How to Fry the Perfect Sunny-Side-Up Eggs

Updated on January 2, 2020
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Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.

How to Fry a Sunny-Side-Up Egg

A perfectly cooked, sunny-side-up egg. Tender, well done whites, a warm, runny yolk, and perfect pepper!
A perfectly cooked, sunny-side-up egg. Tender, well done whites, a warm, runny yolk, and perfect pepper!

6 Steps to Frying the Perfect Sunny-Side-Up Egg

Eggs are one of the recently christened superfoods—and what's not to love? They are loaded with nutrition, packed with protein, and absolutely delicious. There are few things better than a perfectly cooked, fried egg, and an egg fried sunny-side-up is about the best of the best. Perfectly set whites that are tender, and a yolk that is warm and runny make the best breakfast there is. Or pair one up with an awesome burger, a toasted sandwich, or use as a topping for a bright, fresh green salad. Once you've tried this technique, you'll see how easy it is to make the perfect egg, and you'll be whipping them out in no time. All you need is:

  • fresh eggs
  • a non-stick skillet (or perfectly seasoned cast iron pan)
  • Olive oil, butter, bacon drippings, or cooking spray
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • a small bowl

Want Perfectly Round Eggs?

If you're topping a burger or sandwich with a beautiful fried egg, you may want it to be perfectly round. It's an easy trick!

Cut the top and bottom off of a small round can, such as what tuna or salmon comes in. Wash it well and dry it. Place the open ended can in the skillet.

Carefully slide the egg into the circle, and proceed with the recipe as usual!

My whole life I've been trying to cook an egg the right way.

--Jose Andre

Farm Fresh Eggs

Fresh eggs work better, since fresh whites tend to hold their shape better than those that are a bit older.
Fresh eggs work better, since fresh whites tend to hold their shape better than those that are a bit older.

Step 1: Get Everything You Need Ready

Eggs cook very quickly—about 5-6 minutes at most once you've got your pan preheated, so it helps to lay out everything you need before you start. You don't need much.

Make sure you have a good, heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet. I don't use nonstick skillets for very much in my kitchen, preferring cast iron or stainless steel. But I do have a single omelet pan I adore. When I teach how to cook eggs, I coach toward starting with nonstick, but if you're lucky enough to have properly seasoned cast iron, that works just as well since the seasoned surface of cast iron is almost nonstick itself. So get your pan ready and place it over medium-low heat.

Pick whichever type of oil you'd like to use. You can use cooking spray, but for more flavor, check out butter, olive oil, or bacon drippings. I use all three on a regular basis, swapping them out depending on what else I may be cooking or how I'm going to serve the eggs. If I'm already making bacon, I'll use that—the flavor is delightfully unctuous and rich. Olive oil is my go-to if I'm using the eggs to top a salad, or I'll use butter for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack. You'll want about a tablespoon or two of whatever oil you're using. It seems like a lot, but you'll drizzle the hot oil over the top of your eggs as they cook in order to set the top of the yolks.

You'll need a small bowl to crack your eggs into. This makes it easier to slide them into the skillet without breaking the yolks. Otherwise, all you need is a little kosher salt and black pepper, and you're ready to go!

Step 2: Add Oil to the Preheated Skillet

Eggs work best with a gentle heat, so heat the skillet to medium to medium low. I set my own stove just below medium (on a 1-10 scale).

Add the oil you want to use, and wait just a few seconds for the oil to come up to temperature. Preheating the oil and skillet to an easy medium low heat helps make sure that your egg whites will be cooked through, stay tender, yet ensure that the yolk doesn't set too soon. You'll know that your skillet is preheated correctly if a few drops of water barely sizzle when dropped in the pan. If the water pops and crackles, the skillet is too hot. Remove it from the heat, lower the temperature and replace the skillet after about a minute.

Once you're added the oil, tilt the skillet to make sure the entire surface is coated. You need enough to coat the bottom, and about an extra two teaspoons that will pool when the skillet is tilted, in order to have enough to baste the eggs.

Step 3: Crack Eggs Into a Small Dish

Crack your eggs into a small bowl or dish. The best way to crack an egg is to firmly tap it on a flat surface—not the edge of a counter or container. Tapping it onto a flat surface prevents any of the shell from getting into the cracked egg.

Once cracked, gently pull apart the halves of the shell, keeping the egg close to the surface of the bowl. This helps keep the yolk from breaking. If you break the eggs into a small dish, you can also give a quick look for bits of broken shell, or broken yolks.

Crack Eggs Into a Small Bowl

It's easier to check for shell fragments and broken yolks if you crack eggs into a small bowl prior to cooking.
It's easier to check for shell fragments and broken yolks if you crack eggs into a small bowl prior to cooking.

Step 4: Slide the Eggs Into the Preheated Skillet

Holding the skillet in one hand, tilt the skillet slightly. Place the edge of the bowl containing the eggs as close to the surface of the skillet as possible. Slowly and carefully tilt the eggs into the skillet. Try to avoid dropping the eggs—if you slide them out slowly and gently you have a much better chance of not breaking the yolks.

Cover the skillet, and let the eggs cook for about 4 minutes or so until the whites are cooked through and opaque. The yolk will still be soft and runny, which is perfect.

Once you've got the eggs in the skillet, give them a light sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. I love freshly cracked black pepper with eggs—it's one of the most wonderful things on the planet.

Slide Eggs Gently Into Preheated Skillet

Cast iron, if well cared for, works just as well as a non stick skillet.
Cast iron, if well cared for, works just as well as a non stick skillet.

Step 5: Baste the Eggs

After about 4 minutes, tilt the skillet slightly to let the extra oil or butter pool slightly to one side. With a teaspoon, pick up the extra oil and drizzle it over the top of the eggs. This hot oil or butter will help set the top of the eggs, firming the exterior of the whites and setting the top of the yolk. Basting this way helps ensure the whites are completely cooked through, and firming the yolk helps prevent breaking. It also prevents the finished eggs from keeping that really unpleasant texture of uncooked egg whites. The best that can be said of an undercooked egg white is that it's 'snotty.' Ugh. So for the last minute or two of cooking, baste the tops of the eggs with the hot oil or butter.

Step 6: All Done!

Give your eggs about 1-2 minutes—but no more—with basting, and they're done. You're looking for completely set whites, and yolks that are set on the exterior, but warm and runny on the interior. The only trick at this point is removing the eggs from the skillet without breaking the yolk.

To do this, hold the edge of a spatula next to the edge of the egg white. Tilt the skillet with one hand, and quickly push the spatula under the egg. Moving the spatula quickly and firmly under the eggs is much easier than moving slowly—you have a better chance of moving the eggs successfully if you use a nice, swift movement. Then just transfer the eggs to wherever you want them.

In all honesty, you will probably have to practice this a few times to get it right. It's one of those tricky little things that takes just a bit of practice, but once you nail it, you've got it for good.

Butter-Basted, Sunny-Side-Up Eggs

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