Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Perfecting the Perfect Fried Egg

Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse. I completely pity those who are intolerant of eggs, as they are so incredibly versatile, delicious, convenient, and easy. Frying the perfect egg is not so easy. Sure, anyone can make scrambled eggs, even the perfect omelet isn't too hard, but frying without totally cooking the yolks and without flipping? Without burning? Without sticking to the pan and ruining your presentation? I assure you, it can be done!

Here are some tips to pull of a fried egg like a pro:

  • Lard. Lots of it! For the 8 in. skillet I picture, I use a full teaspoon. (And please, get it from a good source, and don't get hydrogenated. I care too much about your health!)

  • Good quality eggs. Better ingredients make for a better dish, or so we hear right? Eggs from chickens that are pastured, fed non-gmo feed, allowed to eat bugs and scrape the dirt, and allowed to run around will have richer, more nutrient dense yolks, better flavor, stronger whites, and harder shells. Organic does not equal quality product. Vegetarian does not include chickens - they are natural omnivores. "Cage-free" does not mean they get to run outside. Confusing? Yes. Buy the best eggs you can, you'll get your money's worth. 
  • Cast iron. Yes, those black pans your grandmother used. Believe me when I say they are the best! A well seasoned pan is naturally non-stick, easy to clean, and produces much better results than your non-stick aluminum skillet.  And with health benefits too. 

  • Fire! Some people are very attached to their electric stoves. I understand. I wouldn't mind a smooth surface to clean either. But for some things, fire allows a much higher degree of control and the quick change of temperature which spells the difference between an amazing dish and a flop. For frying eggs, a constant, low low temperature is what is necessary, so electric may work just fine, but I highly recommend gas. 
Now here's what to do. 
  • Put a low fire under your skillet. After a few times you'll know exactly how big the fire should be. My stove can go even lower than what I need for this (good for making stock!) but a very low fire is needed to cook these evenly. 
  • While pan is heating, add lard, swish it around until it is all melted and pan is coated. Be sure to go up the sides just a little. 
  • Crack eggs into pan before it has fully heated. The eggs should not sizzle when they hit the pan. If they do, that is ok, they will be a little crispy on the bottom.
  • I usually cook three small eggs at a time, but 2 large eggs will be about the same. 
  • As soon as eggs are in the pan, try to make the yolks more toward the center, if they don't go there with your finger, that is ok. 
  • Put lid on immediately. If you don't have a tempered glass lid, you'll just have to check on them more often. 
  • Let eggs sit. 
  • Once the white over the egg yolks is just starting to turn opaque, turn the pan off. Your eggs are done! 
  • Quickly, slide them out of the pan, onto a waiting plate. Assuming you used enough fat, you should be able to just slip them out by tipping the pan. 
  • Top with butter and salt and enjoy!
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