A perfectly fried egg, should have a bright, slightly crispy-edged egg white and a molten, slightly runny egg yolk that bursts when you cut into it with the side of your fork.
This sunny side up fried egg technique is a bit unconventional — some people hate it (they're sticklers for tradition), some people love it. But you absolutely cannot argue with these results!
🍳 Who This Technique is For
Frying eggs is one of those cooking skills that is both super easy and also very technically complex. It all depends on how precise you want your results to be.
This fried egg technique is for anyone who will accept nothing less than the perfect fried egg with soft yolk — the kind that bursts with golden yellow goodness at the slightest pressure from your fork.
I'm actually not that picky about my fried eggs — mostly I use the low-and-slow technique I shared in my paprika fried egg recipe. The traditional culinary school method of frying eggs also involves a low, slow heat to get that fried egg emoji 🍳 look (no browning around the edges). But even those methods can sometimes results in an egg yolk that has cooked through slightly on the bottom.
Which, honestly, I'm fine with. But Jimmy is far, far pickier about what his ideal sunny side up runny egg yolk should look like. The eggs have to be cooked, but still completely runny.
Jimmy eats his fried egg, toast, and bacon breakfasts in a very specific order. First he cuts the white away from the yolk with near-surgical precision, then he assembles an egg white and bacon sandwich before finally bursting the soft egg yolks with a slice of toast, which he uses to mop up all the golden goodness. He enjoys this ritual.
So if achieving the perfectly runny fried egg yolk is very important to you, you're going to want to give this method a try. It is a little bit extra, I'll admit.
So how does it work? Let's get to it!
🔪 How To Get A Runny Egg Yolk Every Time
Instead of cracking the egg directly into the pan, you're going to first separate the yolk from the white. Set the yolk aside in the egg shell or a small bowl. Make sure the yolk doesn't break! If it breaks, you'll need a new egg.
Heat the pan, then heat a small amount of oil on the surface until it starts to shimmer. Make sure there's enough oil to fully coat the surface of the pan.
Gently tip the egg white into the pan and cook until it's opaque and mostly set. It's okay if there's still a little bit of uncooked egg white on top, as long as it's mostly set and cooked through.
Then, carefully add the yolk back into the pan on top of the white. Cook a few minutes longer, just so it's not completely raw and has set in place on the white.
To tell when the yolk has attached to the white, look at the edges of the yolk. When you first tip it onto the white it will be very round and have edges that curve under. As it settles and warms up the edges will slope outwards instead of curving under. You can also tilt the pan slightly — if the yolk stays put, it's done.
Boom. Perfectly soft, runny egg yolks. Every time.
This method also gives you two opportunities to season your egg: Season the white in the pan with a pinch of salt and pepper while it cooks, then sprinkle another pinch over the egg yolk once you add it to the white.
Use a thin, flexible spatula — like a fish turner spatula — to carefully remove the egg from the skillet without damaging the edges.
🥣 Ingredients & Equipment
Here's what you'll need to use this perfectly runny egg yolk technique:
- Egg - This will work with pretty much any size egg! I use large eggs, but you do you.
- Salt - Whatever kind you like.
- Pepper - Freshly cracked is best, but a pinch of pre-ground black pepper will also work.
- Oil or butter - Whatever your preferred fat for your pan is. We're cooking low and slow so you don't need a super high smoke point oil here. Just make sure you have at least enough to coat the entire bottom of your pan in a thin layer (you can have more than that if you want crispier edges).
- Small bowl(s) - You'll need one bowl for the egg white and another for the egg yolk (if you aren't keeping the egg yolk in the shell).
- Skillet - Non-stick is great for frying eggs. If you have stainless steel, make sure you give the pan time to warm up before adding the oil or else the egg will stick. A well-seasoned cast iron will also work.
- Egg separator - This is optional. To separate the egg yolk from the egg white you can either use an egg separator, or you can use the egg shells as an egg separator by transferring the egg yolk between the two halves of the shell.
⏲️ Expert Tips and Additional Notes
- To crack an egg, whack it firmly against a hard, flat surface, then use your thumbs to separate the two halves of the shell. Do not crack it against the edge of a bowl or cup, because that pushes the shards of the shell inside the egg where they risk piercing the yolk.
- If your stove or burners are uneven, you may need to tilt the pan to keep the yolk in the center of the egg while it fries. To test if the yolk has attached to the white, set the pan back down. If the yolk starts to slide, it needs more time.
- Eggs are easiest to separate when they're cold because the yolk is firmer and less likely to burst.
👩🏻🍳 Fried Egg FAQ
Crack the egg over a small wire mesh strainer set over a small bowl. This will strain out the watery bits of the egg white that tend to spread out everywhere in the pan. Don't let the white sit in the strainer for too long or the wires will start cutting through the delicate white.
Egg whites become more watery with age. Fresher eggs will have egg whites that are less watery.
Non-stick pans are great for frying eggs. They're not meant to be used over high heat, and egg frying is a low, slow cooking process.
You can also use stainless steel or cast iron pans for fried eggs. Just make sure to heat the pan before adding oil and wait for the oil to shimmer and coat the entire bottom of the pan before adding the egg. A room temperature egg will also be less likely to stick to a properly heated stainless steel or cast iron pan because it won't cool the surface of the pan on contact.
When the egg is fried with the yolk in the center and hasn't been flipped that's called a sunny side up egg. That's what this technique will give you — a sunny side up egg with a perfectly runny egg yolk.
"Over easy" is when the egg has been flipped just briefly and the yolk is still runny. "Over medium" is when the egg has been flipped and the egg is barely runny. You could try combining this technique with a flip, but since the egg yolk is a little more fragile here I wouldn't recommend it.
As the egg yolk thickens it will start to change shape and color. Some spotty discoloration as the yolk heats up is normal, but if the yolk starts turning pale yellow, you've gone too far. There will always be some carryover cooking, so if you're unsure, turn the burner off or remove the egg from the pan and let the egg sit for a minute or two before serving. This is a low, slow cooking method so as long as you don't wander away from the stove, you should be able to pull the egg off the heat before the yolk completely cooks through.
There are a lot of variables to answering this question, but generally yes. If you're serving runny or soft cooked eggs, pasteurized eggs are the safest option. These are a bit harder to find. According to the official Egg Safety Center, egg yolks coagulate and thicken between 144-158°F and fried eggs should "cook until whites are completely set, and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard." This is why it's important to wait for the egg yolk to adhere to the egg white when using this cooking method — when the yolk doesn't move on top of the white, that means the yolk has warmed up and started to thicken but is still liquid inside. You don't want a pure raw, uncooked egg yolk on your egg.
Note: The CDC and FDA both recommend pregnant women, adults older than 65, infants, young children, and people with compromised immune systems avoid eating raw (or undercooked) eggs.
The technical name for the egg white is the albumen.
Fried Egg with Perfect Runny Egg Yolk
- Non-stick pan (stainless steel or cast iron will also work)
- Egg separator (optional)
- 1 egg
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon oil (or cooking spray)
- other seasonings (optional)
- Prep the egg: Separate the egg yolk from the egg white using your preferred egg separation method. Set the white and yolk aside until ready to cook.
- Heat the pan: Preheat skillet over low-medium heat. When a few droplets of water flicked onto the surface of the pan sizzle immediately, you’re ready to add the oil. When the oil shimmers and easily coats the bottom of the pan in an even layer, you're ready to add the egg.
- Cook the egg white: Gently tip the egg white into the pan. Use a spatula to collect any watery bits and pull them toward the white. Sprinkle the egg white with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. When the egg white is mostly firm and no longer translucent (about 3-4 minutes), slide the spatula under the edges to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan and reposition it if needed. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a low cooking temperature — there shouldn't be a lot of sizzling and popping happening here.
- Add the yolk: Carefully tip the egg yolk onto the center of the cooked egg white. Be gentle and delicate. Tilt the pan slightly if needed to keep the egg yolk centered on the white. Season the yolk with salt and pepper.
- Finish cooking: Cook the egg for an additional 2-4 minutes until the yolk has set in place and doesn't slide on the white if you tilt the pan. The edges of the yolk should flatten out slightly and slope downward without curving under.
- Remove the egg to a pan, plate, or directly onto a piece of toast. Enjoy!
- If you want to be even more extra, crack your egg white into a round 4″ cookie or biscuit cutter (sprayed with cooking spray) to get a perfectly circular fried egg shape.
- The CDC and FDA both recommend pregnant women, adults older than 65, infants, young children, and people with compromised immune systems avoid eating raw (or undercooked) eggs.