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Feb 5, 2012 01:03 PM

That would be too easy.

When I first came to the US from England one of the things I fell rapturously and instantly in love with (as do many UK tourists while here) is that, at breakfast, one is asked “…and how do you want your eggs?” To the English tourist this is an unaccustomed question. In the UK (other than whether poached or scrambled or soft-boiled i.e. the “genre” of egg style) a fried egg is a fried egg is a fried egg in terms of done-ness. One is not asked how one wants one’s fried egg “done.”

After thirty years in the US I am beginning to wonder whether offering the options is actually not a disservice to the fried egg. Especially in the past ten or fifteen years I have noticed that “over easy” “over medium” or whatever, are far too often being woefully ignored. To my mind, “Over easy” is a euphemism for (in “The Three Bears”’s lingo) “Just Right.”

But in recent times it has been anything but. I think 90% of fried egg eaters want their eggs cooked “Just Right”. It’s what you get in England, without the option for anything else. It is defined as having lots of runny yolk (with maybe a little firmed-up yolk at the edges) but that’s a warmed-thru yolk, a basted (or “over”) white top, and everything cooked sufficiently so that no whites remain in that absolutely awful raw state which reminds you of what an egg really is and is (in recent times) the bane of US diners and fast-order joints NO MATTER what the ordering instructions.

I was just wondering in general terms, three things:

1) Do you agree with my theory that 90% favor “Just Right” fried eggs?

2) Have others noticed that fried eggs are being purveyed in fairly horrible manner these days, much more so than in 20th Century times?

3) Should a default “Just Right” be the unstated default and the only order be other than that “Hard as yellow hockey puck” or “liquid placenta-like whites please” or similar.

I know this is an entirely spurious thought as one is not going to change tradition at this or any other stage, but I travel the country and one thing is guaranteed. Very few places anywhere seem to care one jot about how their eggs are served regardless of what’s on the ticket. My point being: “why, then, ask me in the first place”!?

Trivial and yet important if you like (as I do) good fried eggs and I’ve really seen them in a seeming continent-wide tailspin in the past decade. I’ve stopped eating breakfast out by and large as a result of this. just recently in LA at a notable diner: yuk. Runny horrible blubbery whites.

We could now move onto the pandemic of accompanying limp toast, but that would require an entire separate doctoral thesis. 

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  1. No. I order my egg "over medium" and I know others at the same breakfast table that would rather have theirs scrambled over hard, or over easy, (or frizzled, etc). Lots of folks like their eggs cooked differently depending on what they are being served alongside.

    6 Replies
    1. re: wyogal

      +1. no runny yolk. ever. makes me queasy. yuck.

      i understand i am in a minority here, but if i am served what the OP desribes as a 'just right' egg it will still be sitting on my plate, untouched, when they come to clear the dishes.

      1. re: KaimukiMan

        are you responding to me or the OP? I didn't describe a "just right" egg.

        1. re: wyogal

          i was agreeing with you about the 'over medium' and conflated the 'just right egg' into my answer, so yes and yes. my bad. i have edited my reply.

        2. re: KaimukiMan

          I'm with you 100%. I hate runny yolks and don't understand why others like them. It's definitely not "just right" for me.

        3. re: wyogal

          Put me in the over medium crowd. Soft yolk good. Runny yolk horrible

          1. re: CanadaGirl

            +1, I can enjoy a slightly runny yolk IF there's no raw white left.

        4. I frequent four different diners in my area where I order eggs for breakfast. Over medium is my instruction, and all four of the kitchens get it right. If they didn't they wouldn't remain in my rotation.

          So, I'm thinking that an experienced short order cook will deliver eggs exactly as requested.

          Anything less and they should be putting together the ingredients for a Sausage & Egg McMuffin at the Golden Arches.

          1. Based on the replies so far perhaps I am misunderstanding the issue. Do people in general not want a warm & runny yolk to dip their toast in?? But then surely they can't like uncooked whites which is what I am finding more & more.

            11 Replies
            1. re: bishopsbitter

              I think the issue is, no, there isn't one way to cook an egg that the majority will like. That's what the OP is asking... I think. (That 90% like their eggs with a runny yolk, set whites, so that should be called "just right.")
              And "over easy" is a runny yolk and a white that isn't completely set. A runny yolk with set whites is "Over medium," at least that's what they taught us in cooking school.

              1. re: wyogal

                Funny, I always thought "over easy" meant that the egg had been flipped, so that the white was fully cooked; "sunny-side up" is when it's left to cook without flipping, with a white that isn't completely set. I wonder if it's a regional dialect thing? In my lifetime experience in the SF Bay Area, ordering "over easy" has always resulted in a flipped, cooked-through white with a runny yolk.

                1. re: Kitchen Imp

                  I was wondering, too. I was told one thing by chef... then just looked it up. Over easy is flipped. and yes, the white is set, barely.
                  But, around these parts, over easy has a white that isn't set enough for my liking. The over medium assures a firm white with still a runny yolk, but barely set around the edges.

                  1. re: sandylc

                    I know, did you not read the post where I made that correction? A set (or cooked) white with a soft yolk that is lightly set around the edges.

                    1. re: wyogal

                      Ooh, sorry! I didn't notice that you did both posts! Silly me...

                  2. re: wyogal

                    I must say I had wondered about the "textbook" definition, so thanks! I find over medium usually results in over-done in terms of amount of unset yolk. To me the delight of egg eating is dipping in the warm liquid yolk. If there's hardly any left that's not set up, then I feel a bit cheated. whether over-easy or over-medium in the textbook equates to my "just right" I suppose where I was going with the original thought is that the "over" instructions are missing that vital "please do whatever means it's nicely cooked" aspect. Sort of like it's a rare pilot who can jockey a plane with reference to the vertical speed indicator at 100 ft per minute ascent or descent, so I think three or more different gradations of "over" may tax all but the veteran or gifted egg cooks to (for starters) remember which is which. That's what I think happens more often than deliberate short-order sabotage. The orders simply get banjaxed up. I have experimented asking for "basted" but that begs the question "for how long."? so mixed results too.

                    1. re: bishopsbitter

                      I ask for over medium always turns out great (just right). I don't cook them that way at home, though, they are self-basted, towards the end of cooking, I put in a couple drops of water, put on the lid. I love the lovely pink color of the skin over the yolk.
                      But, mind you, that is not "just right" for many.

                      1. re: wyogal

                        While obviously not all will approve of "Just Right" I was striving to see if there was agreement that a 90% group actually were on the same page for fried eggs. From the responses I tend to think the answer is a qualified "Yes" albeit with an increased degree of doneness of yolk. It's the McDonald's versus Burger King (how "you" want it) kind of debacle. Mcdonald's (and I am not defending their breakfast aberrations with the possible exception of the delightfully onioney steak egg & cheese thingee) are of the 90% like it this way ilk. My experience with Burger King is that they offer me the choice but it is is not, in the event, a choice worth having. "Extra onions." perhaps the extra onion can be detected via elecron microscope, otherwise . . . it's a standard Whopper.

                  3. re: bishopsbitter

                    most people do want a warm runny yolk. but it gives me the heebie jeebies. i am in the minority, but not alone.

                    most people do want the whites set and sllightly to medium firmness, so either sunny side up (set but soft) or over easy (set and firm), or over medium whites set and firm (yolk soft but not runny) or over hard (yolk approacing 'hard boiled').

                  4. i definitely agree that over easy is just right. the best part of a fried egg is having the yolk run all over the plate to mix with everything else and soak a good crusty toast in. what would be the point of a fried egg besides that?? if you want a solid yolk, might as well order it hard boiled.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: mattstolz

                      Just so! But it also has to be not just runny yolk, but warmed through, otherwise white "runoff" occurs (the tip off for undercookedness is when the yolk section disconnects itself from the rest of the whites). Tthen it all goes to heck in a handbasket since the yolk is almost cold.

                      1. re: mattstolz

                        I've got a good friend who eats fried eggs 'over hard' -- doesn't like them scrambled, and won't touch a hard-boiled yolk.

                        "Just Right" has as many definitions as there are people who eat eggs.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          i guess my question is, at what point do you change the chef's concept of the dish by changing the consistency of the yolk? to give (what id consider) a similar example, would you walk into a place, order seared tuna, but then ask for it to be cooked medium or well done?

                          1. re: mattstolz

                            We're getting dangerously close to the "proper" doneness to cook a steak!

                            1. re: mattstolz

                              It depends on the dish. If it's to be a soft, runny yolk that goes over the other ingredients, then I wouldn't mess with it.
                              But, if it's an order of eggs with hashbrowns, bacon, pancakes, etc.... then have 'em the way you want.
                              Nope, I wouldn't order seared tuna and ask for it to be well done. I would order something else.

                              1. re: mattstolz

                                it's just eggs at breakfast.

                                Not even the same category as seared tuna -- the expectations of the diner and the chef are completely different for eggs at breakfast.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  depends on the dish i guess. just an order of eggs, sure, thats totally up to you. but i think if it is served over hash, or poached as a benedict, or on a breakfast sandwich, then the egg should be cooked the way the chef intends it to be cooked to get the full effect of the dish, no?

                                  1. re: mattstolz

                                    If the chef is competent, a huge yes. Unfortunately, a diner sometimes has to enact defensive eating strategies when trapped at a lesser establishment.

                                    Wow, did that sound snotty! But I still mean it.

                                    In any event, so long as the white is cooked through, I won't complain.

                                    1. re: mattstolz

                                      but nobody asks how you want your egg cooked on a benedict or in a breakfast sandwich.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          well, yeah -- if it's JUST fried eggs, they ask how you want them. (don't recall ever being asked how I wanted my baked, boiled, coddled, or scrambled eggs cooked).

                                          When it becomes part of a dish, it becomes the chef's responsibility to cook them correctly in the context of the dish.

                                        2. re: sunshine842

                                          On a Benedict that makes sense, since the cook (assuming he has the skill to control the process) will poach the egg to his or her definition of Just Right. Of course, most high-volume restaurants will probably have all the eggs prepoached and sitting in cold water, to be warmed in hot and then skimmed out and served, so there's no point specifying anything there.

                                          About sandwiches, it might be odd. I had never been served or made a fried-egg sandwich with anything but a non-runny yolk, until one day I was visiting a couple I knew, and the guy said he was going to make egg sandwiches for himself and his girlfriend, and did I want one? Well, always! But when he served them I was astounded to see the yolk drooling towards the edge of the bread. He and the woman were equally astonished to hear that anybody would eat one any other way.

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Unless at a restaurant and I forget to specify scrambled eggs in my sandwich it usually comes over hard but at home the egg sandwich is sunny side up.

                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              Although I would default to over hard eggs for sandwiches, my husband loves over easy or over medium eggs on his sandwiches as well, especially if he's eating it at home and doesn't have to worry about the mess.

                                2. I've never thought that the question "how would you like your eggs?" means anything other than - do you want scrambled, poached, fried, etc. Never thought I was being asked how well-cooked I want them, except for over easy (flipped) vs. sunny-side up (not-flipped). Native English-speaking American, here, and I'm gobsmacked.