.

The trick is making sure that you don't over cook the yolk of course...

My grandma taught me this.
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 9:34 AM on April 1, 2005

Response by poster: I have never tried the covered egg method, that sounds like a good tip to reflect some heat.
posted by jonah at 9:35 AM on April 1, 2005

If you cook your fried egg in bacon fat, you can avoid runny whites without having to flip by periodically basting the egg with a bit of the hot grease. Once you have flipped the egg, you have not only ruined the appearance, but you have dramatically increased the likelihood of ending up with your yolks cooked through, and this MUST NOT HAPPEN.

A fried egg may also be made using a nonstick skillet over medium heat with either a small pat of butter or a teaspoon or so of olive oil. This will not give you the bacon flavor, but it makes it easier to put the egg right down in the pan and release it so that you don't either burn yourself or bust the yolk. Also, for those who don't like the bubbled edges of a bacon-fried egg, the nonstick-pan-fried egg will be more attractive.

I prefer to start with a somewhat higher heat so that the whites don't spread too much before they begin to set. Then I turn the heat down to avoid overcooking the yolk. Also, a lower finishing heat makes it easier to fully cook the white while keeping the yolk liquid.

With a good non-stock skillet and some butter/olive oil, you should be able to slide the perfectly cooked egg directly onto your plate, thereby avoiding both the use of a pancake turner and the possibility that someone will refer to the pancake turner as a spatula and ruin your whole day.

Two at a time is fine, unless your pain doesn't heat evenly. Preheating the pan should ameliorate this problem.
posted by anapestic at 9:37 AM on April 1, 2005 [2 favorites]

I neglected to mention that kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper are the necessary seasonings, but they are.
posted by anapestic at 9:39 AM on April 1, 2005

You can do two at a time if you get the flipper well under both yolks. This means keeping them close to each other; you can kind of scootch them together as the whites cook. The trick to over-easy is as gaspode said - you do most of your cooking on the one side, and only flip them over when they're almost done, then just cook for a few seconds.

Non-stick is easier for most people, but you still want to use oil (a high smoke point oil like grapeseed is what I use, yeah, bacon fat if I'm making bacon), and you want pan and oil to be hot (med-high) before cracking in the eggs. If you're not using non-stick, you need to heat up the pan until water will sizzle and evaporate when you drip it in, then add oil, let it heat for a second or two (literally), then crack in the egg.

(The above is from a former line cook.)
posted by transient at 9:44 AM on April 1, 2005

This topic has caused more than one argument at my house.

My husband cooks his eggs in butter, breaks the yolks and fries them hard with a dash of garlic. YUCK!

I like my eggs over-easy, cooked in a dry preheated pan. I let the egg cook until it's solid enough to "release" from the pan. When I can easily slide my spatula under the egg without the yolk tearing, I gently position the spatula under the yolk, lift and then let the egg kinda roll off and onto the other side. At this point, I'll take the pan off the heat and let the residual heat in the pan finish the cooking which only takes another minute or two. The yolks are still runny and intact when I roll the egg from the pan to the plate.
posted by onhazier at 9:45 AM on April 1, 2005

i use the perfect pancake, with a minimum of butter. took a couple practice eggs sliding out the sides before i got the flip motion perfect, but it works for me. downside is: one egg at a time.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:51 AM on April 1, 2005

As FlamingBore's method, but over easy: Cast-iron pan, butter or bacon grease, medium hot (no burnt butter), wait for whites to just congeal, flip for 30s or so. Served with buttered toast fingers, coffee and jam.
posted by bonehead at 9:54 AM on April 1, 2005

Medium hot, nonstick, butter and oil, eggs straight into pan. Wait for white to cook, slowly flip, 10 seconds max, flip back. Another 15-30 seconds on the original side.

I think I got the very quick flip tip from Alton Brown, but I'm not sure. When done right, the yolk is in that not-quite runny and not-quite congealed state. Can easily be adjusted to taste.
posted by bh at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2005

I use butter; I prefer it even to bacon grease for an egg-frying medium. Medium to medium-low heat. Non-stick griddle.
Lately, I've been doing fried eggs on rafts: cut a hole in the middle of a slice of bread, put on buttered griddle, crack egg into hole, fry as normal (especially useful here is the quick flip bh mentioned). That's largely because I love the taste/texture/experience of runny egg yolk on toasted, buttery bread. Mmm.
posted by willpie at 10:46 AM on April 1, 2005

I second the bacon fat suggestion, also keep the egg for about 15 mins in the freezer before you cook it
posted by matteo at 10:46 AM on April 1, 2005

My wife learned the "flip the bacon grease over the top of the egg" approach from her mom, when they would go camping. The problem for me with bacon fat is that you've got to keep it pretty hot if the eggs aren't going to be greasy--that means it's good if you like to brownish, crispy kind of bottom/edge, but not so great if you're looking for something a little more "delicate".

Personally, I've got a small stainless frying pan that just about fits one egg, but can just hold two...I start with butter, medium-high, and crack the egg(s) straight in. Once the bottom of the white's set a bit, I back off on the heat till you can just see the white start to pop every once in a while, and let it cook through.

For the flip, I'm still working on my single-handed technique, so if I'm not feeling brave, then I slide one of those big round spatulas in underneath, get the egg completely off onto the spatula. Turn the empty _pan_ over so it's face-down on top of the egg, and at that point, it's simple to just flip them both back over together. 30 secs or so to crisp up the top side, and voila. Yolk's still a bit runny, but warm, and the white is firm, without being brown or crunchy.
posted by LairBob at 10:58 AM on April 1, 2005

...thereby avoiding both the use of a pancake turner and the possibility that someone will refer to the pancake turner as a spatula and ruin your whole day.

anapestic, you're awesome.

(I totally concur with your egg-frying advice, also.)
posted by desuetude at 11:37 AM on April 1, 2005

what my mom does (and eggs rock) is as follows:
-med heat,
-age old cast iron pan,
-dollop of butter/margarine
-break eggs in pan (number of eggs cooked does matter as you will see..)
-cook until crispy around the edges of the whites
-pour in less then a 1/8 cup of water in pan...near the side or so just not on the eggs..
-quick now, cover the pan

the steam cooks the runny part of the white, lleaves the yolks yummy and all is good with the world.
posted by ShawnString at 11:39 AM on April 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

My perfect fried egg is inspired from a trip in Spain. I cook it in olive oil. A lot of olive oil. Heat, as mentioned already, should be gentle -- not higher than "medium" but your stove and pan will vary. Proper heat is the key to not having a tough egg -- even if you want it "over hard". I use a seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet with similar results, although I prefer the cast iron. Salt and crack pepper while in the pan. It should appear to a bystander that you are using too much salt.

When I am done, I slide the critter onto a plate and pour the hot olive oil over the top. Many people are shocked when they see how much oil I use but that thing should be near swimming. Delicious. (A nice serving variation is atop a piece of toasted, buttered piece of hearty bread. Day old baguette in Paris works particularly well. In the summer, serve with a slice of fresh tomato.)
posted by Dick Paris at 11:40 AM on April 1, 2005

Medium-hot, small, nonstick pan. Little bit of spray lube as insurance. Crack 2 eggs into pan. Should just about fill it up, edge-to-edge. Cook until whites look "mostly" set. Slide spatula under edges to loosen, flip eggs one-handed (shake pan sharply out, in, out from self). Ten more seconds, turn pan over plate (which hopefully contains toast and bacon). Salt and pepper like there's no tomorrow.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:47 AM on April 1, 2005

Oh yeah, I concur with the freshly ground black pepper; I didn't stipulate that before. And for me, the heat never goes above medium.
posted by gaspode at 11:49 AM on April 1, 2005

I second Dick Paris's olive oil. I've been doing South Beach since January 1 and they use olive oil a lot; while I love the flavor of an egg cooked in bacon grease (the way my momma makes 'em), the olive oil method is a close second- nearly as tasty and much better for you.
posted by Doohickie at 12:20 PM on April 1, 2005

I also learned to put water in the pan and cover it, like ShawnString, but I do things a little different.

I like my eggs with soft, but not runny, whites and runny yolks, sunny side up.

Usually I'll melt butter in the frying pan, spread it around the pan with a spatula, then crack the egg. Next I put a little water in around the edges of the pan and cover the pan. The water inside the closed ban means you've got hot, humid air spreading the heat to the top and bottom of the egg, so it cooks more evenly.

Sometimes I put a slice of cheddar cheese on top, too, and let that melt. Runny yolk and runny cheddar ... mmmm.

I always salt and pepper my eggs, and I always eat them with buttered toast to rub in the runny yolk. Yum!
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:27 PM on April 1, 2005

The perfect fried egg has the yolk cooked through; runny yolks are totally unacceptable. The thought of eating liquid chicken turns my stomach.

Bacon fat or butter in a cast iron skillet over medium low heat. Push the fat into the center of the pan and before it disperses, break the egg into it. Immediately break the yolk to ensure thorough cooking. Sprinkle with coarsely cracked peppercorns (not ground), no salt. As soon as the white begins to brown, flip. Cook until browned.
posted by mischief at 1:16 PM on April 1, 2005

No flip! Just add a tbs of water to the pan, up the heat an cover with a saucepan lid that's big enough to cover the egg(s). The steam produced does an excellent job of cooking the whites without overcooking the yolks. Timing is all (when isn't it?) so you need to experiment with the length of time they are covered - start with about 10-15 seconds.
posted by Neiltupper at 1:38 PM on April 1, 2005

I'm down with Alton Brown. As usual.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 2:04 PM on April 1, 2005

Response by poster: The perfect fried egg has the yolk cooked through; runny yolks are totally unacceptable

The only cooked yolks should be in scrambled eggs. I don't know if you eat mayo or cesar dressing, but you're having liquid yolks there.

Thanks for the tips everyone, I need to try out the water in the pan technique. That seems like a hybrid fried-poached egg though and not a "true" fried egg. It sounds good though.
posted by jonah at 2:19 PM on April 1, 2005

Put celery seed on the egg also.
posted by apathy0o0 at 3:05 PM on April 1, 2005

To make a perfect fried egg, you have to start with a perfect egg. That means fresh—as in hours old at the most—and free-range—as in all-day access to sunshine, bugs, grass, and whatever else they can lay their grubby claws on, supplemented with corn, oats, and roasted soybeans. The yolks are an incomparable orange, and the flavor is intense and exquisite. If you start with that, any of the above methods will make you very happy. I'm partial to "cooked in unsalted butter, then lightly salted, with bacon and buttered toast on the side" but, as I say, it doesn't really matter if you start with the best eggs. If you don't, well, you're just wasting your bacon, people.
posted by bricoleur at 3:13 PM on April 1, 2005

I use a non-stick skillet with little or no oil. High heat to start to keep the whites from spreading too much. Then lower the heat to medium and cover the pan. This allows you to completely cook the whites without overcooking the yolk. I prefer the yolks runny, really runny. The overall effect is more like a poached egg, but I like that. Also, I like to add the salt and pepper prior to the whites setting so that it sticks and the flavor integrates.
posted by caddis at 3:31 PM on April 1, 2005

All these people flipping! We never flip in this house. We fry bacon in our big Scan Pan and then do the eggs in the grease. I use a teaspoon to scoop up hot oil and pour over the yolks. They eventually set *just enough* and then they're done. I have not the coordination to flip the egg without breaking the yolk all over the skillet.
posted by web-goddess at 4:53 PM on April 1, 2005

jonah -- I love poached eggs, but my water in the pan technique is nothing like poaching. I just put in maybe a tablespoon, not enough to cover the egg at all. It just creates a more humid and evenly heated cooking environment. The egg still tastes fried, not poached.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 5:06 PM on April 1, 2005

Second the suggestions to throw in a teaspoon of water and cover 'em. I read it in a 1955 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and it's still the only way I do it.
posted by Vidiot at 7:05 PM on April 1, 2005

You don't need to add any water to let it steam...

Medium heat
Nonstick pan
Start egg in cold pan
Wait until your white is halfway cooked through
If patient, turn it down real low and let it get cooked though until white is all done and yolk is still liquid
If impatient or you want a cooked yolk, put a lid on for a minute or two

The short-order trick is to take a nice broad spatula (the diner-grill kind) and very carefully push the whites outward until you've got a super-thin, really wide egg. It'll cook instantly on low heat.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:26 PM on April 1, 2005

To me, the key to deliciousness is cooking the eggs on relatively low heat. Take your time; it's only going to be ~5 minutes anyway.

Heat olive oil, fresh rosemary and chopped garlic on low heat, until the smell of rosemary fills the kitchen. Crack eggs into pan, cook slowly, covered, with salt and freshly ground pepper. I like to puncture the white around the yolk early on, which seems to distribute and cook the white more evenly. Keep an eye on it the first few times to see how long it takes to get just slightly less than your preference in runniness - for me, that's 3-4 minutes. They should be easy to flip then. If there are two eggs, use the edge of the spatula to cut between them and flip one at a time, cooking for 5-10 seconds before lifting out of the pan. Serve over toast with butter and sharp cheddar slices, with steamed broccoli on the side.

(web-goddess, I love the idea of spooning some of the hot oil over the yolks to avoid flipping; I'm gonna try that next time.)
posted by mediareport at 9:35 PM on April 1, 2005

The fried-and-steamed method is called a "basted egg", and my mom makes the most perfect eggs that way. She starts with a medium hot nonstick pan and a bit of butter, then turns the heat down to low and covers it as soon as she's cracked the egg in the pan. She just rinses the pan lid with a bit of water and what clings to it is the only added water. The egg is done as soon as the film of white over the yolk becomes cloudy.
posted by cali at 11:34 PM on April 1, 2005

The best fried eggs are deep-fried duck eggs. Get thee hence to Kylie Kwong's famous recipe: Mrs Jang's Homestyle Fried Eggs.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:03 AM on April 2, 2005

I'm in China and it occurred to me that I could approximate a Western meal by frying eggs. The first time I have ever really been able to flip is in the wok. I also cook the egg in garlic oil. I usually only will cook one at a time but have found a place to buy eggs where almost every egg is a double-yolker.
posted by geekyguy at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2005

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