I have spent most of my egg-eating life doing everything in my culinary power to avoid getting texture of any kind on my eggs. Even the smallest amount of a wire-like edge to a firm-cooked white made me want to run, so when I’d cook eggs, I’d opt for any method that didn’t involve a frying pan. Hard-boiled? Good. Scrambled? Better. Soft-boiled, peeled and smashed? Oh yes. Poached? Yeah we can.
And then a month or so ago I started following Frank Prisinzano, a restaurateur in my neighborhood on Instagram, a man that is unwaveringly obsessed with both eating and writing about crispy eggs. “The eggs should almost explode in the hot oil, the white should soufflé around the yolk” he writes, “the bottom should form a crispy crust hard enough that you can remove the egg from a normal pan with just a little scraping and shimmying.” You should eat it immediately, “like a steak,” showered with sea salt, pepper flakes, herbs or spices of your choosing.
It had my attention, but I was still doubtful, and remained that way until the day he uploaded a crispy egg video clip that stopped me in my tracks. I watched it a dozen times (that I’ll admit to) in a row. I sent it to my husband and said, “WE MUST.” And I knew, I just knew, that I’d been infected with the crispy egg fervor and that it would be a long time until I wanted my eggs any other way. I mean, just look at this. My photos will do this no justice, thanks to what I call The Week Without Sun here in NYC.
This technique couldn’t be easier to master; you’re going to get it right the first time. You want a blazing hot pan, to which you’ll add a good coating of olive oil or cooking fat or your choice. It should get hot enough that it’s just starting to smoke before you drop in an egg or two and step back (it’s hella splattery, a hissing sputtering drama queen of a cooking technique) and watch it blow up in the pan. The white erupts in bubbles that form an almost doughnut-like ring around the yolk and within a minute, the edges will be brown. Don’t touch it! Let it go. Keep cooking it until the white part looks opaque; it’s very hard to overcook an egg when you’re aiming for a good crisp shell — the kind that crackles like a potato chip, yesss — underneath. Then, using a thin spatula* loosen it from the pan and put it on everything: latke waffles, fried rice, all the fritters, buttery herb-gruyere toast fingers, breakfast risotto, all of it. There’s no looking back now.
* Have we talked about flexible fish spatulas before? This is one of my Top 5 favorite kitchen gadgets. Buy one of these and you’ll never use a regular spatula again. It’s just thin and curved enough that you can slide underneath anything — pancakes, cookies, roasted vegetables — without disturbing them, and is large enough to give you a good foundation for lifting and flipping, even things like crepes. Amazon informs me that I bought this one in June 2010, but really, any metal one will do.
Egg variations, previously: Deviled, Asparagus-Stuffed, Baked with Spinach and Mushrooms, Poached, Smashed, Scrambled on Toast, Shakshuka-d, in Five Egg Sandwiches and my take on the deli egg sandwich
One year ago: Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl
Two years ago: Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Three years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
Four years ago: Mushroom Lasagna
Five years ago: Date Spice Loaf
Six years ago: Balsamic-Glazed Sweet and Sour Cippoline
Seven years ago: Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers
Eight years ago: Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette
As for skillets, any kind will do. I used both a stainless steel and cast-iron here. The smaller the skillet, the less your egg will move around if it turns out that your stove, like mine, isn’t perfectly level.
1 glug olive oil or cooking fat of your choice
1 egg, any size
Salt, pepper, herbs, spices or hot sauce, or all of the above
Over a high flame, heat a skillet for a full minute. Add a glug of oil and let it heat until it just begins to smoke, another 30 seconds. Add your egg, reduce the heat to medium-high, and step back; it’s going to hiss and sputter and basically be the most wildly dramatic thing to happen at breakfast in a long time. Within a minute, it should get brown at the edges but don’t touch or move it. Let it cook until the white looks fully opaque, another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Shimmy a thin metal spatula under the egg, gently loosening any stuck parts. Transfer to whatever you’re serving it on (toast, latke waffles, fried rice, home fries, a plate), shower it with seasonings, herbs and spices of your choice and waste no time digging in. Repeat as needed.
Great tip from the comments: Many have mentioned that you can spoon some of the oil in the skillet over the cooking egg to help it cook more quickly on top, plus, it makes it even more bubbly. I’d definitely recommend this, especially as an extra layer of security that the white will be fully cooked. [Updated to note that I did this a couple mornings later, and whee! The whites were even more bubbly on top.]
Egg white variation: Let’s say you have a human, small or large, in your household that doesn’t like egg yolks. It turns out, crispy egg whites are pretty cool too, cooked with the same method described above. I think I’d especially love one on a sandwich.
Crispy sandwich egg: Flip your egg over for an additional 30 seconds or so, until the yolk is almost but not fully set. Be the envy of every other breakfast sandwich.
Multiple crispy eggs: I’ve done up to two at once and it works just fine. You’ll get a higher amount of crispy edge, however, if you fry them one at a time.