We Tried 5 Ways of Making Egg-in-a-Hole and Found a Clear Winner (That’s Also the Easiest)

published Sep 12, 2023
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A topdown view of 5 egg-in-a-hole variations, cooked by different methods.
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer. Food Styling: Ben Weiner

If you’ve ever made an egg-in-a-hole, you know that it’s simply delightful. Of course, this classic breakfast goes by many other names. You may call it toad in a hole, egg in a frame, egg in a nest, egg in a basket, or something else entirely. 

Quick Overview

So, What Is the Best Way to Make an Egg-in-a-Hole?

Baking on a sheet pan is the absolute best way to make egg-in-a-hole. In our testing, this method resulted in the most evenly cooked sunny-side-up egg and perfectly cooked toast. It also offers you a hands-free method that you don’t have to babysit.

Now, while the components of egg-in-a-hole are simple, nailing the dish can be a little tricky, especially if you’re aiming for a sunny-side-up egg. How exactly should you cook the bread and egg so that both reach the ideal doneness and texture together, at the same time? Is it best to do it all on the stovetop, start on the stovetop then finish in the oven, or go oven only? If you do cook it on the stovetop, what type of pan works best? To find out, I scoured the internet for popular methods and put them to the test. Read on to find out how they all fared.

How I Found the Best Way to Make an Egg-in-a-Hole

  • The ingredients: I used the same ingredients to test each method: thick, pre-sliced white bread; salted butter; large eggs; kosher salt; and freshly ground black pepper.  
  • The tests: I tested each method twice to get a good feel for it. In some cases, I’ve noted that I adjusted the cooking temperature for the second test. With each test, I started by spreading softened butter over both sides of the bread, cutting out the hole with a 2 1⁄2–inch round cutter, and proceeding from there. Some methods called for melting butter in the pan and then adding the bread, but to keep things equal across all tests, I simply buttered the bread first. Also, though I don’t go into detail about this below, of course I toasted the cut-out circle of bread along with the egg-in-a-hole — that little circle is arguably the best part!
  • The times: All of the times I’ve listed are for the entire process, which includes any preheating of the oven or the pan.
  • Ratings: My goal was a sunny-side-up egg and nicely toasted bread. I judged each method on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing perfection. The main criteria I considered were texture and flavor — how loose or set the egg got, how toasted (or burned) the toast became, and the flavors that resulted in the end. 
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer. Food Styling: Ben Weiner

Egg-in-a-Hole Method: Air Fryer

  • Time: about 7 minutes
  • Rating: 3/10 

About this method: I found several online sources for this method but in the end used the cooking times and general instructions from The Foodie Affair and Everything Air Fryer. Following the instructions of the former, you line the air fryer basket with parchment paper, place the buttered and cut bread on top, crack an egg into the hole, and air-fry at 375°F for 5 to 7 minutes. If you go the latter route, you don’t cut the bread but instead make a depression in the center of the slice by pressing a dry measuring cup down into it; you then place the bread in the air fryer basket, crack an egg into the depression, and air-fry at 340°F for 6 to 7 minutes. (My air fryer doesn’t have a 340°F temperature setting, so I cooked at 350°F.) With both methods, you season the egg with salt and pepper at the end.

Results: I used my classic basket-style Phillips countertop air fryer to test these, and I had poor results with the two methods. They both gave me the same results—a beautifully toasted piece of bread but an unpleasant tough, plasticky film on the top of the egg and underdone whites within. The egg white looked set (and it even passed the jiggle test!), but when I cut in, the white was uncooked inside. I tried each method again, going for a longer amount of time at a lower temperature. Although the egg whites seemed to cook through with those settings, I still ended up with that tough film on top of the egg.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer. Food Styling: Ben Weiner

Egg-in-a-Hole Method: Cast-Iron Skillet, Stovetop

  • Time: about 7 minutes
  • Rating: 6/10 

About this method: We’ve seen great success with cooking sunny-side-up eggs in a cast-iron skillet, but I had a hard time finding a source for a cast-iron-cooked egg-in-a-hole. (Most cast-iron methods are for an over-easy egg that you flip over and cook on both sides). However, I finally found some instructions from supermarket chain H-E-B. Their recipe calls for heating a “heavy bottom skillet” over medium heat for a couple of minutes, adding the buttered bread, and cooking it until toasted on the bottom. At that point, you flip the bread over, toasted side up, crack an egg into the cut-out, cover the pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the white is set. Although the recipe didn’t call for it, I seasoned the egg with salt and pepper at the end.

Results: The finished product looked pretty in the pan, with nicely toasted bread facing up and what looked like a gorgeous sunny-side-up egg in the middle. But when I cut in to take a bite, I saw that the bottom of the bread was scorched. The bottom half of the egg was well done—crispy on the bottom and like a hard-boiled egg up to the midpoint. I wanted a runnier yolk, so I tried again, cooking at medium-low heat. As expected, it took a little longer for the egg white to set (an additional 1 ½ minutes), and the bread was still scorched in spots on the bottom. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer. Food Styling: Ben Weiner

Egg-in-a-Hole Method: Nonstick Skillet

  • Time: about 10 minutes
  • Rating: 7/10 

About this method: To test this method, I followed the instructions from Fit Foodie Finds: Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low, add the bread, and cook until toasted on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Then flip the bread over, crack the egg into the hole, cover the pan, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. When it’s done, you’ll season the egg with salt and pepper.

Results: By the time the egg white was set (4 ½ minutes for me), the bottom of the bread was overly slightly burnt, though not scorched like the stovetop cast-iron method.. Some people love that level of toastiness, including my husband, but I prefer more evenly toasted bread.I tried again on a heat setting between medium-low and low. Unfortunately, it took about 6 minutes to get the egg white set, and the bottom of the bread was still overcooked.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer. Food Styling: Ben Weiner

Egg-in-a-Hole Method: Cast-Iron Skillet, Stovetop to Oven

  • Time: 17 minutes
  • Rating: 8.5/10 

About this method: I used the recipe from Leite’s Culinaria to test this method. Heat the oven to 475°F, then heat a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Place the buttered bread in the skillet and cook until it’s toasted on the bottom,about 2 minutes. Then flip the bread, crack the egg into the hole, and immediately transfer the pan to the oven, checking for doneness at 4 minutes. When the pan comes out of the oven, you’ll season the egg with salt and pepper.

Results: I let the first test cook in the oven for 4 ½ minutes, and the egg was just barely overdone. The bread was deeply toasted on both sides but not at all burned. The egg had a crisp crust on the bottom from the hot pan—but the middle and top of the egg were tender and soft. For my second test, I pulled the pan out of the oven after 4 minutes, and it was lovely, with a crunchy, evenly browned toast, a looser yolk, and a bit of a crust on the bottom of the egg. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer. Food Styling: Ben Weiner

Egg-in-a-Hole Method: Oven

  • Time: 18 minutes
  • Rating: 10/10 

About this method: To test cooking egg-in-a-hole on a sheet pan in the oven, I used the recipe from Kirbie Cravings. You start by heating the oven to 400°F and coating a sheet pan with cooking spray. Then you’ll place the cut-out bread on the pan, crack an egg into the hole, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Results: This method produced the most evenly cooked toast and egg by far. The bread was beautifully golden brown on both sides, and the egg was equally gorgeous and delicious—with a tender (but fully set) white and wonderfully gooey, creamy yolk. Unlike the stovetop methods, where the bottom of the bread always risks scorching while you wait for the egg to properly cook, the oven’s even heat (hitting the food from all sides, not only centered on the underside as in the stovetop methods) cooked the elements perfectly.

Another bonus with this method: You don’t have to flip the bread or babysit it in any way; it just goes into the oven until your time goes off. But perhaps the best benefit? You can cook a single egg-in-a-hole if you want, or as many as 8 to 12 at one time, depending on the size of your bread. This is ideal for times when you have a houseful of guests or simply a hungry family to feed.