How to Fry an Egg

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Heather says:

Today we’re covering fried eggs -as new projects to procrastinate develop- I’ll also address: scrambled eggs, omelets, frittatas, quiche, and my as yet unnamed hybrid of the three techniques that feeds my family on a busy evening when I have no interest in effort.


How to Fry an Egg Tutorial


So what is a fried egg? Well there are five ways to have them, in this tutorial:

The Great Fried Egg TutorialGot that?

If you do not have a nonstick pan before you even pull the eggs out of the fridge, you have a little prep work. Grab a bottle of vegetable oil, a paper towel, salt, and your pan. Wipe the pan with a thin coat of vegetable oil. Heat the pan over medium high heat until it is very hot, but not smoking. Turn off the burner and let it cool completely. Your pan is now conditioned and primed for use.

You must do this if you are using a stainless steel pan or the eggs will stick in the tiny scratches and pits on your pan’s surface. The vegetable oil seals these cracks and lets the eggs fry without making a horrific stuck on mess. If some bits of egg do stick to your pan, scrub with a little bit of salt and a paper towel between batches. If you use soap and water, you’ll have to recondition your pan before cooking more eggs.

Now we’re ready to fry some eggs.

Whether the eggs are basted, sunny side up, over light (easy), over medium, or over hard they all start the same:

Gather your conditioned or nonstick pan, your fat -butter, bacon grease, coconut oil, or vegetable oil,- and a spatula. Flipping eggs without a spatula will be covered in a future post. Just hang tight if that’s your goal.

The amount of fat you’ll use depends completely on the size of your pan. You want 1/8″ of fat / oil, less than that and the eggs may stick with more, they may be greasy.

Turn your burner to medium or your griddle to 325F. Allow the pan and fat to heat. To check and see if the pan is ready sprinkle a TINY -you read that right? TINY- amount of water. It should sizzle. If it pops, turn the heat DOWN.

Oil that is too hot causes brown, crispy edges.

Oil that is too cool lets the eggs spread too far which makes them harder to flip.

Reduce the heat to low, unless you’re using a griddle, in that case just leave it alone, but know you’ll have to flip sooner.

Now here’s where the methods diverge.

Baste with a lidFor basted eggs, sprinkle a few drops of water over the eggs and cover. Cook just until the whites are set. The steam will create a thin film of cooked white over the yolk.

For sunny side up eggs cook slowly until the whites are set, then use a spatula to remove from the pan. This is boring, but effective.

To fry eggs over light, medium, or hard they must be turned.

Egg Flip Slide the tip of your spatula all the way around the edge of the white, to ensure the egg is not sticking the pan. Then, slide the spatula halfway under the eggs, in one motion lift up and turn over toward the side of the egg that does not have the spatula under it. That edge (marked in my ever so spiffy illustration with a blue arrow) should never lose contact with the pan.

Remember! Flip gently or suffer the consequence of broken yolks. Remember you will probably break a few before you get the hang of the turn.

Ready to flipFor over light / easy eggs leave them alone until the edge of the white is set, there will still be a pool of unset white surrounding the yolk. Let the egg cook for only a few seconds to set the rest of the white and transfer it to a plate to serve.

Over medium eggs should cook until the white is mostly set, then turned and allowed to cook for 15 – 20 seconds. The yolk should be thick and partially, but not fully cooked. If you break it with a fork, it should still flow, but not be super runny.

Break YolksFor over hard eggs, break the yolk with a fork, then flip and allow to cook until the yolk is completely set.


Related Post:

How to Hard Boil an Egg

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36 thoughts on “How to Fry an Egg”

  1. My fiance pours about a half cup of olive oil (or bacon grease if he can get away with it) in a small pan and spoons the hot grease over his yokes while his eggs are cooking. The very idea of so much grease turns my stomach. Have you ever heard of such a thing? It can't be very healthy. 🙁 I think I'll make him the basted eggs and see if he notices a difference.

  2. when we make eggs for a family of 4 and no one ever seems to want the same type of eggs we have a simple rule to follow: fried eggs first in the pan, then omelets, then scrambled –that way each type of egg will come off the pan with out sticking, cause momma won't buy a non-stick pan 🙂

    thank you now we know what to order at a restaurant, i can never remember the names for the types of fried eggs!

  3. Oooooooo, the sight of sunny side up eggs turns my stomach!

    Jen, I wouldn't worry so much about the bacon grease as I would the undercooked yolks. Ugh!

    Sorry, but even my scrambled egg has to be dry and brown.

    Very instructive, though.

  4. I am kind of a weirdo and like the crispy brown edges on my eggs. I am an eggs over hard fan between and english muffin.

    Egg question: I love getting farm fresh eggs, but they are not always the same size. How do you size eggs so your recipe turns out right. ex:how many small eggs equals a large egg?

    • Volumes of roundish or egg-shaped objects are very, very deceptive to the eye so hopefully this will help those wishing to avoid 'over-egging' their breakfast!

      If one assumes the egg approximates to an ellipsoid in shape (3-D oval-ish because that is the closest regular shape to an egg) , then the volume (V) of the egg can be calculated by using the formula V = 1/6 x Pi x length x width x height, where Pi is something mathematical that one can look up or just use 3.14 because it's good enough for this purpose.

      So if your small egg was 5 cms in length and 4 cms wide and 4 cms deep, the approx volume would therefore be 1/6 x 3.14 x 5 x 4 x 4 = 42 cubic centimetres.

      If your medium egg is just one centimetre longer i.e. 6 cms, and its width and depth are scaled up the same amount (20%), so that it is the same shape as the small egg, then its volume is 72 cubic centimetres which is 1.73 times as big as the small egg. Let's say 1.75 because it makes the math easy. A figure of 1.75 means that 4 of the medium eggs are equivalent to 7 small eggs.

      If you go to the next stage and assume a large egg is 7 cms long and the same shape as the small and medium eggs then its volume is 115 cubic centimetres which is 2.74 times the volume of the smallest egg. Again let's say 2.75 between friends. And 2.75 times means that 4 large eggs produce the same sized meal as 11 small eggs (because 11/4 = 2.75).

      This is why your question is such a good one. It is not sufficient to know the number of eggs to understand the size of the breakfast eaten. It is important to know the size as well.

      This comment is not as good as finding money in the drier Heather but hopefully it's funnier and I haven't got any egg on my face.

  5. Great pictures, and very thorough description. Why didn't you do this 20 years ago?

    It took me a long while to be able to do "dippy" eggs (cooked with runny yolks to dip your toast in) — I always broke the yolks and they ended up scramble-fried. The basted eggs is the first way I learned to do it, but we called them blindfolded. I can do over easy now — MOST of the time. Occasionally, I still end up scramble-frying them.

  6. Okay, I'll try these. I NEED to learn this because I'm ridiculously inept at making anything but scrambled eggs. In fact, I have given up entirely even feigning to attempt any other style. Like I don't even say to my husband, "Do you want me to make yours over easy?" Because we both know I'm too lame to accomplish this fake offer. Now I just say, "Do you want some scrambled eggs?" And he either does or says he'll make it himself. Alas. I'm slightly skeptical that even your very thorough and lovely tutorial will be enough for my ineptitude. We'll see!

    • Why don't you make a few bacon egg and cheese sandwiches that require over hard eggs. Those will help you get the hang of the technique. Then step down to over medium. And remember eggs are fairly cheap, so if you screw up you're really not out that much.

      • That's not a bad idea. I'll try it. I'm not holding out a lot of hope though. Maybe treating the pan like you said will help too. I always feel like either I'm too uncoordinated or have the wrong tools. I just can't seem to make the flips without completely ruining the intended dish. It's still edible at that point, but not what it's supposed to be.

  7. Heather, you are a woman after my own heart! I can definately tell you worked for Waffle House, because the way eggs were cooked was always a disaster if someone ordered them one way and got them a way they didn't expect. Do you know how many cooks I had to teach how to cook eggs?!

  8. Reading some of your back stories, so you may have already been told about this…

    Over Well = same as Over Hard but with yolks intact (restaurants differentiate here… just an fyi)

    Sunny Side Up eggs cook a little better if you use your spatula to gently scrape the whites to the edge after the bottom has set somewhat… (restaurants often call this Up Well)

    (used to be a breakfast cook and have cooked far too many eggs in my life.. lol)

    Loving the blog!

  9. In my family we don't call them over easy, over hard. We call them "eggs with juice" or "eggs with no juice". Hey – when you're 4 years old I guess that just makes a bit more sense. 😉

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  11. Well, truth is eggs as well as chicken are fairly cheap food but if prepared properly they can be just fantastic, especially if you teach your husband how to do it (joking)! I prefer making simple meals as they require less work and you have more time to do other things.

  12. Wow. My cooking is pityful, and I’ve been wanting to learn this basic for years… Thanks! it is so comprehensive!

  13. Whites of eggs should ALWAYS be cooked. When calling over easy, over medium, over hard, etc, it’s in reference TO THE YOLK. The whites are cooked, no matter what the preparation.
    NEVER EVER should an over easy egg be served with runny whites. EVER. And if it can’t be served that way, then you’re doing it WRONG.

  14. I see people in here cringing at sunny side up because the egg yolks are not cooked but then they eat over medium. Look, the way I see it…if the yolk is runny…be it Sunny side up , over medium, over easy, poached…if the yolk is runny, it’s raw. Time for you to switch from all of the above over to hard boiled or scrambled or over hard. Some people also have the habit of cooking them in either too much butter or too much oil. Splashing oil on the egg as it’s swimming in fat because a lot of people don’t know how to flip an egg. Minimal oil…tsp or less of olive oil per egg and a non stick pan. Flip it with the pan. No I don’t used canned oil sprays. I don’t like covering and steaming my eggs to cook the tops…the whites come out pretty uneven and they don’t taste the same.

  15. I watched an episode on PBS that is a kind of experimental kitchen that tries different techniques and such. The person was trying different methods for frying eggs. She began with a small amount of olive oil at medium heat. Then added butter, increased the heat a bit, then used a room temperature egg. I followed her small method, and it’s was the best I ever had. I have duplicated the method many times since and it always comes out perfectly.

  16. My husband also taught me the flipping oil over the egg method. It works the best and if you keep the heat low the grease isn’t too bad. Studies are now showing that a certain amount of healthy oils in our diets are actually good for us. Runny eggs are a matter of taste, we love them and have never had any problems with them or worried about bacteria. People need to get over that particular bugbear! We don’t eat them raw (urrgh) and slightly runny with toast is a lovely meal!

  17. Great post! I usually make mine over easy/medium and I use a cast iron skillet. It will be fun to try a few different methods.

    I see several commenters concerned about runny yokes. It’s something I’ve never thought about before, as long as the whites are cooked and the egg is hot. It would be interesting to learn how much risk is involved with eating the different degrees of uncooked-cooked eggs, possibly factoring in store bought or local/farm fresh eggs. Would you be willing to touch on that topic?

    I look forward to your next post and learning how to poach an egg! Thank you. 🙂

  18. I use a very small cast iron skillet that belonged to my grandmother for eggs, especially eggs with runny yolks. I tried all kinds of oil and other pans, including one of the new ceramic pans, and the eggs always stuck. Always. Now I use a tiny bit a butter, less than a teaspoon really (for one egg) and they never stick.

  19. My son is on an egg “kick” and asked me the other day how many types of ways there are to make eggs. I’m going to show him this post. He’s too young to make them himself but he can tell me what he’d like to try.

    Great post! Thanks.



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