I have a confession to make: I’m not the biggest fan of the fried egg.
While there are instances when the crispy, lacy edges take a dish to the next level — “Those edges are my favorite part of a fried egg, and I’ve always loved how they combine with a runny yolk to create such a satisfying combination of textures,” Food editor Joe Yonan once wrote — other times they are an impediment to satisfying silken sustenance. When topping a bowl of polenta or grits, I don’t want to create a big mess by having to hack away at those crispy edges with my spoon or pull out a knife to saw through the hardened white, I’d much rather not encounter any resistance as I use my spoon to gather the egg and whatever food is underneath to usher it from bowl to mouth.
And then there’s the issue of cooking a fried egg. To do it properly requires more oil (almost one cup) than I usually want to use. You can fry them with less oil, but then you’re either stuck at the stove, basting to get the egg white fully cooked (I’m too lazy for that) or OK with it being a little raw at the top (one of the few food things I’d rather not stomach).
There are other stovetop cooking methods that produce the soft and supple texture I often desire, but they have drawbacks of their own. One method, “blindfolding,” calls for dropping a few ice cubes in the pan and covering it to trap in the steam. This works well to cook the egg all of the way through while keeping it soft, but it also causes the yolk to film over, hiding its beautiful glow. Other websites recommend a similar technique sans ice that produces slightly closer results to what I want, but I’ve found that there’s a small window for perfection where the film doesn’t start to creep up over the yolk.
That’s where the oven comes into play. The gentle, indirect heat your oven provides cooks the white all the way through while keeping it tender and leaving the yolk as golden as the sun on a clear summer day.
I picked up this method working the egg station during the brunch shift, so I know from personal experience cooking dozens upon dozens of eggs this way that this technique is practically foolproof.
• Heat the oven to a moderate temperature (in the range of 325 to 350 degrees).
• In an oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium-low or medium heat, heat a small amount of fat — just enough help keep the eggs from sticking. (Heating the pan helps speed things up a bit, but this step isn’t vital.)
• Crack your eggs into the skillet, one at a time, and cook until the whites begin to set, just a few seconds.
• Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the whites are fully set but the yolks remain runny, 3 to 5 minutes.
• Season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to go.
In my restaurant days we’d serve them atop kale salads and bowls of biscuits and gravy, or you could pile them on pasta or alongside crispy hash browns. Think of it as a less daunting way to add the benefits of a poached egg without the finickiness but with the aesthetics to create a feast for the eyes.