Ordinarily, you hear about the merits of fried eggs based on the preference of the fried egg cook or the fried egg eater. You wouldn’t expect runny yolk lovers to go gaga over some rock solid whites and yolks. But in fact, the perfect fried egg has to do more with the occasion and the food pairing than the eater: Even the runny yolk lover must concede that a slightly harder yellow is better in an egg sandwich. Here’s the rundown of methods for frying perfect eggs—and exactly the reason to choose one way over the other.
1. The Egg Fried In A Lot Of Olive Oil
(Image: Frank Prisinzano)
When you add enough olive oil to a pan to surround and even partially submerge the egg, you’re setting yourself up to enjoy crackly edges, velvety whites, and an oozing yolk.
To make an olive oil egg: Get a small pan very hot by setting it on high heat for a few minutes. Add enough olive oil to coat the pan generously. In a moment, the oil will be so hot that a splash of water will seize and bubble immediately in the pan. (Be careful!) That’s when you’re ready to cook. Crack an egg into a prep bowl, then gently pour it into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. To be sure all the whites are cooked, as soon as the whites start to solidify, carefully tilt the pan, catch some olive oil in a spoon, and pour it back over the top of the egg. Here’s a video of restaurateur Frank Prisinzano showing off the kind of olive oil quantity and heat you’re looking for.
Eat your indulgent crispy egg on top of a grain bowl, pasta, or a plate of homemade sweet potato hash. It’s the perfect crunchy contrast to the soft textures below, and the yolk will dress the rest of the food on your plate.
2. The Brown Butter-Basted Fried Egg
(Image: Art and Lemons)
When you substitute a liberal hunk of butter for that olive oil, you wind up with an egg that’s certainly crispy but also very rich and great for breakfast.
To make a butter-basted fried egg: Follow the instructions for the olive oil egg above, but hold back on the amount of fat and the heat. When the butter is bubbling but not yet brown, pour the egg in. Season with salt and pepper, then cook until the edges are bubbly. There won’t be enough butter to spoon over, so when the egg has loosened itself from the surface of the pan, flip it and let the whites finish cooking upside down. After as few as 10 seconds, your over easy egg will be done and your butter will be brown, nutty, and caramelized—pour any extra back over the finished egg.
Eat your brown butter-based egg with a French-inspired salad, like one with frisée and lardons. Since there’s so much flavor from the nutty butter, this is an excellent one to enjoy with nothing more than toast.
3. The Simple Over Easy Egg, Fried in Butter
(Image: Food Network)
This is probably how your grandma fried her eggs, and how the short-order cooks at the diners still do it. It’s standard procedure for the kind of regular old fried egg that defines the category—the whites neither too crispy nor too soft, the yolk neither too runny nor too hard. It’s straight down the middle. All it asks is that you pay attention for a little bit longer than the two methods above.
To make a simple over easy egg: Heat a pan over medium heat, and, when it’s hot, add just a little bit of butter. Cook the egg until the whites are set and you can easily lift it with a spatula. Flip it, and cook for 30 seconds to a minute on the second side. The more you fry eggs in this way, the better intuition you’ll gain for knowing when to flip and when to pull the egg from the pan.
Eat the simple over easy egg as a sandwich—especially excellent when you’ve cooked the yolk a tiny bit past runny, so it doesn’t ooze all over your hands.
4. The Perfect Steam-Fried Egg
There’s something a little wild about frying an egg, and no two results are ever quite the same. If that edginess doesn’t agree with your nature, you’ll love the steam-fry method, which grants you the most control of all. You’ll wind up with a white that’s soft but not rubbery and a yolk that’s gooey without oozing all over the place. How does that happen? A little steam.
To make a steam-fried egg: Heat a pan over medium heat for a few minutes. Add some butter or oil, and crack an egg into your prep bowl. Pour the egg into the pan and season it; then, right after it sets, add a splash of water (around a teaspoon), and cover the pan for 30 seconds to a minute. The lid will create steam in the pan, which will cook the top of the whites and the yolk as the bottom sets in a velvety way, and you so don’t need to flip the egg at all.
Eat the perfect steam-fried egg on almost any occasion, especially as a simple breakfast paired with bread and butter.
5. The Deep-Fried Egg
(Image: Them Apples)
If you want to be literal about frying…meet the Scotch Egg, a deep-fried hard-boiled egg that’s coated in sausage and breadcrumbs and then fried until crisp. You’ll probably never made one, so we’ll spare you the instructions here: They involve a lot of steps, a lot of sausage, and a lot of oil.
6. The Low-Slow Cartoonish Eggs
(Image: How Sweet Eats)
For eggs that look as gorgeously drawn as a cartoon, blogger How Sweet Eats nixes the fat altogether and cooks eggs sunny-side up over very, very low heat.
To make a low-slow egg: Set your burner to low, then pull out your nonstick pan and preheat it. Don’t attempt this one if you don’t have a nonstick skillet! Crack an egg into a tiny prep bowl, then pour the egg onto the warmed pan. Season as usual. Don’t turn up the heat, and just let the egg cook for about 5 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolk is beautifully yellow, but somewhat set. Keep a close eye to prevent the eggs from getting rubbery.
Eat your cartoonish egg on any dish you want to look extraordinarily pretty, like an off-color hash or a day-old quinoa salad.
7. Egg Fried in Bread
(Image: Reclaiming Provincial)
The “one-eye” is the egg dish with dozens of names. You might know it as the “egg in the hole in the bread” or the “egg in the basket”—or a ton of other titles. By whatever name, this is a glorious way to fry egg and bread at once.
To make an egg fried in the bread: Cut out a hole in the center of a slice of bread. Heat a pan to medium, then add some butter. Place the bread in the pan and crack the egg into the hole. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a minute. Then, flip the egg and the bread together and cook a little longer on the second side.
Eat eggs fried in the bread for breakfast or lunch, with nothing else at all—this is a full meal, which is a miraculous thing. Though you can always add a little bacon if you’re feeling indulgent.
8. In-The-Oven Fried Eggs
(Image: Coconut Contentment)
Oven-fried eggs do require careful attention. You can’t just set a timer and forget about them—just as on the stove you have to watch for signs that they’re approaching done, you have to keep an eagle eye here, too. But what they mandate in your care, oven eggs give back in quantity: You can make many at once.
To make fried eggs in the oven: Heat the oven to 400°F. Heat a large skillet or two over medium heat. Add a good pour of oil, but not as much as for the oil-basted eggs. Crack eggs into prep bowls, and pour them into the pans one at a time—you can fit them pretty close together in one pan. Season with salt and pepper, then place the skillets in the oven and bake them for 2 to 3 minutes, until the yolks set.
Eat these when you’ve invited over a crowd of hungry friends and you need to fry many eggs at once. Perhaps pair them with a make-your-own egg sandwich bar.