The perfect fried egg, with a cheery yellow, runny yolk and a creamy, firm white, is harder to achieve than you might think. To cook the perfect sunny-side up egg, consider how you like your egg texture and doneness. Your preference for soft or crispy white and the texture of the yolk changes how hot your pan should be. Other considerations for sunny side up eggs include whether to baste the eggs with hot oil or butter.
Choosing the Pan
Use any type of frying pan to cook sunny-side up eggs. A seasoned cast iron or even a well-greased stainless steel pan can be used, but they require a lot of oil and in some cases, the egg adheres to the pan regardless. A non-stick frying pan is ideal, but choose a higher quality pan, with a heavy-bottom, as this produces more even heat. For only one egg, a small skillet is fine. However, if you are cooking for a larger crowd of people, fry the eggs in batches and use a larger skillet.
Type of Fat to Use
Vegetable oil, butter and olive oil are all regularly used to fry eggs. Your personal preference can dictate the type of fat, although vegetable oil provides the most neutral taste. If you are using butter, warm it only until it melts or foams; long cooking times, for example, if you have to cook multiple batches of fried eggs, can lead to burnt butter. Nonstick frying pans have the advantage of needing little more than a thin coat of cooking spray, reducing the amount of fat required. Water-cooked sunny-side up eggs, with the eggs gently cooked in a thin layer of water, makes for the least-greasy egg, but the texture becomes more like a poached egg than a fried one.
For perfectly round sunny-side up eggs, use a silicon or metal ring. While silicone rings can be used with any pan, metal rings should be avoided with non-stick pans as they can scratch the coating. Spray or brush the inside of the rings with oil before cracking your egg directly into the ring on the hot pan. Using rings for sunny-side up eggs produces round eggs, but you may not get the crispy, lacy, browned edges that some people prize.
Heat the frying pan over medium-high heat and add the required amount of oil to the pan. Non-stick and seasoned cast iron pans require no more than a thin layer of oil, while a stainless steel pan will require more oil, roughly 1/8-inch deep. Heat the oil until it shimmers, and a drop of water in the pan sizzles and evaporates instantly. Carefully crack an egg directly into the pan. If frying more than one egg at a time, do not crack it into the center of the pan, as you need enough room for the other eggs. Cook it just until the white sets — slightly jiggly but opaque — and the yolk remains runny. This takes roughly three to four minutes for one egg. To speed up the cooking of the white, spoon hot oil from the pan over the whites of the eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste and remove immediately from the pan when the eggs are cooked.
References and ResourcesThe Guardian: How to Cook the Perfect Fried Egg
the kitchn: How to Fry an Egg
BBC Food Techniques: How to Fry Eggs
the kitchn: What's the Difference? Eggs Over-Easy vs. Sunny Side Up