I’ve often wondered what it takes to make the Perfect Fried Egg. And I’ve tried every way I could think of to produce them. But the results always come up short. Time, I think, for a rundown on the ways you can cook a sunny-side egg, and which one you should use…
We’ve all felt the disappointment. A sunny-side egg that really didn’t meet our expectations. But there are ways to ensure you get a perfect soft-yolk every time.
A plethora of techniques
I’ve come across a number of methods folks use for cooking soft-yolked eggs without breaking the yolk or overcooking it. many of these employ different kinds of hardware, some of which the average person might not think of right off.
One involves adding warm or hot water to the pan or flat top about 30 seconds into cooking. This creates steam that cooks the top of the egg white quickly, and cooks the yolk sufficiently to avoid under-cooking issues while keeping it liquid. I’ve seen veteran diner cooks place a high-domed pot lid over the egg to trap the steam. And squirt a tablespoon or so of water underneath from a condiment-type squeeze bottle. One sexy side-effect of this method is, you get nice, rounded, even edges on the whites.
Another old trick pro chefs and caterers use to manage their sunny-side eggs is baking them in large-diameter muffin tins. You can also use this method for foolproof poaching (using a tablespoon of water instead of butter). For fried eggs, brush the bottom and sides of your muffin cups liberally with oil or butter, and simply crack an egg into each. Bake in the oven at 350 F for 8 – 10 minutes. Bingo. This method produces wonderful, uniform, thick but fully cooked fried eggs that look particularly great on any dish that wants a fried egg on top!
And – by the way – this is essentially the same method Fast Food restos that crack fresh eggs use to cook the eggs that go on their breakfast sandwiches! Alas, they muddle the yolks…
But most us have grown up to expect something a little different when dining at home. Pros call it the ‘fast sear’…
Off to a flying start…
First, some general rules to follow in your quest for the perfect classic fried egg:
Always use fresh eggs.
Always use room-temperature eggs.
Always use a shallow pan or flat top grill with high thermal mass. That means a heavy cast iron pan or a flat top made from at least 3/8 in. / 3-4 mm thick steel.
Always make sure your cooking surface is well seasoned (i.e.- pre-treated with fat or oil so foods won’t stick).
Always make sure you cooking surface is level. This will probably mean checking to see if your stove is properly levelled.
Always use butter for frying your eggs – for max flavour and appearance.
Mastering the ‘fast sear’…
Chef Andrew Zimmern is quite a culinary presence. Per Wikipedia: “[Zimmern] is an American chef, restaurateur, television and radio personality, director, producer, businessman, food critic, and author.”
You may have seen one or more of his Travel Channel or Food Network TV series. But did you know he’s also 4-time James Beard Award winner? And he has his own YouTube and Instagram channels?
I highly recommend his YouTube vid (linked above) on the whys and wherefores of fried eggs…
“I like to hard sear my fried eggs in browned butter, because I love the wonderful crispy edges.” Zimmern explains. “Every cook should master this easy technique—there are so many dishes that benefit from a runny-yolk fried egg topping, like a brisket breakfast hash or my riff on pasta carbonara.”
My two cents…
What more can I add to Zimmern’s tutorial on classic family-fried eggs? Maybe just to remind you that eggs have been largely vindicated of their former reputation as cholesterol bombs. Most recent research shows that dietary cholesterol intake is not directly reflected in blood cholesterol levels.
And one 2022 study states: “Eggs are a rich source of dietary cholesterol, but they also contain a variety of essential nutrients. A 2018 study, which included approximately half a million adults in China, found that those who ate [one egg per day] had a substantially lower risk of heart disease and stroke than those who ate eggs less frequently.”
So go forth and perfect your favourite form of fried egg! And enjoy it guilt-free!
~ Maggie J.