Please excuse the braggadocio, but these are the best sunny side up eggs I've ever had. With fully cooked whites that are tender from top to bottom, and a thick yolk that flows like warm ganache, it takes the best parts of a poached egg and combines them with the ease and beauty pageant good looks of eggs sunny side up.
I've covered my techniques for the perfect boiled egg, perfect poached egg, and perfect scrambled eggs before, but a technique to cook eggs cooked sunny side up has been notably absent. That's because I've never been a huge fan of them.
Since sunny side ups are pan-fried, they almost always involve a raw yolk perched atop a tough disk of albumen. It's a bit like chewing through a sheet of plastic wrap that's been doused with raw egg yolk. Don't get me wrong, I love a runny yolk, but I want it rich and viscous, not lukewarm and watery. Doing the egg over-easy may fix the watery yolk, but it doesn't do the egg any favors in the aesthetic department and it only makes the plastic-like texture of the white even worse.
That's why I tend to gravitate towards poached eggs and their evenly cooked whites and soft creamy yolks. Still, not one to shy away from a challenge I wanted to see what could be done to make sunny side up eggs better. Well, after some experimentation I can tell you that the trick is to not fry them.
Frying an egg over high heat drives all the moisture out of the layer of egg white that's in contact with the pan, making it tough and chewy. That's why my first experiment was to lower the heat. The problem with cooking them over low heat is that, that by the time the white had fully cooked, the yolk had almost fully set as well.
Deciding I needed another approach, I turned to how my mom fries eggs. Her method involves frying them first, and then adding a bit of water and covering the pan with a lid. This sort of works, giving you an evenly cooked egg because the steam created applies heat from above and below. The problem is that you need a relatively high temperature to create the steam and then evaporate the water so you still end up with a chewy layer on the bottom. What's worse, the residual water makes the eggs soggy.
Still I couldn't help but feel my mom was onto something with applying heat from both above and below. That's when it occurred to me that what I needed was a way to apply dry heat, like inside an oven.
To control the application of heat to the eggs, I start them off in a cold pan. Since the bottoms of the eggs need to get cooked slightly more than the tops, I put the cold pan over low heat to give the egg whites a head start. When the albumen starts turning opaque, they go into a pre-heated oven until they're almost entirely cooked through. Finally, by sticking the pan back onto the stove for a brief moment, it evaporates the moisture between the egg and the pan, allowing you to cleanly slide the egg out of the pan and onto a plate.
Because the eggs are added to a cold pan it's absolutely essential that you use a non-stick pan. Otherwise you'll have some beautifully cooked sunny side up eggs that stick to the pan like chewing gum on a warm sidewalk.
- Place your oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 320 degrees F (160 C).
- Spray a thin even coat of cooking spray onto an 8" (20cm) non-stick frying pan with an oven-safe handle.
- Carefully break two eggs into the cold pan.
- Place the pan over low heat and cook the eggs until the bottom just starts turning opaque.
- Place the pan in the oven and cook the eggs until the white is almost completely set (about 3-4 minutes).
- To help release the egg from the pan, return the pan to the stove for a few seconds over medium-high heat until you see the edges start to pull away from the pan.