Fried Eggs, Sunny-Side Up or Over Easy

MAKES: 1 or 2 servings

TIME: 10 minutes

Correctly cooked, fried eggs are neither tough nor rubbery, but nearly as delicate as poached, with tender whites and a barely cooked yolk. Low heat is the easiest way to achieve this, but with practice you’ll be able to use higher heat and get the same results. If you use the smaller amount of fat here, you’ll sacrifice some flavor and will have to take more care to prevent the eggs from sticking to the pan (unless you use a nonstick pan).

Butter, of course, is the most luxurious medium for cooking eggs and often the most delicious. But it’s hardly the only choice; extra virgin olive oil lends a delicious flavor (and, if you have not, you should try frying eggs in it, perhaps with a few sage leaves, finishing with a grating of Parmesan), and dark sesame oil is interesting, especially if you’re frying an egg to put on top of Jook. Grapeseed or corn oil is also acceptable.

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon butter or oil

2 eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the butter and swirl it around the pan. When its foam subsides, about a minute later, crack the eggs into the skillet. As soon as the whites lose their translucence this takes only a minute turn the heat to low and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook the eggs until the whites are completely firm; the last place for this to happen is just around the yolk. If the egg has set up high, rather than spread out thin, there are two techniques to encourage it to finish cooking: The first is to cut right through the uncooked parts with a small knife; this allows some of the still-liquid white to sink through the cooked white and hit the surface of the pan, where it will cook immediately. The second is to cover the skillet for a minute or two longer to encourage the white to finish cooking. Alternatively, of course, you can flip the eggs over when they’re solid enough to be lifted by a spatula. When the eggs are cooked, after about 5 minutes, remove them from the pan and eat immediately.

Variations

Fried Eggs with Cheese. Because sometimes you just feel like it: When the eggs just start to set up, sprinkle a tablespoon or two of grated cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss, Gruyre, or Parmesan on top of each egg.

Eggs in the Nes or Eggs in the Hole. In any case, eggs and toast all in one: For each egg, butter a slice of any sandwich bread and use a biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut a big hole out of the middle of each. (There should be little more than crust remaining.) After the butter melts in Step 1, put the bread slices and the circles butter side up in the pan and crack the eggs into the holes. When the eggs start to firm up, carefully flip the slices and the circles over and cook the other side for a few more seconds, then serve.

5 Simple Ideas for Fried Eggs

  1. As the butter or oil heats, season it with a few leaves of fresh herbs or a smashed clove of garlic.
  2. Fry some thinly sliced pieces of smoked tofu in the pan (in a little butter or oil) before cooking the eggs.
  3. As the white sets, use a butter knife to fold its edges over the yolk, making a little package and further protecting the yolk from overcooking.
  4. Add Worcestershire Sauce, Hold the Anchovies, or other liquid seasoning, like soy or hot sauce, to the white before it sets.
  5. Cook 1/2-inch-thick tomato slices either ripe or green tomatoes alongside the eggs (increase the amount of butter slightly).