Here's how to fry eggs, whether you like 'em sunny side up, over hard, or somewhere in-between.
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two fried eggs in a skillet
Credit: Meredith

Frying eggs is one of those seemingly straightforward techniques every cook needs to know. But, for many, it's all broken yolks and slimy whites. (Which sounds kind of like a country song, doesn't it?)

Let's take a minute to marvel at this amazing food, a protein powerhouse that goes from raw to cooked in minutes. One of the reasons many cooks find eggs a challenge to fry is that there are two separate types of protein in this handy little package. The lean whites cook more quickly than the creamy yolks. Overcook and end up with rubbery whites. Under-cooked whites are slimy. To hit the sweet spot, a two-pronged approach is needed. Actually, there are several two-pronged approaches that work well.

How to Fry Eggs, Four Ways

I'll show you how to fry eggs so the whites and yolks are cooked the way you like.

1. Sunny Side Up

Sunny side up eggs are eggs that are fried only on one side, leaving the yolk runny and perfectly dippable. The key is to keep the yolk runny but set the whites. Here's how:

  1. Heat a non-stick or a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon cooking oil until the oil starts to shimmer. If using butter, wait until it stops sizzling, but before it starts to turn brown.
  2. Add the egg to the skillet.
  3. Wait until the white begins to set, and then use a fork to gently break up the white closest to the yolk, being careful not to pop the yolk. By doing this, you're pulling the layer of white that surrounds the yolk out towards the edge. This smooth move is used by diner cooks and chefs to cook the white evenly. It also means the egg won't have that gooey slime that turns so many people off with sunny side eggs.
  4. No need to flip; serve the egg when cooked so that whites are uniformly white (no longer clear). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Over Easy Eggs

Over easy eggs still have that runny yolk, but the egg is flipped and briefly cooked on the second side so that the white is well set.

  1. Heat a non-stick or a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon cooking oil until the oil starts to shimmer. If using butter, wait until it stops sizzling, but before it starts to turn brown.
  2. Add the egg to the skillet.
  3. As soon as the whites have become slightly firm and the yolk begins to set, after about 2 minutes, use a large spatula to flip it, turning the egg gently, so the yolk doesn't break.
  4. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds more and serve with the flipped side up. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Alternate method 1: You can avoid flipping the egg by basting it with the cooking oil or butter. Simply tip the pan a bit to spoon up the hot fat and pour it back over the egg. Repeat several times until the white is set.

Alternate method 2: Another approach involves adding a teaspoon of water to the pan and covering it with a lid until the top of the egg is cooked, peeking in every 30 seconds to ensure it's not overcooked. Caution: Have the lid ready to pop onto the pan immediately, otherwise you'll have hot grease spitting out all over you and your kitchen.

3. Over Medium Eggs

Over medium eggs are just like over easy eggs, except the yolk cooks longer until it is partially set, but still creamy. A great over medium egg will have a jammy yolk that is neither runny nor completely set.

  1. Heat a non-stick or a cast iron skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon cooking oil until the oil starts to shimmer. If using butter, wait until it stops sizzling, but before it starts to turn brown.
  2. Add the egg to the skillet.
  3. When the whites are firm and the bottom of the yolk is set, after 2 to 3 minutes, use a large spatula to flip it, turning the egg gently, so the yolk doesn't break.
  4. Cook for 60 to 90 seconds more and serve with the flipped side up, then season to taste.

4. Over Hard Eggs

Over hard fried eggs are the most-cooked of the bunch, with both the whites and yolks cooked through completely.

  1. Heat a non-stick or a cast iron skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon cooking oil until the oil starts to shimmer. If using butter, wait until it stops sizzling, but before it starts to turn brown.
  2. Add the egg to the skillet.
  3. When the whites are firm and the bottom of the yolk is set, after 2 to 3 minutes, use a large spatula to flip it, turning the egg gently, so the yolk doesn't break.
  4. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more until the yolk is totally firm. Remove from pan and season to taste.

Tip: For evenly cooked eggs every time, you can poke the yolk when cracking the egg into the pan, so that the yolk breaks and cooks evenly with the whites.

Watch How to Fry an Egg

Watch Matthew Francis show you how to make a perfectly crispy sunny side up egg:

The Next Level: Crispy Fried Eggs

This method is genius if you're a fan of all things crisp (though you might have second thoughts after doing the clean up!).

Heat a cast iron skillet on high until it starts to smoke, then add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Put the egg into the pan and stand back. There's likely to be some splattering involved as the whites puff up dramatically in a matter of seconds, the outsides turning dark gold. This technique is so quick you'll want to have everything plated and diners seated before starting. From the crack of the shell to serving time is about 90 seconds.

Shelling Out Advice: How to Crack an Egg

Ever had bits of shell fall into your egg? Well, then you're probably smacking the shell on the rim of the pan. Instead, try tapping it firmly on a flat surface, say, the counter. Separate the two halves of the broken shell as close to the cooking surface as possible to prevent the yolk from breaking. If that happens, you've got the makings of scrambled eggs. But that's another story. If you want to play it ultra-safe and take broken shells out of the equation, crack the egg into a small dish and gently transfer the egg to the hot pan.

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