How to Fry an Egg (4 Ways!)

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Learn how to fry an egg with finesse on the stovetop. I’ll show you simple tips and tricks for nailing the perfect texture, whether you like a runny yolk or more firm. Mastering these techniques adds versatility to breakfast and makes savory dishes more exciting. 

Two fried eggs with yellow yolks in a cast iron skillet.

One of the first techniques I learned in culinary school was how to make a fried egg. It’s a staple for breakfast and has become increasingly popular to add to entrees like burgers and pizzas. Besides its rich taste, it’s no surprise that it’s got health benefits to match. Each serving delivers impressive amounts of satiating protein and healthy omega 3-fatty acids.

The difference between a golden oozy center and a hard yolk is timing. I cracked open many cartons to test the right amount of fat, heat, and duration needed to achieve different textures. The choice of fry pan makes a big difference, so I’ll help you navigate which to grab. Whether you like sunny side up or over easy, I have a simple step-by-step guide to perfect fried eggs. 

Pan material

A nonstick skillet is my top choice for frying eggs. The slippery surface makes it easy to remove or flip over, which is excellent for beginners and pros. Plus, you can use less oil if you’re looking to reduce the amount of fat.

A cast iron skillet is my second choice. The metal heats up quickly and retains heat, creating extra crispy edges on the egg whites. Avoid using a stainless steel pan. It is very porous, and unless preheated, the egg will stick to the surface. The proteins cook too fast to sear properly and naturally release the egg. This pan typically leads to an overcooked texture.

Pan size

  • 5-inch pan: 1 egg
  • 8-inch pan: 1 to 2 eggs
  • 10-inch pan: 2 to 3 eggs
  • 12-inch pan: 3 to 4 eggs

Choosing the right frying oil 

Eggs are fried over medium heat for a short time, about 5 minutes or less. This duration allows for a broader range of fats to use. I use moderate smoke point oil around 350ºF (177ºC) and above to prevent burning. Butter is always a favorite. It provides a rich mouthfeel, brown hue, and extra nutty flavor to the eggs. Just be careful. The milk solids can burn if the heat is too high or used too long. 

To prevent this, I recommend wiping the pan down in between batches and adding fresh butter. For crispier edges, I use olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil. They contain no water, so they fry the whites efficiently, creating a golden color and subtle crunch. Make sure that the oil or fat is hot before adding the egg.

Oil usage level 

I find that one large egg needs about 1 teaspoon of oil/fat for frying. Double that amount for cooking extra-large or jumbo eggs. This amount is an easy tip to remember if you’re just making one for yourself in the morning or scaling up to feed a hungry family.

Heat level

Eggs go from raw to completely solidified in minutes. For pan-frying, there’s a delicate balance between setting the albumin in the egg white and not turning it completely hard or rubbery. I find that medium-heat quickly sets the whites and allows for some Maillard browning (above 300ºF/149ºC). This range gradually cooks the yolk with more control and lowers the risk of overcooking. 

How to properly crack an egg open

There are a few tricks to keep the stunning yolk intact and prevent unwanted shells from sticking to the whites. First, gently crack the egg’s side on a flat surface like the counter or cutting board. You should see lines form on the shell, then use your fingertips to open it up carefully. 

I would use the edge of a bowl in the past but realized that it pushes tiny pieces of shell into the eggs, making it a challenge to remove. Or too much force would break the yolk and mess up the countertop. You can also break an egg into a small bowl or ramekin first, then transfer it to the pan. This technique makes it easy to check for tiny shells. 

Sunny-Side Up Eggs

Fork cutting into a sunny-side up egg.

This type of fried egg gets its name because the bright yellow yolk shines brightly on top. It’s briefly cooked over a moderate flame to gently set the whites and is covered the entire time. This cooking method traps the steam, which cooks the top of the egg without flipping over. The process takes about 2 to 3 minutes. 

If you don’t have a lid for the pan, just cover it with the bottom of a larger pan (I do this!) or use a lid from another pot. You can also fry the egg over medium-heat uncovered, reduce the heat to low after a few minutes, and baste it with extra fat like butter to finish cooking the albumin proteins on the surface.

Over-Easy Eggs

Fork splitting an over-easy egg in half.

If you like a super runny yolk, try this method. The egg is cooked over medium heat for 2 minutes to set the egg white’s bottom, making it easier to turn. Flip the egg over. Let it briefly cook the rest of the raw egg whites for about 10 to 15 seconds. This process ensures that the yolk oozes out. 

Over-Medium Eggs

Over-medium egg on a white plate.

This method yields a texture similar to soft-boiled eggs but without having to peel them. The process is very similar to over-easy eggs. Once you flip the egg, cook for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the egg yolk to warm up and slightly thicken. It creates a vibrant center that still flows but isn’t runny when poked. Personally, this is my favorite way to enjoy a fried egg.

Over-Hard Eggs

Pieces of over-hard egg on a small white plate.

This is for you if you like hard-boiled eggs, but with a little more contrast in textures. The yolk cooks all the way through and is firm. It takes about 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and heat over medium-low until the yolk sets, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Creative ways to use fried eggs

How long to fry an egg

The proteins inside the egg yolk and the white set at different temperatures. The most abundant ovalbumin protein in egg whites thickens at 144 to 149ºF (62 to 65ºC) and fully sets at 180ºF (82ºC). The yolk thickens at 149ºF (65ºC) and sets at 158ºF (70ºC) [source]. The goal is to completely set the white and add more time to cook the middle. This process can take as short as 2 minutes for over-easy eggs, up to 6 minutes for over-hard.

How to Fry an Egg (4 Ways!)

Learn how to fry an egg on the stovetop. Simple tips and tricks for nailing the perfect texture, whether you like a runny yolk or firm.
4.94 from 30 votes
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Servings 1 serving
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 teaspoon butter, olive oil, or vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • kosher salt, as needed for seasoning
  • black pepper, as needed for seasoning

Instructions 

Sunny-Side Up Eggs

  • Heat the butter in a 5 to 8-inch nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until it bubbles and foams, but does not brown. Tilt the pan to evenly distribute. If using oil, wait until the oil starts to shimmer, but not smoke.
  • Add the cracked egg and lightly season with salt. Immediately cover the pan and cook until the egg white is set, but still glossy on the surface and edges are lightly browned, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes.
  • Turn the heat off, leave the cover on and move the pan to the cool side of the stove. Keep the eggs covered until the desired texture is reached, about 30 seconds for a runny yolk, 60 seconds for a soft thickened yolk, or 2 minutes for a medium set, richer yolk.
  • Season with salt and pepper and as desired. Serve immediately.

Over-Easy Eggs

  • Heat the butter in a 5 to 8-inch nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until it bubbles and foams, but does not brown. Tilt the pan to evenly distribute. If using oil, wait until the oil starts to shimmer, but not smoke.
  • Add the cracked egg and lightly season with salt. Allow the egg to cook without moving until the egg whites just begin to set and the surface is translucent, about 2 minutes.
  • Use a spatula to carefully flip the egg over. Cook until the white is opaque and sets, but the yolk is still runny, about 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

Over-Medium Eggs

  • Heat the butter in a 5 to 8-inch nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until it bubbles and foams, but does not brown. Tilt the pan to evenly distribute. If using oil, wait until the oil starts to shimmer, but not smoke.
  • Add the cracked egg and lightly season with salt. Allow the egg to cook without moving, until the egg whites just begin to set and the surface is translucent, about 2 minutes.
  • Use a spatula to carefully flip the egg over. Cook until the whites are opaque and set, but the yolk is slightly set with creamy centers, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

Over-Hard Eggs

  • Heat the butter in a 5 to 8-inch nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until it bubbles and foams, but does not brown. Tilt the pan to evenly distribute. If using oil, wait until the oil starts to shimmer, but not smoke.
  • Add the cracked egg and lightly season with salt. Allow the egg to cook without moving, until the egg whites just begin to set and the surface is translucent, about 2 minutes.
  • Use a spatula to carefully flip the egg over. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the whites are opaque and the yolks are completely set, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

Equipment

Notes

  • Pan Sizes:
    • 1 to 2 eggs: Use an 8-inch skillet and 1 teaspoon butter/oil per egg.
    • 2 to 3 eggs: Use a 10-inch skillet and 1 teaspoon butter/oil per egg.
    • 3 to 4 eggs: Use a 12-inch skillet and 1 teaspoon butter/oil per egg.
  • Cooking sunny side up eggs (without a lid): Heat the butter in a 5 to 8-inch skillet over medium heat until it bubbles and foams, but does not brown. Tilt the pan to distribute the fat evenly. Add the cracked egg and lightly season with salt. Cook the egg without moving, for two minutes. Reduce the heat to low, and cook until the egg white is set but still glossy on the surface and edges are lightly browned, about 1 to 2 minutes. If desired, at the last few minutes of cooking add 1 teaspoon of butter, then baste the surface with the hot fat to further cook the surface.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 1 serving
Calories 72kcal (4%)Carbohydrates 1gProtein 6g (12%)Fat 5g (8%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Cholesterol 186mg (62%)Sodium 71mg (3%)Potassium 69mg (2%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 270IU (5%)Calcium 28mg (3%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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8 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. JJ says

    Again…GREAT information! Oils, pans, cracking, times to cook…there isn’t anything missing.
    We can’t stand any brown on our eggs…fried, scrambled, omelet. So I’ve learned to cook them very very slowly, and with sunny-up, I’ll put a smaller lid than the pan over the egg, to collect the steam sooner. And I never leave to do something else…LOL…I watch the changes like a hawk!
    We’re also more conscious of the maybe-not-so-good contents of a yolk (we’re seniors) and will remove the yolk on a 2-1 basis (doubling the whites) so we get the volume and protein.
    Love this information…and, btw…isn’t avocado oil the next best oil since…butter??? LOL!!

  2. Frank Mosher says

    I had long forgotten the various ways of frying eggs! Most informative! I felt like I just graduated from “the local Diner” cooking school! LOL. I have lovely non-stick pans, which recommend not using oil at all, but I still spray with a little olive/vegetable oil. Just as a matter of interest, the yolks contain a lot of lecithan which is good as it breaks down fat molucules. If the yolks are hard cooked, it totally negates the benefit of same. Nothing wrong with eggs with respect to cholesterol! Eat some nuts daily, brings down cholesterol levels very quickly!! Tks!

  3. Sarah says

    I don’t know why but reading instructions on how to do something like frying an egg just changed everything! I make fried eggs in the cast iron. Every. Single. Morning. They always turn out horrible because I either do way too high of heat, waiting for the oil to smoke, flip too late or break the yolk. I finally thought it’s time I look this up. Thank you Jessica for writing this out. It’s honestly foolproof if you use her methods. I’m writing this out as I enjoy the best eggs I’ve ever fried. I no longer have to wait to get breakfast at a restaurant to get those perfectly fried eggs anymore. Thank you.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much, Sarah! I’m so happy that the method for frying eggs gives you some eggs-cellent results, ha! Keep rocking it!

  4. Jade says

    I cooked the Over-hard eggs and I cooked them just like in the instructions and tasted amazing! This was my first time cooking a fried egg and it was easier than I thought. If me an 11 year old can make these anyone can! Thanks for sharing your recipes! 😀

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’m so proud of you, Jade! You are on your way to becoming an amazing chef. Keep it up and don’t be afraid to give things a try!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Heat the pan using your estimated medium setting on your stove. Add the butter, once it starts to bubble and foam, but not turn dark brown, it’s medium heat. With oil, it should simmer and leave streaks in the pan when swirled.