How to Cook the Perfect Fried Egg (on Toast, with Coffee)

IMG_1117There are four essential elements to the perfect morning.  The first, obviously, is a cup of good coffee.

The second,  good music.

The third, a fried egg.

It also happens to be, I’ve decided, the best indication of one’s level of cookery.

Something so simply achieved, yet almost even more so easily butchered.  I cringe when I order a breakfast of fried eggs at a cafe, only to be presented with A) a couple of clear, shiny snot-like egg whites and cold liquid yolks or, worse, B) a matte-colored egg white mass surrounding two firm and lifeless powdery yellow globs.  I can only hope that maybe, possibly, an order of “over-medium” will imply that I am hoping for something in between slimy mucus and a yellow brick.  But due to the fact that my egg ordering experiences at various brunch spots has proved to be both inconsistent and unreliable, I’ve taken it upon myself to ensure that when I’m the one cooking, I know how to do it right.

This is something that has taken me quite a long time to master.  My whole life, in fact.

But I do believe I recently broke the code, and like The Sound of Music I want to sing it from the mountain tops with such joy for the world to hear!

There are certain aspects to my surefire recipe for success that are absolutely essential in cooking a fried egg, and these will be noted in bold.  That which isn’t bolded are simply a few personal preferences, little suggestions to kick it up a notch or ten.

You will need:

  • Eggs (2) of very good quality.  Preferably farm eggs, but as always local, organic and cage-free will suffice.  
  • Butter (about one tsp.)
  • A small or medium sauce pan
  • A lid or something that can act as a lid (this can be in the form of a  plate even, anything that will seal the heat into the pan space)
  • Salt, pepper and various other seasonings of your choosing (preferably sea salt, though).  I use fresh cracked pepper, garlic powder and chia seeds.
  • Any other add-ons your would like to include, although absolutely not necessary.  Previously used examples: sliced avocado, sliced tomato, chopped fresh garlic, sauteed onion, sauteed kale, sliced ham, bacon(!)
  • Cheese, again, optional
  • Sliced bread
  • Coffee grinds, preferably of good quality
  • Water
  • A french press
  • Spatula

1.  Turn the oven on to anywhere between 300-350 degrees and place the allotted amount of toast onto the racks (this is, of course, if you don’t have a toaster like myself).

2. Turn the heat of one burner onto a low-medium flame and place the saucepan on top, allowing it to warm up for about 30 seconds.

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3.  Turn another burner onto medium and place a full kettle of water on top, allowing the water to heat while you cook eggs.

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4.  If using a french press, add coffee grinds to your press.

5.  Place butter in the pan and allow it to spread evenly over the pan as it melts.  Note: I use only real, unsalted butter with my eggs, it seems to protect the egg from burring or overcooking on the bottom and it tastes wonderful.  I do not use olive oil (burning or cooking olive oil a)has a lower smoking point and b) denatures the amino acids in the olive oil, negating the nutritional value entirely)

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6.  Exactly at the point the butter has melted, crack two eggs into the pan. IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE THE YOLKS ARE RESTING ON THE PERIMETER OF THE PAN, NOT IN THE CENTER WHERE THE HEAT IS CONCENTRATED.  The whites should immediately start to solidify and whiten upon contact with the pan, but shouldn’t start to sizzle too loudly or bubble.  If the latter occurs, turn the heat down and remove the pan from the heat for about 10 seconds until the eggs calm down.

7.  Season your eggs, minus salt.

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8.  Cover the pan.   Allow to sit for at least one minute, no more than 2 minutes.  If the yolk starts to develop a white film on top, uncover immediately.

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9.  Check the toast.  If only slightly crispy, turn it over and continue cooking.

10.  If kettle water steaming at this point, add your water to the coffee grinds.  Allow to sit while you complete the preparation of your eggs and toast.

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11.  If you would like to add cheese to your egg, this is the time to do so.  Uncover, sprinkle or grate cheese on top, and then re-cover your eggs.  

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12.  Remove from heat but allow eggs to stay covered in the pan until either the yolks are still squishy but white or the cheese has melted.  If yolks are firming up, uncover the pan immediately.

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13. Remove toast from oven.  If toast consistency has reached desired state, remove from heat and onto a plate, spreading butter immediately on the toast.  Turn off your oven (I always seem to forget that part, and then remember after having left the house).

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14.  Using a spatula, carefully place fried eggs on top of toast (or on a plate). 

15.  Press your coffee, then pour into a mug.  Add milk, sugar, or in my case, a spoonful of Oregon Chai powder and stir.

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16.  Salt your eggs lightly.  

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17. Arrange various add-ons to your egg and toast at this time.

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18. Bask in the deliciousness of a firm (but not chewy) egg white and warm yet still runny yolk on a crunchy piece of toast.  

19.  Take a sip of coffee.

20.  Appreciate the moment. 

(And the fourth?  That one I’m still keeping a secret.)

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12 responses

  1. I’ve always thought that breakfast was the toughest meal to organize and cook : to have all components ready to go at the same time. The eggs look delicious and I’m ready to try them out, maybe even for dinner.

    • I struggle with it too, having to remember all components before actually having your first cup of coffee. That’s why I try to keep it pretty simple for the most part. Hope you try my method! Thanks for reading Audrey. Hope alls well.

    • Ya I definitely have a love hate with this thing. It does give me so much satisfaction when I come out with a post I actually like. I see you’re coming up with great stuff all the time still for the blog. After you suggested Lord Huron I checked it out and it’s pretty much all I’ve been listening to for the last couple weeks, so thanks for that! I hope your job is still kicking ass, lets catch up soon, maybe go get drunk or something. Xox

      • If this were facebook, I would like this post. But it’s not so I’ll just say I chuckled a bit when I read this….we’re so funny about stupid things like salting food out here in Portland. But we take our salting very seriously!!! Okay, if you can’t laugh at all the ridiculous food snobbery that goes on here in these Portland parts, then you suck.

        Thanks for keepin’ it real, Jeff.

    • Hi Sue, thanks for reading!

      The reason why I salted after the eggs are plated is because of the type of salt I’m using. I’ve recently gotten into finishing salts (maybe this is a Portland thing?) and what I’ve recently been using to salt everything from pastas to sweets to eggs to whatever.

      Rather than tasting an all around saltiness that can be overpowering and can muddle the flavor of a simple dish like a fried egg, the beautiful (literally, like snow flakes) salt crystals in finishing salts are kind of like quick bursts of saltiness on your tongue when eating that really only enhance the flavors already found in your dish. It sounds kitchy, but I’m a believer.

      It’s a big trend in Portland to use finishing salt on sweet dishes as well as savory, like pastries and pies. The intention here is not to create a general saltiness in the dish but rather to provide a tiny bit of salty contrast to an otherwise sugary dish. If you’re interested you should look into the Portland based Jacobsen Sea Salt company. He literally drives his truck out to Netarts Bay off the coast of Oregon and picks up a few gallons of sea water, takes it back to his small production space and creates these artisan salt crystals in small batches. Aside from Jacobsen, I think you can also find different types of finishing salts (I’ve seen pink Himalayan, black salts, green salts, etc.) in most major grocery stores, mostly in the gourmet food section or deli section. A little more expensive than regular salt, kosher salt or generic sea salt but it’s one of those items that’s super fun to play with in the kitchen and absolutely worth it.

      By the way, as I’m typing this I realize it sounds really annoying and food snobbish, but if you are a food nerd like me then you should definitely look into them…..hmmmm this gives me an idea, maybe I should write a blog post about regular salting vs. finishing salt?

      Thanks for the great question!

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