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You can turn just about anything into a respectable meal by putting a fried egg on it. It can transform a highly unglamorous “clean out the fridge salad” into something you would gladly pay twenty dollars for at a restaurant. It can make a packet of instant ramen look, and taste, like a legitimate meal. Put them on big, fat burgers and warm, crusty toasts; hearty vegetable stews and messy piles of sautéed greens. As long as you have a few eggs in your fridge, you can turn almost anything into something special in minutes.
Though it’s a simple dish, a fried egg can be prepared in several slightly different ways, which create variations in both flavor and texture. For all of them, though, you’ll need eggs (obviously), fat (like butter or oil), and a pan—preferably a non-stick skillet. Eggs cook quickly, and will stick to just about anything if given the chance.
If you prefer to use a standard skillet, be very generous with whatever fat you’re choosing to fry in.
And speaking of sticking: during the first minute or two of cooking, the egg might seem as if it’s stuck to the pan. Do not be tempted to pry it from the pan with a spatula, or futz around with it in any way! As long as you’ve coated your pan with a bit of fat, the egg will release itself once the bottom is sufficiently cooked.
How to Make a Classic Fried Egg
Preheat a nonstick skillet for about a minute over medium-high heat, then add enough butter or oil to fully coat the bottom. Crack an egg into the pan, and leave it alone to fry until the white is completely set—about three to four minutes. Use a spatula or the flick of your wrist to flip the egg, and continue frying for about another two minutes until the yolk is cooked through.
How to Make Over-Easy Eggs
Follow the directions for a classic fried egg, but after flipping, cook for only 15-20 seconds, just to barely cook the yolk.
How to Make Sunny-Side Up Eggs
Start by making a classic fried egg, but instead of flipping it over, put a lid over the pan for about 30 seconds so that steam can gently set the top of the egg.
How to Make Crispy Eggs
Preheat your skillet over medium-high, then add enough butter or oil to come up about ¼-inch on the side of the pan. When the fat is hot, crack an egg into a small cup, then gently slide into the pan; it will bubble and hiss and start puffing up around the edges. Using a spatula, gently slide the egg around in the oil every minute or so, until the bottom is incredibly brown and crispy. Carefully tilt the skillet to the side, then use a large spoon to ladle hot fat over the egg until the whites are set and the yolks are cooked to your preference.
How to Make Cream-Fried Eggs
Preheat your skillet over high heat, then pour in enough heavy cream to come ¼-inch up the side. Crack your egg into the pan, then leave it completely alone. As it cooks, the cream will end up separating into water, which will evaporate away as steam, milk fat, which is butter, and milk solids, which, when cooked, are what give brown butter its gorgeous flavor. Once the cream has separated, spoon some of it over the top of the egg to help it set, then continue to cook the egg until brown and crispy on the bottom.