How to Prepare to Fry an Egg and Prevent a Mess

I am not going to tell you how to fry an egg. If you can spell it "egg" instead of "eg," then you can fry an egg. No, this is about the preparation to fry an egg, to make it easier to do in the morning when you may have ten other things going on while you cook breakfast, and to make cleanup easier.

1. Get an Egg Pan

A skillet with a non-stick surface gets great results and is easy to clean, but many of them are flimsy aluminum models with bad heat retention. I'll highly recommend the Calphalon 1390 ten-inch skillet, with a heavy disk of conducting metal on the bottom. The pan costs $30 at Target, but even the finest non-stick coating rarely lasts more than three years, so think of it as leasing a skillet for $10 a year.

Cast-iron skillets work beautifully, but they're heavy and high-maintenance, and there's a supertaster in my house who can taste the iron, and hates it.

2. Buy The Right Eggs

Sun-Up brand large eggs in the yellow carton are common in Houston. They are produced by Cal-Maine, the company that sells pricier red-stamped Eggland's Best.

A mass-produced brown egg is neither tastier nor healthier than a white egg. The only difference in taste would come from the way the eggs are raised. I've had some free-range chicken eggs that were noticeably tastier than regular eggs, but I'm not that particular.

Some urbanites are raising chickens in their backyards to get "yard eggs". In fact, I received some yard eggs from a co-worker. They were more delicious than store eggs, and their yolks had a deep-yellow color. However, six of them had those tiny black spots on the yolk and one of the 12 eggs was fresh but nasty -- no telling what kind of worm (or worse) the chicken ate before laying that stinker.

3. Preheat the Pan

I turn the heat to medium to start with, and put a splash of water in the pan. When the water boils, the pan is hot enough for eggs. This keeps the pan from overheating, which can result from the non-stick coating peeling off a few days later.

4. Pull Out a Lazy Plate

It's not lazy to pull a plate out of the cupboard. I call it a lazy plate because it keeps me from having to clean up egg whites from the counter when I crack the eggs, and to prevent this amusing conflict.

5. Crack the Eggs on a Flat Surface

A solid smack on a flat surface keeps the shells from going into the egg whites, and ultimately into your pan. Sure, a chef at Benihana can flip an egg into the air and crack it on the edge of his spatula as the egg comes down, but I often see the chefs picking up eggshell pieces from the hibachi. If a piece of the shell gets into the pan, use one of the cracked halves to scoop it out, or wet a spoon to keep the metal from repelling the eggshell piece and fish it out with the spoon.

6. Let the Butter Bubble

After adding butter to the skillet, let the foam subside -- the butter is now hot enough to fry the egg. I drop the eggs into the pan at medium heat, as this keeps the eggs from spreading too thin, and I turn down the heat to medium-low. But that's just how I do it. Like I said, I'm not going to be the one who tells you how to fry an egg.

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