Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sunny-side up

There are 3 secrets to perfect sunny-side up eggs: very low heat, cover, and padding.  The first two I have figured out a long time ago.  The lower the heat, the more tender the egg.  The cover helps the top and bottom cook more evenly.  But what about that padding?  By padding I mean the stuff you put under the eggs to make them into a more substantial and interesting meal: vegetables, grains, meats, etc.  I used to think those were nice additions, but didn't realize how much they impacted the texture of the eggs until I tried skipping them.  Without all that padding,  the white inevitably got tough and the bottom of the yolk got set.  Those tomatoes, asparagus, and lentils do much more than compliment your eggs, they insulate them from direct heat of the skillet, making the white tender and yolk runny.

The wonderful thing about this dish is that in only 4 minutes, you can turn your leftovers into a breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Set a skillet over moderate heat and spread your leftovers evenly to form a layer 1/4-1/2 inch.  Cover and heat for a couple of minutes until warm.  Reduce the heat to low (if using electric stove, take the skillet off heat to let the burner cool off while you are adding the eggs).  Break the eggs on top of your leftovers, cover the skillet, and cook on low heat until the whites are almost opaque, 3-4 minutes (check at 3 minutes).  It is safer to remove the skillet off the heat when the whites are slightly translucent.  Leave it covered for 30-60 seconds, and they'll be done.  If you missed that moment and the whites got completely opaque, remove the eggs onto the plate immediately.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

The eggs in the pictures are cooked over lentils braised in red wine.


Jeanne said...

I love this idea and have eaten eggs over many different things, but always heated "padding" separately from eggs. I'm fairly confident in the kitchen, but perfect eggs in many variations, are my quest. I figured out the heat thing, after burning dozens of eggs, or as my husband says, "making them rusty".

Which leads me to, I would love to try this, but am off eggs for now... I contracted a moderate case of salmonella, and was sick for several weeks. It required gross tests and then significant antibiotics and rest. I lost 8 lbs (not a bad thing). Anyway, I'm overtly cautious in the kitchen, separate everything for chicken and other poultry... narrowed (in my mind) anyway to runny eggs... I can't even look at eggs now without feeling queasy and it makes me feel robbed! Do you know the rules about killing salmonella in runny yolks? What temp, how long?

Anything you can enlighten me with that would solve, what came first the salmonell or the egg question, would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much!

Laura and Roger said...

I made these this morning on brown rice and caramelized onions. The rice was crisp and the eggs were wonderful. Thank you!

Liz (Simple Italian Cooking) said...

I have never heard of padding the eggs when cooking them. I will give your idea of padding a try and see how it works out. I get so tired of rubbery eggs!

Helen said...


So sorry to hear you've got salmonella :( It must be very unpleasant.

From what I understand, most salmonella cases are due to cross-contamination. For example, if you break and egg, don't wash your hands, pick up a piece of bread and eat it. That sounds innocent enough, but what most people don't realize is that there is more salmonella on the shell of the egg than inside.

Eating runny eggs might not seem appetizing to you right now, but I doubt it's a serious risk.

It's also not nearly as important to have everything separate for chicken as it is to just wash it all very well. remember, you don't have a separate pair of hands for chicken :)

If you want to pasteurize your eggs completely while keeping the egg runny, cook them at 142F water bath for at least 1.5 hours (less time might be sufficient, but I am not sure). This method requires either an immersion circulator (the equipment used in sous-vide cooking) or very careful monitoring with a precise thermometer. Here are the details on how to do it.

Here are rough temperatures and durations at which salmonella dies:

160F instantly
150F for 10 min
140F for 30 min
130F for 1 hour

Keep in mind that you first have to bring the food to that temperature all the way through and then hold at that exact temperature for the required amount of time.

Miles said...

Good idea - I usually fry up some left over mashed potatoes, set them in the oven, then cook the eggs and put 'em on the potatoes.

Tomorrow morning I'll try this, using the potatoes as padding.

therealandrew said...

Thanks for the tips! I have never thought about padding the eggs when cooking on a skillet. It makes sense that the indirect heat would add tenderness. Can't wait to experiment with different ingredients!


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Anonymous said...

Hi Helen,
It looks from your picture that the yolk is completely runny, even at the bottom. Is this accurate? Whenever I try to cook sunny side up eggs on low heat there is a small bit of yolk at the bottom of the egg that is cooked more than i would like. Also, on an electric stove, it took a lot longer than 3-4 minutes to get the egg cooked for me. Maybe I didn't let the pan heat up enough initially, I'm not really sure.

Also, is it bad to remove the cover while the eggs are cooking to check sooner than after 3 minutes?

Helen said...

Hi there,

The bottom of the yolk will always be more set than the top, but I find that I can get 80% of the yolk to be runny with this method. Feel free to check before 3 minutes are up, just cover it back up as quickly as possible. Exactly how long it will take is unpredictable. It depends on your stove, the skillet, the padding type and thickness. Use the recipe as a guide, but adjust based on the situation.


Helen said...

oh and one more thing -- make sure the padding (the stuff you are putting eggs on) is completely heated through before you add the eggs (if it's a bit saucy, it should be bubbling).


Charles said...

Yes, great idea, we do a similar thing with spinach and chopped browned and seasoned onions alltogether.
We like to finish the meal with our favourite Yemeni Matari coffee from The Tea and Coffee Emporium.
Thanks for the post and the opportunity to comment.