FABULOUS FRIED EGGS
SUNNY-SIDE UP, OVER EASY or “IN THE SHADE”
Choose the right size pan: Select a heavy pan, preferable nonstick, with sloping sides, which make it easier to reach in with a wide spatula. For 1 egg, use a 6-inch pan; for 2 eggs, use an 8-inch pan; for 3 or 4 eggs, use a 10-inch pan. For more than 4 eggs, fry in batches.
Use a small amount of cooking fat: 1 teaspoon of butter or oil for each egg is usually enough. You might prefer to fry eggs in butter, but when serving them with an olive oil-based garnish, use olive oil as the frying medium, to match the flavors. To reduce the saturated fat, you can fry with nonstick cooking spray, vegetable oil or a mixture of half vegetable oil and half butter.
Heat the pan slowly: Typically, heat the pan over medium-low heat just enough so that you can feel the warmth (not searing heat!) of the pan when you hold your hand about 1 inch from its surface. Then add the butter or oil and reduce the heat to low. (If using cooking spray, coat the cold pan and then begin to heat.) Butter is hot enough when it begins to sizzle; oil is hot enough when a drop of egg or a bread crumb sizzles gently when added.
Add the eggs carefully: Breaking an egg on the side of the pan and flopping it into a hot skillet can risk broken yolks, shell fragments and burned fingers. Do crack each egg into a small bowl or cup so you can remove any bits of eggshell or blood spots. (Use the tip of a knife or a teaspoon-sized piece of the broken shell.) Also, if the yolk breaks when placed in the cup, the egg can be saved for another purpose. Pour each egg from the cup into a clear spot in the hot pan.
Fry the eggs over low to medium-low heat.
Cook the eggs until the white begins to set, about 1 minute. For a very delicate white and a thick, creamy yolk, cover the pan and cook the eggs over low heat for about 5 minutes. Alternatively, cook the eggs entirely uncovered, adjusting the heat between medium and medium-low, for 4 to 5 minutes total time. This method produces a creamy yolk that is gently set on the bottom and a white that is lightly browned on the bottom.
Over Easy or Over Light
In this method of frying, the film of white that covers the yolk is set with direct heat. Cook the eggs as for sunny-side up, but flip each egg over during the last 15 to 20 seconds of cooking. The challenge here is to turn the egg over and then out of the pan without breaking the yolk in the process. It’s easiest to use a wide spatula. As in everything, practice makes perfect.
This is the name for a method that lightly cooks the thin layer of white covering the yolk but doesn’t involve flipping. Fry the eggs following the procedure for sunny-side up, covering the pan after the whites are set. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, lift the lid and quickly sprinkle the eggs with 2 to 3 teaspoons of water. Immediately cover the pan and continue cooking. The steam will “baste” the eggs and set the film of white around the yolk.