How to Make the Perfect Fried Egg

how to fry an egg-2 copyHey! Guess what! We’re still here! After a long and wonderful and relaxing break, we’re back, and many of you might remember that here at Our Best Bites, we do healthy food in January. Until Superbowl Sunday, then we do other stuff.

Eggs are kind of hard to ignore when it comes to healthy eating. It’s funny, because when I was growing up, they were kind of the forbidden fruit and now it’s hard to find any health or weight loss plan that doesn’t encourage eggs, at least in moderation (and sometimes not in moderation, depending on the plan.)

I’ve discussed at great length my complicated relationship with eggs. I’m sorry to go there again. For someone who usually hates eggs, I do realize that I write an awful lot about eggs. I should probably be evaluated.

But here’s the thing I’ve realized.

I like runny yolks. Like…a lot. I always thought I’d hate them because knowing the yolk wasn’t fully cooked eeked me out, but it turns out that is the only way that I consistently like eggs. Like, I could eat them a few times a week and be okay with it (unlike scrambled eggs where I usually can’t even make it through 2 scrambled eggs without my stomach turning.)

Making a good fried egg should be simple–I mean, it’s eggs, butter, a skillet, a spatula, and some salt and pepper (or green Tabasco sauce if you live in my house.)

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But in light of my love affair with fried eggs, I set out to make the perfect fried egg. Here is what I was after:

1) Fully-cooked white. No sliminess. Anywhere. Also, I really like the crispy white parts around the edges.
2) Yolk cooked long enough to be firm-ish but still runny.
3) A million dollars and to be able to fit into my jeans from high school. Kidding. Kind of.

Of course, everyone likes their eggs fried a little differently–some like them sunny side up, which means they’re not getting flipped at all (and thus potentially slimy), some people don’t like the crispy white edges, some people want the yolk totally solid. Which is all totally possible here–if you like ’em sunny side up, don’t flip them. If you want the yolk solid, cook the egg a little longer after you flip it. I’m just going to share a few tips I found along the way to make things a little easier.

1. Use a bigger pan than you think you’ll need. Or, even better, an electric skilletI know, I know, you have visions of the perfect little round eggs and think it’s going to happen in that tiny skillet you got in your wedding pots and pans. I can tell you from a lot of first-hand experience that it’s not. I tried. And tried and tried. Unless you’re an expert at flipping your eggs (and if so, kudos to you, and also, I hate you. Kidding. But watch yourself), you’re not going to be able to get a spatula in there to flip your eggs (or safely remove them from the pan.) So bring out the big guns–it’s worth it, I promise. And if you want your perfect eggs, you can always use egg or pancake molds (this is just an example–there are lots of different options and shapes!)

2. Use a thin, wide spatula. You’re dealing with something very delicate and want to disturb it as little as possible. I have a very thin silicone spatula that I use for stuff like this, but I really want this one.

3. Try not to let your eggs touch while they’re cooking. Unless you have a huge spatula, you’re going to have to try and flip them at the same time and let’s just say I’m not that coordinated. You can also cut them apart before you flip them, but then they’re not as cute. Because the cuteness of the eggs is of utmost importance.

4. It’s all about cooking the white. The area where I ran into the most trouble was trying to cook the egg evenly on both sides, which led to broken yolks and under-cooked whites. Then I had this epiphany to cook the egg almost completely on one side, flipping only to cook the very most top layer of the white. You do have to worry about over-cooked yolks this way, but that’s pretty easy to avoid if you’re careful.

Okay, are you ready? Heat a non-stick skillet to heat set to just a little above medium. When you can hold your hand about 2 inches from the surface and tell that it’s very hot, add 1/2-1 teaspoon of butter per egg (1/2 if you’re watching your butter intake; 1 ends up being quite a bit. And yes, butter–I’ve been losing weight using butter on my eggs! Non-stick cooking spray has its place, but not here…), melt the butter, and spread it into a circle about 6″ in diameter.

Carefully crack a cold egg into each melted butter circle (cold eggs will spread less; fresh ones will, too, but hopefully your eggs are reasonably fresh). It will start cooking immediately from the outside in. Sprinkle each egg with a small pinch of salt. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, watching the whites carefully–the area around the yolk will become more solid and opaque and if you gently poke the yolk, it will bounce back and won’t feel as fragile as a raw yolk will.

Once the “thickest” part of the white is almost completely cooked, gently jiggle a thin spatula under the egg and quickly flip it. Cook for about 1 more minute and then quickly remove the egg from the pan and serve it immediately (the yolk will continue to cook for a little while after you remove it from the pan, so if you’re after the runny yolk, be quick!) I serve mine with another tiny sprinkling of salt and a few shakes of green Tabasco sauce.

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Serve it with some fruit and a piece or two of whole grain toast for a breakfast that will fuel you all morning!

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And if you’re looking for some other ways to use them, try our Huevos Rancheros  or Eggs on Toast with Creamy Spinach Sauce!


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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. I watched am Amish woman fry a dozen eggs all at once in a huge pan! Most amazing thing I had ever seen and they all came out perfect! And she used a tiny (TINY!) flexible metal spatula. As you said, she “cut” the eggs apart and flipped each one individually. They had an egg business where they sold to local supermarkets and restaurants, and like many Amish families, they had a lot of kids, so I guess she had a lot of practice. Watching her was like watching a work of art being formed. (They also had toast, bacon, sausage links, and cereal. I can’t imagine making breakfast like that every morning for years on end!)

  2. Here’s a trick that works every time but removes the need to worry about overcooking the yolks. Crack your egg into your pan and then use your spatula to “break” the whites. They’re in a little sac that keeps them together. Break it and they’ll spread out a little more, meaning they’ll cook WAY faster, before your yolk overcooks. Perfect every time!

  3. This is and excellent guide for cooking fried eggs. I followed the instructions exactly and had fantastic results. One of the best eggs I’ve ever cooked. Thanks a ton!

  4. So I just searched your page before writing you an email because i found a DELICIOUS under 400 calorie breakfast that is satisfying and I think… pretty “clean” and it involves… fried eggs. And so I figured I’d see if you had a “fried egg” recipe on here.

    This method is what I’d call over-easy though. Which is how I always preferred my eggs before visiting my dad this summer. The SUPER easy Fried-egg method is SUPER close to this… except you need a pan with a lid.

    1) melt oil (I use coconut, but for non-typical reasons. And I use the refined stuff cause… I don’t want my eggs to taste like a pina colada, but any oil would work. Just a tsp-ish.)
    2) crack egg in hot pan. the pan should be hot enough that the whole bottom of the egg turns white almost immediately.
    3) pour some water in. maybe… a tbsp ish per egg.
    4) Immediately top with a lid.
    5) wait a few minutes.

    the steam cooks the top of the egg, the pan cooks the bottom… you are done when there’s no “snot” around the yoke. The yoke is runny and thick… there’s no “pasty” yoke… and you only need to lift the egg out of the pan and onto your plate – so no yoke-breaking while flipping/cooking – my nemesis of the over-easy method 😀

    Next: the reason I searched. I found a delicious method of using said fried eggs in what I’d consider a pretty healthy breakfast.

    It uses salsa that my UNCLE showed me this summer as well (we visited a lot of family this summer)

    2 pints cherry tomatoes, finely diced (don’t cheat. use a knife. It’s annoying, but you need the juice to stay IN the tomatoes). he squeezes out the seeds to reduce the water-y-ness of the salsa, and uses cherry tomatoes because they’re sweeter and hold solid better once diced.
    1 bunch chopped cilantro, finely diced
    1/2 a sweet onion, finely diced. he red when I was visiting, but was raving about how sweet they were from the farmers market… I’m afraid of red onion, so I use sweet white 😛
    Juice of 1 lime
    pinch of salt
    That’s it. surprised me too.

    Mix together and let sit for a while (aka: make ahead)

    NOW: get some corn tortillas – I prefer yellow. Heat them up. Put them on a plate. Put your fried egg on top, then some salsa (1-2 tbsp), and then a slice of avocado. (cheese is also delicious, but… I’m going for healthy, and… avocado’s got better fats I think. You can go crazy and do both and that’s DIVINE, but one or the other is delish too)

    2 eggs, 2 mission yellow corn tortillas, 3 tbsp salsa, and 1/4 an avocado works out to 318 calories and that’s glorious in my book 😉 Adding extra salsa only adds a few calories too

    I just had 1 for snack this afternoon because… oooooooooooh yum. AND it takes like, 5 minutes to get ready. total (especially if you keep a griddle on your stove for the tortilla)

  5. The key to flipping your eggs is butter…real butter…so the eggs slide around the pan easily. I always flip mine over the sink too, just in case.

  6. Hi! Can you tell me where you found the lovely saucer photographed above? Is it part of a dinnerware collection? Thx so much.

  7. Over-easy is definitely my favorite kind of egg! I can’t deal with slimy whites either, and the runny yolk is a must!

    Something I discovered last summer, is that coating the pan with a tiny bit of olive oil instead of butter makes the eggs about a million times easier to flip and not stick to the pan. The butter flavor is great, but my success rate skyrocketed, and with quality olive oil it has a nice flavor too! 🙂

  8. Oh,BLESS YOU! I love runny yolks, too, but don’t fry eggs that often because they smear and don’t cook just right. I may try this for dinner tonight now that you have gone to all that trouble doing the research. I even have one leftover biscuit from Sunday dinner that is asking to be toasted and enveloped in perfectly cooked eggs. Thanks!

  9. I had egg issues until I got married…and now I like them. I think it’s because my mom didn’t like them…so neither did I. 🙂 I have been slower at liking fried eggs though. I will eat them if my husband makes them, but cooking them myself is a joke. You totally had me at “use the huge electric pan.” Um, ya. That’s totally what I will try next time! Maybe I’ll try it for hash browns next time too.

  10. I have egg issues, too, but I think mine are the opposite of yours. I can only eat them scrambled. 🙂 But I LOVE your eggs on toast with creamy spinach sauce with scrambled eggs. It’s my favorite diet lunch in the winter (when it’s too cold for my other favorite diet lunch).

  11. Oh my gosh deliciousness overload! Look incredible!Sure make this fried eggs!

  12. Thanks so much for the tips! I love my fried eggs and runny yolks on my pancakes 🙂 this really grosses my 8 year old out.

  13. I love that Tabasco green sauce! It goes on all my egg/potato dishes. This is a great tutorial. I love that you use butter. Most tasty, and for some reason the nonstick spray ends up becoming one with my frying pan and I cannot ever get it off. Makes me a little worried about what it is…

  14. I can do all that except crack the egg directly into the pan. I always have to crack it into a ramekin first just in case any shell gets in the egg. That way I can fish it out. I suck at cracking eggs.

  15. I LOVE fried eggs! Just curious if you count the calories from the butter when your trying to loose weight?

    1. I do count the calories, but I’m also focusing on eating whole foods (except for Diet Coke…my one vice, haha!), cutting out refined carbs, etc. It’s the only thing that works for me; in another life, I could just cut calories and lose weight, regardless of what kinds of calories I ate, but since babies and as I’ve gotten older, I can’t eat the refined carbs while I’m trying to lose weight except for very occasional treats, regardless of how much I exercise or cut calories.

      So I *do* count calories, but I try not to stress too much. I eat lots of veggies, healthy fats and proteins, some whole grains (like 1-2 slices of whole wheat toast a day or a bowl of oatmeal), milk, cheese, a couple of pieces of fruit a day, and a little bit of dark chocolate. Just out of personal preference, I don’t do sugar-free treats–I’d rather just have a little bit of the real thing. I stay full and lose weight almost effortlessly and have kind of lost the mid-afternoon sugar craving (and desperate desire for a nap!), which is great.

      That’s probably way more information than you were looking for, but it’s my long, round-about way of saying not to be scared of eating fat when you’re trying to lose weight! 🙂

  16. My mom always made me sunny side up eggs. She would let the egg cook until the egg whites were mostly white and then lift up the edges of the egg with a spatula. She then poured a little boiling water in the pan making sure the water got under the egg. She covered the pan with a lid, waited for desired yolk runny-ness level, and BOOM! Perfectly cooked egg! I have always fried eggs with Pam. I think I need to try butter next time for sure.

  17. I miss eggs! Esp ones cooked to perfection as you described! Only thing I cannot eat during this pregnancy. The sacrifices we make for babies haha

  18. My sister taught me to mash up an avocado, add a little salt or garlic salt if you want to, spread it on toast, and put two fried eggs on top. The runny yolk with the avocado…SOOOOO delicious.

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  19. I don’t enjoy fried eggs with really runny yolks. I know its because that is how my mom made them. The last time she made an egg for me, I politely gagged it down and swore I would never eat fried eggs again. Then a few months later I was sick and my husband made dinner for me. Fried eggs. They were very good because he cooked the white and yolk a bit more. When I got better I had to watch him make eggs. He uses your technique. And now I do too. I read your post before I made breakfast and guess what I had to make? The power of suggestion is strong on an empty stomach.

  20. Yum! My boys and I both love runny-yolk fried eggs, but my husband won’t eat them – he’s seen awful things happen from eating raw eggs, and the uncooked yolk worries him. 🙂 I hate the slimy white too, but I am horrible at flipping the eggs, so I thought I’d share my way to get the white cooked, the yolk runny, and the edges crispy without having to flip. Melt your butter and get your pan nice and hot (when you break the eggs into it, they should start sizzling around the edges). Working quickly, season eggs and clap a lid on to trap the heat. Cook for a few minutes (never timed it, so I don’t know for sure how long). Keep the lid on until the whites are not jiggly anymore, and your edges will be crispy and your yolk still runny. They taste like campfire eggs if you have a bit of bacon grease instead of butter to fry them in. 🙂

    1. This is how I make my eggs too. The technical term is a basted egg, so named because it’s actually steamed on top. If the top is not cooking right, it never hurts to throw a splash of water in the hot pan, under the lid as well.

  21. Eggs are awesome and healthy. But make the effort to learn to flip them without a spatula. It’s easy!!! An 8 or 9 inch skillet works great for 1-2 eggs ( start with 1, 2 is a little trickier ) – use a little extra butter. When the white is 80% cooked, swirl it around the pan – it should move easily and keep it’s shape. Then lift the pan and flip by jerking the pan back toward you. Practice with a cold pan and an english muffin or similar. So worth it! No broken yolks and no spatula to clean up – A win-win!!