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.