A fried egg is a beautiful thing. It's breakfast in fewer than five minutes. It's some extra oomph for your salad. It's what turns a bowl of rice and leftover veggies into a legit dinner. In my kitchen, a fried egg can do no wrong.
Knowing how to fry an egg is one of those basic skills that you'll use again and again. Here's how to make a great fried egg in five easy steps.
Choose the Right Skillet
No need to buy a special pan just for frying eggs — any pan will do. I generally prefer frying eggs in a nonstick skillet or a well-seasoned cast iron skillet so that sticking is never an issue. If you'd rather use a stainless steel or enamel-coated pan, just use an extra pat of butter.
Do you know how to clean your cast iron skillet in between uses? Watch the video!
Any size pan is fine for frying eggs. If you have the choice, use a pan that matches the number of eggs you're cooking: a small 8-inch skillet for a single egg, a larger 12-inch skillet if you're cooking brunch for a crowd.
Choose the Right Heat
A nice, steady medium heat is perfect for frying eggs. If the pan is too hot, the bottom cooks while the top is still liquidy. If the pan is cooler, the egg will take longer to cook. The pan should be just hot enough that you get a little bubbling action when the egg hits the skillet.
The Best Way to Cook the Top of the Egg
The only tricky part to frying an egg can be getting the top to set in a timely manner. Runny yolks are great, but runny whites? Not so much. I like to cover the pan partway through cooking and let the trapped heat and steam gently cook the top. You can also flip the egg over to fry the top and make an over-easy egg.
How Long to Cook?
How long you cook your eggs are a matter of personal preference. The whites will set in a few minutes, particularly if you cover the pan for a minute or two. When the whites are just set, the yolks will still be quite runny. This is usually when I pull out a plate and dig in, but if you like your yolks more firmly set, just continue cooking. Gently poke the yolk with your finger every so often to gauge how things are coming along.
Put an Egg on It
Fried eggs and toast is a meal unto itself, but if you're looking for more excuses to pull out your skillet and fry some eggs, check out the list below.
What are your tips for perfectly fried eggs? Any favorite dishes for using them?
More Ways to Eat a Fried Egg
Place the pan over medium heat. Add the butter or olive oil. Swirl the pan as the butter melts to evenly coat the surface. The pan is ready when the butter begins sizzling or when the oil becomes shimmery and very loose.
How To Fry an Egg
What You Need
1 teaspoon butter or olive oil, or more as needed to coat the bottom of the pan
1 or more large eggs
Small skillet, preferably nonstick or cast-iron (if using stainless steel or enamel, use a little more butter in the pan)
Lid, optional to cover
Fish spatula or other thin spatula
- Warm the pan and melt the butter: Place the pan over medium heat. Add the butter or olive oil. Swirl the pan as the butter melts to evenly coat the surface. The pan is ready when the butter begins sizzling or when the oil becomes shimmery and very loose.
- Add the egg: Crack the egg into a measuring cup and gently tip it into the skillet. You can crack the egg directly into the skillet if you prefer.
- Let the egg cook for a few minutes: Let the egg gently cook without moving it. The whites will start to set after a few minutes, followed by the yolk.
- Cook the top of the egg: To be sure the whites are totally set on a sunny-side-up egg, you can cover the pan partway through cooking. The steam from the egg and the butter will gently cook the top. You can also flip the egg over and cook for a minute on the other side. This turns a sunny-side-up egg into an over-easy egg!
- Remove from heat and eat: When the whites are set and the yolk is done to your liking, remove the pan from heat. Gently slide the spatula under the egg and transfer it to a plate. Eat immediately.
This post has been updated. Originally published August 2008.
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(Image credits: Leela Cyd)