How to Fry an Egg

EggFried Egg

A perfectly fried egg is no mystery—it just takes a bit of practice in order to achieve mastery. Here's how to do it right, every time, with step by step instructions and photos.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

It’s a simple task, right? To fry an egg, you throw some butter in a pan, break an egg into it, and in a few minutes, you have breakfast. (Or maybe dinner or lunch!)

It’s not complicated, but even something as simple as frying an egg has its nuances.

PERFECT FRIED EGGS? BE DELICATE

I have a maxim for eggs: When you cook eggs, walk on eggs. Eggs are delicate, deserving of tender treatment. That usually translates into low heat and a few minutes of patience.

The method I am about to describe gives you perfectly cooked sunny side-up eggs, with soft yolks that beg for mopping up with toast, and whites that are cooked but not hard and rubbery.

In brief, the egg cooks over low heat with a lid on top of the pan for about 2 minutes, and then cooks for another 30 seconds (with the lid still on) to finish cooking with residual heat. That’s all there is to it.

Fried Egg Recipe cook the egg

THE BEST PAN FOR FRIED EGGS

Any pan of any material is fine for frying eggs! Choose a nonstick skillet or a well-seasoned cast iron skillet if you’re concerned about the egg sticking to the pan or don’t want to use a lot of butter in the pan. Stainless steel skillets are just fine, but be sure to use an extra teaspoon or two of butter.

A small, 8-inch skillet will accommodate two eggs. For more eggs, use a larger skillet. The method and timing remain the same.

DON’T FORGET THE LID!

A lid is the key to this low-heat method; it ensures that the egg will cook evenly.

Once the egg is in the pan, immediately top it with a lid. The lid traps the heat and steam from the egg, and helps it cook on both the bottom and on the top.

Without a lid, the bottom cooks too quickly and the top takes longer, so you’re more likely to end up with an overcooked, hard egg white by the time the yolk is done.

USE LOW HEAT FOR FRYING EGGS

Low heat will gently and evenly cook eggs to perfection. If the pan is too hot, then the bottom cooks quickly while the top remains runny and raw.

Once the egg is almost cooked, remove it from the heat. Leave the lid on and let the egg finish cooking from the residual heat of the pan; this keeps the egg from overcooking over direct heat.

BUTTER OR OIL FOR FRYING EGGS?

You can cook an egg in either butter or oil; it’s entirely up to your taste preference.

If you like the taste of butter, then go for it. Olive oil is a healthy choice and also delicious, especially when you are topping a savory dish, such a ratatouille or pasta with an egg.

How much butter or oil to use? Use 1 teaspoon of butter or oil per egg if using a nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Use 2 teaspoons of butter or oil if you’re using a stainless steel skillet.

Perfect Fried Egg

HOW LONG TO COOK FRIED EGGS

The total time to cook an egg using this method is between 3 and 4 minutes. Much depends on the exact temperature of your burner and the way your pan conducts heat.

But no worries! Just check the egg after about 90 seconds. Once all but a thin rim of the egg white around the yolk is opaque, remove the pan from the heat to finish cooking with the lid on.

If you like your eggs with firmer yolks, leave them on the heat until they are cooked to your liking. You may end up with a thin layer of cooked egg white that masks the sunny yolk.

HOW TO MAKE OVER-EASY FRIED EGGS

This method is for those who like soft yolks without a trace of shiny egg white.

Once the egg is cooked sunny side up, just flip the egg in the pan for about ten seconds to cook the top of the egg. For over-medium or over-hard, add a few more seconds.

The trick to flipping an egg for over easy-eggs is to use a thin spatula. Slide it directly under the yolk, which is the heaviest part of the egg. Once you have the spatula in place under the yolk, flip the egg and let it cook for 10 to 15 seconds.

Again, place the spatula directly under the yolk, remove the egg from the pan, and flip it again onto the plate so it is right side up.

How to Make Fried Eggs

HAVE YOUR PLATES READY!

Prepare the plates, toast, bacon, etc. before you start cooking the egg(s): Since eggs cook in a matter of minutes, cook bacon first, and push down the toaster while the egg cooks. Have plates ready and waiting.

NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST!

Ask any egg lover: Eggs aren’t just for breakfast! Who doesn’t love an egg sandwich, or an avocado toast topped with an egg for lunch? A solitary diner can whip up a quick and satisfying supper with an egg atop cooked vegetables, chili.

Fried eggs are also at home in a simple bowl of pasta tossed with olive oil, Parmesan, and plenty of pepper. You can take an egg from the fridge to the plate in a matter of about four minutes. That’s what I call fast and easy!

MORE WAYS TO COOK EGGS!

How to Fry an Egg

  • Cook time: 4 minutes
  • Yield: 1 fried egg

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons butter or olive oil, depending on your pan type

Special equipment:

  • 8- or 10-inch , well-seasoned cast iron skillet, or stainless steel skillet

Method

1 Heat the pan: Melt the butter or heat the oil  in your skillet over low heat for 1 minute. Use 1 teaspoon of butter or oil per egg if using a nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Use 2 teaspoons of butter or oil if you're using a stainless steel skillet.

Swirl the pan to coat the bottom.

2 Cook the egg on the heat: Break the egg into the skillet, and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, covered, or until all but a thin rim of egg white around each yolk is opaque.

Perfect Fried Egg break the egg into the skillet

3 Finish cooking the egg off the heat: Remove the pan from the heat, keep covered, and let sit for about 30 seconds to finish cooking.

If you want to make an over-easy egg, use a thin spatula and slide it directly under the yolk. Gently lift the egg and flip it over, and let it cook for 10 to 15 seconds. Add a few more seconds a piece for both over-medium and over-hard.

Fried Egg Recipe cook the egg

4 Serve: Remove the lid. Slide a spatula directly under the yolk when removing from the pan and serve.

How to Make Fried Eggs

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

More from Sally

7 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Anastasia

    Thank you my eggs came out perfect.
    Greetings from Athens Greece.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Nasar

    Sometimes, I do not have much time to make my own breakfast. So, the fried egg is the best sidedish to accompany my breakfast routine.

  3. Ed

    Pan-flipping is so much better than spatula.

  4. Sandy S

    Must admit that the pictures made me hungry for bacon and eggs even though I rarely eat bacon any more! I do my eggs a little differently. I like the yoke soft enough to dunk any toast in, but I don’t like the yoke starring up at me. So, I do just as you do but before putting the lid on, I add a small splash of water to the pan. This will produce a thin layer of cooked white over the yoke while leaving the yolk soft. It’s a prettier finish than an easy-over-egg. It also makes it quite easy to clean the fry pan. For those who like to add the flavor of herbs, they also can be added before the water and lid either with a sprinkle directly on the eggs or a sprig or two in the water. Two of my favorites are lemon thyme and marjoram .

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Julie

    I spoon the melted butter over the whites and don’t use a lid.

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