Monday, May 7, 2012

Fried Eggs

Fried Eggs in frying pan

Over Easy, Sunny Side Up, Whatever — They’re Easy and Tasty 

Fried Eggs make excellent eats for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

They are inexpensive, high in protein, and chockfull of nutrients. But many people avoid them because of worries about cholesterol. Well, good news! Scientists now largely agree that eggs pose little danger (I have more information about this, plus links to scientific sources, in my Red Pepper and Onion Frittata post). Most of us can now eat eggs more frequently.

So how do you like your eggs cooked? Sunny Side Up? Over Easy? Over Medium or Hard? Basted? All are popular choices that take just minutes to prepare.

Best of all, nothing is easier to cook — once you know the basics, at least.

Fried Eggs in frying pan

Before You Begin:  Utensils and Flipping

Most cooks use a frying pan (skillet) to fry eggs.   A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is ideal.  So is a non-stick frying pan.  If you cook eggs a lot, I highly recommend purchasing a 7-inch non-stick skillet.  This is the perfect size for cooking one or two eggs.  If you’re cooking more than that, you’ll need to use another 7-inch skillet or cook your eggs in batches.  But since eggs take only a couple of minutes to fry (unless you’re cooking them Over Hard), the first batch will stay warm while you’re frying the rest.  And if you’re cooking for a number of people, each of whom wants his/her eggs cooked in a different style — well, cooking them one or two at a time in a small skillet is the easiest way to go.

And with a smaller skillet, it’s easy to turn the eggs by flipping them (instead of using a spatula).  You think flipping sounds scary?  OK, it is the first few times.   So here are some flippin’ tips: 
  • First, lift the pan from the burner and give it a slight shake to make sure the egg(s) can slide around freely.  Then in one quick movement, extend your arm (and skillet) forward (away from you) and give the skillet a slight but definite movement upward (by an inch or two; kind of a gentle jerk).  As you slide the skillet forward, the egg will also slide forward and start curling up at the front rim of the skillet.  By jerking the skillet up, you cause the egg to accelerate its slide up the forward rim of the pan and flip in midair as it leaves the pan.  To catch the egg after it’s flipped over, usually just leave the skillet where it is — the egg will fall into it.  Sometimes you have to adjust the position of the skillet slightly to make a clean catch though.
  • The biggest danger is jerking the pan too hard, which can cause the egg to rise too high in the air.  When this happens, the yolk could break. 
  • You can practice your technique by flipping a handful of beans.  Just flip them until you get the hang of the technique.  There are also a lot of YouTube videos out there that demonstrate egg flippery.
Instead of using a skillet, you can fry your eggs on a griddle.  If using a portable electric griddle, set the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Recipe:  How to Fry an Egg

The most important thing to remember about frying eggs is:  Do Not Use Too Much Heat.  If your pan gets too hot, you can burn the edges of the egg whites and turn them into a rubbery mess.  Your stovetop burner should never be turned higher than medium. Medium-low is better with many pans — you may have to experiment to find the proper heat on your range.  This means your egg may take an extra minute to cook, but so what?  Delicious sometimes takes just a bit more time.

For this recipe, I assume you’re using a “standard” skillet that measures 10 inches or so, not the 7-inch job (the instructions would be the same for a smaller skillet, but you may be able to get away with a bit less butter).

Frying an egg is more technique than actual recipe.  All you’re doing is cracking an egg open and placing the contents onto a heated, slippery surface (made slippery either through fat or by using a nonstick pan, or both), seasoning with salt and pepper if you wish, and cooking until you consider it done.  “Done” is defined by how solid you want your egg white and yolk to be.  Some styles of fried eggs have to be turned over once or twice while they cook.

This is the entire recipe.  But a few additional details are helpful.  Although these details differ somewhat depending on what style of egg you’re cooking (over easy, over hard, etc.), once you learn how to cook one, you can pretty much cook them all.

This recipe serves one.  Or maybe I should say half of one — most people like a 2-egg serving.  Which is no problem:  Just fry two eggs at once (you don’t need to increase the amount of butter).  Cooking 4 eggs?  Then use about twice as much butter.  More than 4 eggs?  I’d do them in multiple batches unless you feel very comfortable handling that many eggs at one time.

Sunny Side Up:  The instructions that follow describe how to fry an egg “sunny side up” — meaning the egg is cooked on only one side (not turned over).  See below for a discussion on cooking other fried-egg variations.

  • 1 fresh egg (as fresh as possible; see Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon butter (or 2 teaspoons if you want a bit more taste; may also substitute extra virgin olive oil or bacon fat)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add butter and turn to medium-low.
  2. The butter will melt and foam.  This means it’s hot and ready for cooking. 
  3. At this point, crack the egg on a flat surface, such as a countertop (if you crack it on the edge of the pan, bits of egg shell are more likely to break off and fall in).  Add the egg to the pan.
  4. Alternate method:  Sometimes yolks break when you’re adding the egg to the pan (this is particularly true with eggs that aren’t fresh).  If you’re concerned about this, you can crack the egg into a small bowl.  Assuming the yolk remains intact, you can then gently add the contents of the bowl to your skillet when the butter is hot and foamy.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, and cook the egg until the white is set and solid (if you like egg whites to be a bit runny, remove the egg from the pan before the white is fully set).  Add more salt and pepper if necessary, and serve. 
Cooking Other Fried Egg Variations
  • Over Easy eggs are cooked on both sides; the yolk should be intact (unbroken) and not cooked solid; the whites should be a bit runny.  (By the way, most people like their whites fully cooked, which is “Over Medium.”  So if someone says they want their eggs Over Easy, clarify what that actually means to them.  Many — probably most — people don’t really like runny egg whites.)  To cook an egg Over Easy, follow the procedure for Sunny Side Up.  Once the egg white is just beginning to set, use a spatula to flip the egg (gently, so the yolk doesn’t break).  Cook until the white is opaque but not completely set (usually no more than 15 seconds after you flip the egg).  I usually flip the egg over again to serve, but you don’t have to.
  • Over Medium eggs are fried like Over Easy, but just a bit longer so the whites become fully set (as noted above, this is what most people really want when they order Over Easy).  To cook an egg Over Medium, follow the procedure for Sunny Side Up.  Once the egg white is set, use a spatula to flip the egg (gently, so the yolk doesn’t break).  Cook for another 30 seconds or so after you flip, then serve (I usually flip the egg again before serving).
  • Over Well eggs should have the yolk intact, but cooked solid.  To cook an egg Over Well, follow the procedure for Sunny Side Up.  Once the egg white is set, use a spatula to flip the egg (gently, so the yolk doesn’t break).  Cook for another minute or so after you flip, then serve (I usually flip the egg again before serving).
  • Over Hard eggs have a broken yolk, and are cooked until both the white and the yolk are solid and firm.  Follow the procedure for Sunny Side Up, but once the egg hits the pan, break the yolk (use your finger or the tip of a spoon or paring knife).  Cook on the first side until the white is totally set and the yolk nearly so, then flip and cook until the yolk is completely set.  To serve, I usually flip the egg again.
  • Basted Eggs require you to add some liquid to the pan and then cover it until the eggs are cooked.  Start with the recipe for Sunny Side Up.  When the whites are just set (the point where you’d flip them if you were cooking them “over”), add 2 or 3 tablespoons of liquid (water is OK, but chicken stock is tastier; if you’re using a 7-inch pan, you only need one tablespoon of liquid).  Swirl the pan so the liquid is evenly distributed, then cover with a tight-fitting lid.  The egg will cook partially by steam, creating a yolk with that is no longer pure yellow but has a gauzy light-white cast to it.  Cook until the egg whites are totally set and the yolk is as well done as you like.  You may have to try this method a couple of times to learn for yourself how long you like the eggs cooked.  For me, after I cover the skillet with the lid, I usually cook the egg for about a minute.
Fried Eggs on plate

  • For this recipe, you really want to use eggs that are as fresh as possible.  When eggs are older, their whites tend to spread out more when you cook them and the yolks begin to flatten.
  • That doesn’t mean you need freshly laid eggs (though if you can get your hands on some, by all means use them — their flavor is a revelation). It just means that if you buy your eggs at the supermarket (as most of us do), then you should fry them as soon as possible — and well before the expiration date marked on the carton. If your eggs are at or past their sell-by date, make Hard-Boiled Eggs) instead (they’re actually easier to make when the eggs are older). 
  • Many supermarkets — and most farmers’ markets — now offer organic and free-range eggs.  The flavor difference is noticeable.  They’re more expensive, but IMO the additional flavor is worth the cost.
  • Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella.  So you may want to use pasteurized eggs if this concerns you.  The issue is particularly important if you’re cooking your eggs Over Easy, or any style with a yolk that’s not fully cooked (i.e., still runny), because the egg may not reach the heat level necessary to kill salmonella.  
  • Alas, I’m not aware of any pasteurized eggs that come from free-range chickens — so there’s a flavor tradeoff.
  • You can identify pasteurized eggs because they have usually a red “P” stamped on them.
  • If you haven’t used olive oil to fry eggs, it’s worth a try.  Different taste than butter — not necessarily “better,” but quite pleasant.  And it’s a touch healthier.
  • I usually season eggs with salt and pepper right after I add them to the pan, as indicated in Step 5.  This allows me to “cook in” the seasoning.  But if you prefer, you can skip this and season the eggs at table to your taste.
  • You can also season with other spices and herbs if you like.  But use just a touch — too much and their flavor will dominate.
  • Even after you remove eggs from the pan, they continue to cook from residual heat.  Which is one reason that most “Over Easy” eggs you order in restaurants actually arrive at table “Over Medium,” even if they were cooked Over Easy in the kitchen (and usually they’re cooked a bit more anyway because, as discussed above, most people don’t really like runny egg whites).
  • Over Hard eggs work well in fried-egg sandwiches.  If you want a sandwich with a runny yolk, use an Over Medium egg.
Fried Eggs on black aacrylic

Breakfast for Dinner

Back in the day, bacon and eggs were common breakfast fare. Today it seems we all have less time in the morning (and are eating lighter anyway). So most of us enjoy this treat only on occasional weekends. Or maybe in the evening — the whole “breakfast for dinner” concept is popular in many households.

And why not? A meal that seems like too much first thing in the morning may be perfect at night. And a menu that takes too long to cook when you’re rushing to get ready for work turns out to be pretty quick for dinner. If you go the whole nine yards — having not only eggs and bacon (or sausage), but also hashed browns and maybe toast or biscuits — it can make a hearty meal. And a nice glass of wine pairs just as well with it as orange juice and coffee. Better, I’d say.

So that’s why Mrs. Kitchen Riffs and I were having breakfast at dinnertime a few days ago.  I had prepared the bacon and was starting on the eggs as Mrs K R was buttering the toast.

“How would you like your eggs?” I asked.  “Over Easy?  Up?  Basted?”

“Actually, I was thinking scrambled.”


I guess that’s another post for some future date.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Hard-Boiled Eggs
Baking Powder Biscuits
Red Pepper and Onion Frittata
Ham, Bacon, and Cheddar Frittata
Corned Beef Hash


Beth said...

I always think of eggs as a miracle food. Who discovered their properties in baking? Eggs elevate baked goods like nothing else does, and they're pretty good on their own, too.

And I'm enchanted by the idea of flipping eggs.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Beth, eggs really are a great food. And you're right about their baking properties - just incredible. Flipping eggs is a lot of fun - but does take a bit of practice to learn how to do it. At least it did for me. But once you learn how to do it, you'll never go back to using a spatula for turning eggs. Thanks for taking time to comment.

Claudia said...

A few times a week ... over medium. It took years for me to perfect the flip. Should've had this post years ago!

Kimberly said...

Two eggs basted in bacon grease ... that's what I'm craving right now thanks to your post! Informative and hunger-inducing as always!

P.S. We typically do "breakfast for dinner" at least once a week!

TastefullyJulie said...

Who knew photos of eggs could be so beautiful? I love basted eggs but I never thought to use chicken stock before. Yummy!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Claudia, isn't the flip great? Once you figure it out - and it can take some time. Thanks for your comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Kimberly, I love breakfast for dinner! And bacon grease is the best. I sometimes microwave our bacon, which does a pretty good job of cooking it - but you lose all the grease! Sorry to make you hungry. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi TastefullyJulie, even better than chicken stock is a bit of red wine - although it'll color your eggs. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

Jeanne said...

I 'm not an egg flipper (yet!), but I prefer scrambled eggs so I guess I don't really need to learn! Gorgeous photos here.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Jeanne, flipping eggs is loads of fun, but not real high on the list of things most people need to learn how to do! ;-) Thanks for the compliment, and for commenting.

Katherine Martinelli said...

What a great tutorial - so thorough! I've been cooking eggs a long time and I still learned a few things here. I've never even tried to flip my eggs without a spatula; I know what I'm doing this weekend :-)

Choc Chip Uru said...

Perfectly done has come up with another meaning - these eggs look perfect and make me want to gobble them up when I cannot even stand omelettes ;)

Choc Chip Uru

Laura @ Family Spice said...

Mmmmm.... eggs! Love 'em scrambled and over easy! Great information you've posted.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Katherine, have fun this weekend! This isn't one of those skills anyone really needs, but it's so satisfying to learn! Thanks for stopping by.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Choc Chip Uru, what a nice thing to say! Thanks for that, and for taking time to comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Laura, and don't forget over hard - for fried egg sandwiches (a seriously underrated sandwich). Thanks for your comment.

Vicki Bensinger said...

I prefer my eggs over easy or in an omelet. However I'm not too picky other than I hate them in salads. I don't know why but I do.

Lots of great information about eggs that's so helpful. Plus the photo at the end with the eggs reflection is exquisite. You need to submit that someplace. I'm sure it would win an award. Maybe the Egg Council.

Gintare @Gourmantine said...

What a wonderful tribute to eggs! This actually got me thinking that I don't eat enough eggs (barely few times a month) and always sunny side up :)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Vicki, I love how everyone's taste is different! I really enjoy an egg in salads for, example. And I love omelets, too. Thanks for the kind words about the last photo. I like it a lot, too; but unless you know what it is, it doesn't really say "egg" - which is why it's not my first photo. (Kinda looks like Saturn!) Other than that, it's pretty cool! Thanks for taking time to comment.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Gourmantine, sunny side up works. ;-) One of the prettiest ways to serve eggs, IMO. Thanks for your comment.

Yi @ Yi Reservation said...

Excellent post on fried eggs! There are just so many ways you can fry an egg! Personally I like to fry my eggs over medium in my cast iron which cooks eggs perfectly. Thanks again for sharing this!

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Yi, eggs are so versatile! I love them. And love cast iron, too (although when it comes to frying eggs, I won't be separated from my 7-inch nonstick pan - all that flipping, you know). Thanks for stopping by.

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Amazing egg picture!!! And you certainly know how to cook perfect eggs. You wrote very good tips here. :-)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Nami, I love cooking eggs! Does it show? ;-) Thanks for the nice words, and the comment.

Patty said...

Love fried eggs! I feel like they don't always get love. Sunnyside, overeasy foreves for me:)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Patty, I love them too! And I'll eat them any which way - I like them all. Thanks for your comment.

Terra said...

I could eat eggs EVERYDAY! I like them anyway, but over-easy is my favorite:-) I love yolk in my egg sandwich, makes it perfect! Gorgeous pictures! Take care, Terra

Kitchen Riffs said...

Hi Terra, me too! They've got a great taste, are healthy, and remarkably low in calories. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

Carolyn Jung said...

Those are THE most perfect sunny-side up eggs I've ever seen. You have mad skills with eggs. ;)

Kitchen Riffs said...

Carolyn! Such an incredibly nice thing to say. Thank you so much.