Cook's Illustrated (August 2013)
Giving advice about cooking eggs is tricky.
Everyone has his or her own personal preferences, established and honed over years of habit. Fried, scrambled, hard-boiled or poached, you like your eggs the way you like your eggs.
It's a matter if personal taste; there's no "right" or "wrong" way to cook an egg.
But there is an effective and an ineffective way to get the kind of egg you want. And that's where Cook's Illustrated comes in.
First, a little background on fried eggs. We both love a runny fried egg -- the edges of the whites just beginning to brown, with the yolk a sunny, runny yellow. It's a thing of beauty.
But we're not great at consistently getting the kind of fried eggs we desire. (Problem No. 1 was equipment: Until about a year ago, we didn't own a nonstick pan. A hundred "stuck" eggs later, we finally wised up. The difference is incredible.)
For a while we wrestled with the age-old question of to flip or not to flip. We used to be egg flippers, willing to risk breaking the yolk in the process. But we've found over time that we don't really care about the egg being fried on both sides.
But that has its own challenges: the white and yolk cook at different rates. We've huddled over many a skillet looking at an egg that was almost ready, save for a bit of egg white just around the yolk that hadn't quite cooked. The waiting sometimes means that the yolk is harder than we want (and "over hard" eggs are not welcome in this house).
Cook's Illustrated seeks to solve this problem with a new method for making Perfect Fried Eggs. We couldn't wait to get cracking.
The Cook's method relies on two factors: high heat (or at least higher than we would typically use) and covered cooking, which allows the egg white to steam to perfection and cook quickly.
Here's how it works: Heat a skillet over low heat while you prep your eggs. Once warmed up, you increase the heat, slide some butter and your eggs into the skillet, quickly cover the pan and let it cook for 1 minute on medium-high heat. Then you remove the pan from the heat and let the eggs steam inside to your preferred level of doneness.
We gave it a try and frankly, it took us a few rounds to get the swing of it. (We guess you can't break a few eggs without, um, breaking a few eggs.)
In our first attempt, we cooked four eggs in a 12-inch skillet. We undercooked this first batch, not having the heat quite high enough, so the whites never really set. (Plus, if we're being honest, our stove sits on a bit of an incline, making all the eggs cook together into one big un-photogenic egg mess.)
In our second batch, we scaled down to two eggs in an 8-inch skillet. This time, we overshot and had the heat too high, so the butter browned in an unattractive way and the yolks were slightly cloudy. The eggs were good, they just didn't look good.
On take three, we finally hit our sweet spot, getting the skillet just hot enough, cooking our eggs for 1 minute and steaming for an extra 30 seconds. This batch produced perfectly runny eggs that were nicely browned on the bottom.
So here's our advice: Try this method yourself starting with just two eggs in a small skillet. Master that, then build from there.
As a method for fried-egg consistency, this is terrific.
Still, we suspect there are a lot of opinions among our readers about how eggs are best made.
So let's hear it: How do you make your eggs?
When checking the eggs for doneness, lift the lid just a crack to prevent loss of steam should they need further cooking. When cooked, the thin layer of white surrounding the yolk will turn opaque, but the yolk should remain runny. To cook two eggs, use an 8- or 9-inch nonstick skillet and halve the amounts of oil and butter. You can use this method with extra-large or jumbo eggs without altering the timing.
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
1. Heat oil in 12- or 14-inch nonstick skillet over low heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, crack 2 eggs into a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining 2 eggs and second small bowl.
2. Increase heat to medium-high and heat until oil is shimmering. Add butter to skillet and quickly swirl to coat pan. Working quickly, pour 1 bowl of eggs in 1 side of pan and second bowl of eggs in other side. Cover and cook for 1 minute. Remove skillet from burner and let stand, covered, 15 to 45 seconds for runny yolks (white around edge of yolk will be barely opaque), 45 to 60 seconds for soft but set yolks, and about 2 minutes for medium-set yolks. Slide eggs onto plates and serve.