Eggs Over Easy

Note to visitors: I am passionate about my eggs. It’s funny how many people wind up here from searches in Google and Yahoo, looking for the Answer. Read on; the key to the perfect over-easy egg is only paragraphs away. This episode was written to entertain, but clearly there is a pent-up need in the world for advice on getting those eggs just right, and by gum I’m happy to give my opinion about anything. For that reason I have now written another episode: Eggs Over Easy – The Definitive Step-By-Step Guide. I would recommend you read here first, then go over to the step-by-step page. If you find this information helpful or entertaining, please leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you. Then you can invite me over for breakfast. Mmmmmm… breakfast.

I’m not a gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, nor does Iron Chef have to worry about being unseated by me. But I do like my eggs. Thus it is not an unusual morning when I venture out to find someone to cook some for me. Now that I no longer have a kitchen, this happens with even greater regularity. Alas, my fried chicken ova* are almost never cooked right. Oh, I eat them, and I still enjoy them, but there’s that little part of me that says, “doesn’t anyone know how to cook an egg anymore?”

I’m here to put things right. You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.

There are four generally recognized ways to fry an egg:
Sunny-Side Up: The egg is never flipped. The yolk is a bright yellow hemisphere sitting in the middle of the pristine white. The yolk is liquid, and some of the white around the yolk may have a jelly-like consistency.
Over Easy: The egg is flipped briefly. The yolk does not stand out as strikingly, but is still liquid. The white is no longer liquid.
Over Meduim: The white is cooked to a firmer texture, and the yolk is solid around the edges, and oozy in the middle.
Over Hard: The white is firm, the yolk is a lighter color and flakey.

Then there are those who intentionally break the yolk before the flip. We won’t talk about those people here.

Each degree of cooking is associated with a preferred texture for the white and for the yolk. Which brings me to my point. People who order their eggs over easy don’t want runny whites. If they wanted that, they would order sunny-side up. Runny yolk but solid white is why over easy was invented in the first place. It is by far the trickiest egg-frying style – it requires touch and artistry to cook one part of the egg without cooking the other. But it seems most places I go don’t even make the effort to try.

When in egg-cooking school, students must be reminded with great clarity and consistency: Don’t flip the eggs too soon. If one waits until the egg is ready to serve sunny-side, then flips it for just a few moments to sear the last of the white, it comes out perfect every time. Alas, impatient cooks do not wait for that perfect moment. They flip the egg prematurely and there’s no way that much white is going to get cooked post-flip without adversely affecting the yolk. The time to get most of the white firmed up is while the white is acting as an insulating layer between the pan and the yolk.

I have considered explaining to my waiter exactly how I want my eggs. I thought of saying “Sunny-Side Over” to convey my meaning, but I have never tried. Even if the waiter nodded and took notes, by the time it reached the cook I would probably end up with Sunny Side Rubber, so afraid would he be to flip the eggs too soon. That or it would just piss him off. No, we can but hope that future generations will take this to heart, and look with pride at the eggs sitting on the plate, seemingly in defiance of thermodynamics, the yolks jiggling, the whites not.

So mamas, tell your children, when you first hand them the spatula and the carton of eggs, as they stare wide-eyed at the pan in front of them, butter or bacon drippings faintly sizzling in the shimmering heat, that they must be patient. They must wait for the right moment to flip.


* this used to say “fried chicken embryos”, but I got tired of people unfamiliar with the Coneheads explaining Greek to me.


34 thoughts on “Eggs Over Easy

  1. I like that. It’s almost a haiku just sitting there. In fact:

    over medium

    a cloudy day in eggville

    not sunny side up

  2. If you want the absolutely perfect over-easy egg, you must go to Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico, and you must go to the Town Talk Cafe. Timy knows how to do it.

  3. Pardon me, made typo because of hiccups, it’s Timmy, not Timy.

    Over a flaky rural phone line, with a maximum speed of maybe 26K, I got Mozilla Firefox downloaded and installed in less than 20 minutes.

    Here in the city, where the phone line officially runs 56K and usually runs 52K, it took me more than an hour to download and install Firefox.

  4. Thank you for FINALLY putting into words something that needed very badly to be said. as someone who enjoys her eggs over easy… i agree.. that it’s difficult to get them done right. I honestly plan to try your “sunny side over” approach… that just might work.

    plus, i had a friend from England ask me to explain exactly what Eggs Over Easy consist of.. and thanks to your explanation, i now have the answers.

    thanks a million!

  5. Just doing my job, ma’am.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Together, we can make this a better world for egg eaters.

    There may be anther episode in the offing with more specific how-to instructions and a couple of insights I’ve had during extensive research in my mountain retreat. Watch for Bacon: friend or foe?

  6. Ah bacon. As Homer would note, “from the magical animal.” Actually, I was sprawled across the couch yesterday morning, surfing the channels for some NFL pregame show or car race to ease my Heineken fueled hangoverken when I came upon a televangelist berating his assembled flock for eating “unclean flesh.” Inasmuch as he was an avowed vegetarian, his quotes from the good book were scant and specious. Prohibition on the eating of swine is easy to follow, but remonstrating on the eating of duck (“It’s an eater of dead things – bad. Chicken is a forager – good”) is hard to grasp (let alone bite). Anyway, I digress. I had to chime in on the bacon-battle with his definition of bacon. He claimed that it was a “greasy, nitrate sotted, carcenogenic thing” and not to be consider as a foodstuff.

    Still hungering for the TV preacher’s point to his rant on the values of the various foods? Oh, you’ll have to keep this thread going.

    That’s all for this episode of “Threadjack!”

  7. I used to refer to a Burger King Croissan’wich as “a week’s supply of cholesterol.”

    One of my all-time favorite breakfasts, on that scale, is probably a month’s supply: the Croissant With The Works at the Donut Depot in Chama. It starts with a fresh croissant, made with puff pastry made according to the original French formula, with lots of eggs in the dough, and butter layered in the dough through the method of rolling the dough out, spreading the butter on it, folding the dough over, rolling it out, spreading, folding, repeating until you have about 200 layers of alternating egg dough and pure butter. Then the dough is cut and shaped into croissants and baked. That happens in the small hours of the morning, so that when you come into the Donut Depot (provided you arrive early enough), you find these absolutely melt-in-the mouth jumbo croissants.

    The next step is that, when you order a croissant-with-the-works, the cook makes a three-egg omelet with your choice of breakfast meat (ham, bacon, or sausage), cheese, and if you wish, green chile. As the omelet finishes cooking, the cook slices the croissant horizontally, and when the omelet is done, it is sandwiched into the croissant.

    The real trick to getting a Croissant With The Works is that you have to get to the Donut Depot before it runs out of croissants.

  8. ha, I did in fact come to this page via a Google search, trying to learn the various ways to cook eggs. Thanks for a very instructive piece of exposition! I have to admit it sounds a little tough to get just right, and I sure wouldn’t expect J. Random Cook at (say) Denny’s to be able to give you exactly what you order :).

  9. Howdy, Ben! Yes, the perfect over easy egg is indeed an elusive beast. I certainly don’t get it right every time.

    One thing I have discovered during intensive research is that if I put the eggs into the pan several seconds apart then I have time to flip, pause, and remove one egg before the next egg needs flipping.

    That keeps things from getting too hectic during the flipping stage, where is where I usually go wrong.

  10. Hey there — I love yer website. It’s greatly improved my “sunny side overs” I make at home. Just one thing — I’m not a pro-life activist or anything, but I had to cringe when I read that you like to eat your “fried chicken embryos.” Dude, you are not eating embryos (I hope). The eggs you eat are not fertilized. I know this not because of the wide world of google, but because my grandparents worked as “chick sexers.” In 7th grade, I did this Science Fair experiment (… that was way, way back … we won’t say when…) using actual chick embryos which were already disgarded –meaning dead– in fermaldahyde, to show the effects of nicotine on embryos in different stages of growth. . . . Am I grossing you out yet? Needless to say, If the eggs that we eat were embryos, I surely could not eat them. So enjoy your unfertilized eggs…they’re not only yummy, but really healthy. (thank god chickens don’t smoke.)

  11. My chickens only smoke when they’re on fire.

    You’re right, though, I should have said ‘fried chicken ova’ rather than ‘fried chicken embryos’. Perhaps my long ago is longer than your long ago, or perhaps not. That was a favorite phrase from Saturday Night Live back when Ackroyd was Beldar Conehead.

    Sad, I probably spelled Beldar correctly and not Ackroyd.

    How does one go about getting a job as a chicken sexer, anyway?

  12. Thanks so much for your concise explanation of American egg terminology. After 15 years here I am still confused about the egg options on offer here, in the UK we didn’t make such fine distinctions – fried, scrambled, poached, boiled, that’s all we had…

  13. I hadn’t thought about how distinctly American the egg discussion is. Now that I look back, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked “How do you want your eggs?” outside of North America.

    How can it be that the rest of the world remains apathetic about something so close to the source of life itself? How do you want your eggs? Eskimos have words for snow, Americans have words for eggs. If you don’t have the words, how are you going to say when breakfast was just right? How are you going to rock back in your chair and say, “Damn, it’s good to find an over-easy egg cooked right.” Eskimos don’t have the vocabulary to compare beaches, and perhaps the world does not have the vocabulary to discuss the finer nuances of a good breakfast.

    But it’s breakfast, man. The most important meal of the day according to Kellogg. Nothing gets me out of bed with more joy than the preperceived sizzling of the bacon and the image of my bread punching into the yolk.

    Man, on a sketchy morning, there is nothing better.

    Perhaps it is this that has made America (fuck yeah!) the power it is today. We know for breakfast. The English are known for their breakfasts, largely because it is the only meal they come close to getting right, and their bacon kicks our bacon’s shriveled little ass. But the bacon is the side show. Breakfast is eggs and pancakes, and the US and Canada rule those two dishes. No one else comes close.

    This may become an episode.

  14. England: 42 religions, 2 sauces, 4 ways of cooking eggs.

    France: 2 religions, 42 sauces, 8 ways of cooking eggs (10, if you count the soft-boiled and scrambled sub-types mentioned in the first result of a Google on “ways of cooking eggs in france”).

  15. And here I thought the only distinction between American and English breakfasts was that Americans preferred their toast warm, even if soggy (so they stack it), but English preferred their toast cripst, even if cold (so they have those toast racks).

  16. Last summer, we were in a small restaurant near Five O’Clock Somewhere, and at a nearby table were five French college students. The waitress asked them, “How do you want your eggs?”

    The students had no understanding of the question. The waitress finally clarified that she was asking how they wanted the eggs to be cooked. The students looked at each other with puzzied expressions. “Frites …?” one asked. One of the others said, “Ah, fried!”

    “Fried what way,” the waitress asked, “sunny-side-up, over easy, over hard?”

    There followed a discussion involving the waitress, who knew no French but much Spanish, and the students, whose English didn’t have the subtleties to distinguish egg-frying methods. They finally reached the consensus that the way the students wanted their eggs was sunny-side-up. The liked the cheerful metaphor; apparently in France, a sunny-side-up egg is just simply “fried.”

  17. Another important difference between American breakfasts and English ones is that American breakfasts tend to omit (thankfully) stewed tomatoes.

  18. that was by far the best description of what an over easy egg is. i cook them everyday for myself, i got really pissed the other day and ended up with 3 eggs more towards “medium” that over easy.

    fortunately, it only happens once in a while. eggs are the only thing i cook, but i ususally cook a perfect over easy egg every time.

    im hungry… :)

  19. Thanks!

    I have never actually considered the question of what exactly is an egg cooked over easy… I think this must be because of the cultural ignorance toward eggs, and the cooking of. I see now. I was so blind…

    Google did indeed lead me here but I’ll guarantee this isn’t where it ends. A new world of brighter mornings lies ahead.

    Thankyou again. I feel blessed…

  20. Well, when I worked in a restaurant that served the DREADED brunch (I say this because every professional cook hates the weekenders and having to get out of bed before noon on a Sunday) probably over half of the egg orders were for over easy, and about half of those orders really wanted poached or sunny-side up etc. So good on you for actually knowing what it is you want, that makes it much easier. I’ll also say that over-easy are the easiest things to cook, and the only reason you’ll get them overdone is if the cook was careless and forgot where they were in the orders but didn’t care enough to remake them during a rush (remember what I said about contempt for brunchers?)or the server left it in the window too long. Honestly. They’re easy, especially during a rush. Try it guys, if you can make toast, you can make over-easy eggs.

    Also, I’ve never seen over-hard used that way in a restaurant. Over-hard usually signifies a broken yolk; over-whole is what you would order for the flaky whole yolk, or you’ll be disappointed.

    I really do have to comment on your use of the term “chicken embryo”. Do you know what an embryo is? Yeesh. I think most people have cracked an egg and found an embryo (or know someone who has), so maybe you have just bad (or delicious?) luck… maybe look that one up, tiger.

  21. Yeah, the embryo bit was a pop-culture reference, rather than science; you’re not the first to comment on my misuse. Over-easy might be easy, but it’s almost *never* done correctly in a restaurant, whether I’m the only guy in there or one of hundreds, from diner to four-star. Thus my frustration.

  22. Hi to all, Here in England my mother and grandmother (bless them both) taught me to fry the humble egg, and to make sure the yolk stayed whole and ‘dippy’ instead of risking the flip – you kind of gently splash/slosh the hot oil over the top of the yolk with a spatular (without burning yourself) until the jelly like white is firm and white, thus you know the egg is cooked – no nasty bacterias (or ‘snotty like’ white)- but you still have the desired ‘dippy’ (runny) yolk. Well that was how I was taught, many years ago, and I add how I have taught my children. The grandchildren arn’t of cooking age yet. (that is I mean they arn’t old enough to learn to cook – not be cooked!)When the children were all at home we kept chickens as pets and for eggs, so I’ve cooked quite a few over the years. As to the other chaps comment on the English and ‘stewed tomatoes’, they are actually (tinned) peeled plum tomatoes heated through like you would baked beans, or you would have a fresh tomatoe halved and fried with your breakfast. Yummy…… Hope everyone has a cracking good Easter, and gets eggsactly what they want! Warm wishes to all, Karen x

  23. I hadn’t heard of “over-medium” until the other day. I have always ordered my fried eggs over easy. But while talking to a co-worker they mention they order over-medium, because they like the white cooked all the way through. I was confused, as I always believed over easy should have a completely solid white. Another coworker confirmed her, saying at his previous restaurant they called over easy “over slimmy”.

    Which lets me here today. After about thirty minutes and twenty plus web pages,I can not find a definition for over easy that doesn’t include “solid whites” or “white cooked threw”. How is it that so many people can be misinformed about over easy eggs? Is it just heresay, is it just bad dinners sending out under done eggs? Where is this all coming from?

  24. Amen! Thank you for explaining this. I hate getting runny whites when I order eggs over easy! I have had a few waiters even argue with me and say “well, if you didn’t want your whites runny, then why did you order over easy”? Unbelievable!

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