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Mar 19, 2009 11:32 AM

The pefect fried egg (why did it take me 30 years to figure this out?)

Okay, so my favorite egg prep is sunny side up. A barely-cooked white (not hard, but with no plegm) and a bright, runny yolk are all I'm asking for. But getting the top of the white done without overcooking the bottom and/or the yolk has always evaded me. And as far as a proper sunny-side-up egg in a restaurant? You're more likely to get a winning lottery ticket.

For years I have compromised. The easiest thing to do is just give the egg a flip and let the top cook for a few seconds. Delicious, but that's over easy, not sunny side up. Steamed eggs are another good option: just put a lid on the pan with a little water and everything comes out great. Basted eggs work about the same, but require flipping fat over the top of the egg. Boiling, poaching, no problem. But none of these cooking methods give the bright, proud yolk I want to see on my breakfast plate.

In the wake of St. Patrick's Day and the attendant corned beef hash, I decided that it was time to master this process. So for the last couple of days, I've been cooking three batches of eggs a day. (No, not breakfast, lunch, and dinner - my kids' schools start at different times, so I can do one batch for each of them and another for me.) Scoured the internet for suggestions, and started trying all of them.

Anyway, this morning I finally nailed it. The secret is oil. Lots and lots of oil.

For years I have been cooking eggs with the minimum amount of oil needed to keep them from adhering to the pan. With a Teflon skillet, that means just a spritz of the stuff in the spray can. I was thinking of the oil as an anti-stick substance rather than a cooking medium.

This morning it occurred to me that oil transfers heat much more efficiently than air. So I poured a fairly deep puddle of bacon fat into the skillet, put it on a low burner until it hit 250F, and dropped in the eggs. The oil came up over the top of the whites, but the yolks stood high and dry. A minute or two later, voila! Perfect sunny-side-up eggs.

Of course, quite a bit of oil needed to be drained off before the eggs were served, but that's why God put slots in spatulas, right? And after the oil cooled, it got strained right back into its container - no waste!

Now the only question is how many extra minutes on the elliptical trainer are needed to compensate for the added fat calories. There's no such thing as a free lunch. Or breakfast.

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  1. I think the most important thing is a hot pan you at least want some sizle when your eggs hit the pan....


    9 Replies
    1. re: don515

      No!! NO SIZZLE!! Honestly, that starts 'frizzling' the whites immediately, and that's NOT what , well, not what I'M looking for. I want my whites soft and tender. I leave my pan with oil on med-low heat for about 2 minutes, then add the egg...(which I've first cracked into a saucer). The whites should just start turning white right after you add it. Just leave it, it will kind of 'poach' in the fat. YUM!! (I do sometimes 'baste' the tops with the fat to get them done quicker. OR, rinse a tight-fitting lid under water, shake it off and put it over the eggs. If you do that, be careful the fat doesn't over heat.

      1. re: FibroLady

        Agreed. I use cast iron for cooking my eggs, and thus need a fair amount of oil for my over-easy (from the sounds of it, I use less than you, but I still like a substantial amount). Sizzle is the enemy of eggs - a nice medium temperature skillet is perfect, heated just to the point that the whites begin to turn white when they hit the pan. This also prevents sticking to the cast iron.

        1. re: vorpal

          I disagree completely - a hot pan and plenty of sizzle is a must to get that delicious crispy brown edge without overcooking the eggs. Yet I will defend to the death your right to prefer them your way. ;-)

          1. re: BobB

            Funny, I am kind of in the middle of the road on this issue. I love mine crispy and I also love a good sunny-side up egg, and I also love poached eggs. I find alanbarnes sunny-side up discovery very intriguing. I have a very distinct memory of my first sunny-side up egg when I was about 4 years old, it was heavenly ... but I haven't ever had one made right since.

            1. re: BobB

              Are you using cast iron, non-stick, or something else entirely? My (albeit limited) experience with cast iron (we're no longer using non-stick) has suggested that cooking at a high temperature causes the eggs to stick and become a real chore to flip, even with a fairly generous coating of oil or butter.

              I have to agree with others who say that eggs fried at a high temperature resemble plastic. I don't much care for the texture at all. To each his or her own, though!

              1. re: vorpal

                I've never had the egg stick on a cast-iron pan. What kind of cast-iron pan are you using?

                1. re: DishDelish

                  Just a cheap 12" cast iron pan bought at my local hardware store that I seasoned myself with bacon grease. Does the trick beautifully! I was dreading it as I always had problems flipping fried eggs without breaking the yolks in the past (I hate cooked yolks - I'm pretty picky about my eggs). The first couple of times I made them, I worked at a higher temperature and they did stick a bit and the whites and yolks tore in the process. On medium heat, though, it's been fine. Perhaps it's just me - I have no idea.

                2. re: vorpal

                  High-quality non-stick, with the butter heated 'til it's just starting to brown but not burnt.

                3. re: BobB

                  you are totally right that a hot pan and sizzle gets you that brown ring around the egg.... my only thing, is I can't stand that brown thing... I'm gagging now thinking about it :D But to each his own... kinda a beauty is in the eye of the beholder or mouth as the case may be.

          2. right on! I have wondered about all the banter about what is the best "nonstick" pan to buy for a while now.

            Give the pan enuf grease and any pan can be nonstick! I like to get my oil a bit hotter tho-- nothing like a thin brown and crispy edge around a properly cooked sunnyside up!!!.

            1. Deep-fried egg - ummmmm . . .

              1. You can also "baste" the eggs with oil and this promotes more even cooking. This is what I do but I don't think it saves much on the calories.

                1. If you are a 150 pound woman (I think not, alan) it will take you about 3.75 minutes on an elliptical to burn 35 calories. 1 teaspoon of oil (olive or canola) contains 40 calories.
                  Of course it depends on speed and effort, but I bet somewhere between 3-5 minutes would cover you, per teaspoon of oil actually left on the egg. 1 teaspoon of butter is a little better, 33 calories per teaspoon.