For perfectly cooked, amazingly tender fried eggs every time, just add water.

By Bridget Hallinan
Updated February 06, 2020
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I’ve never been good at frying eggs.

Growing up in New Jersey, aka diner central, I ate a lot of over-easy eggs—served on breakfast sandwiches, paired with homefries and bacon, and plopped on waffles, too. Some people think it’s silly to order breakfast out when you can easily make it at home, but for me, part of the appeal was the perfect eggs I couldn’t seem to replicate. The yolks were intact and just the right amount of runny; the whites actually had a shape, instead of being folded over and practically browned like mine. It got to the point where I started making scrambled eggs instead, since the results were (slightly) less unpredictable.

John Kernick

However, in our February 2020 issue, our Culinary Director-at-Large Justin Chapple shared a few of his tricks for cooking the best-ever eggs, and all of them involved water—including the fried eggs, too. You start by adding a small amount of oil to the skillet and cracking in the eggs, just like you normally would. Then, about 30 seconds in, you add hot water to the pan, basting the eggs until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny. It creates tender, soft fried eggs with no overdone edges in sight. The best part? They’re ready in under five minutes.

The easy technique has inspired me to rethink how I’m frying my eggs at home, and maybe it’ll convince you, too—here are a few other reasons why basting fried eggs is your best bet, according to our Associate Food Editor Kelsey Youngman.

1. You’re using less oil

Typically, you’d use about two tablespoons of oil to fry eggs if you want crispy, lacy edges. However, this recipe only calls for one tablespoon, since the hot water is added to the skillet soon after the eggs start cooking. It’s a healthier method than classic frying, but don't worry—we're not slipping into egg-white omelette territory here.

2. Your eggs will cook evenly

Kelsey explains that this technique helps you avoid rubbery whites and underdone yolks, because steam from the water helps the eggs cook evenly, transferring heat all the way through to the tops of the eggs. That means you don't need to flip your eggs—or risk breaking those delicate yolks. Just remember that it’s crucial that you keep the heat at medium, which is hot enough to set the whites, but not so hot that you’ll burn the eggs or evaporate the water too quickly.

3. It’s an easy brunch hack

We like to serve these basted fried eggs on tartines with creamed mustard, a miraculous combination of two kinds of mustard, sour cream, and a dash of lemon juice. Kelsey says if you’re planning on hosting a big brunch, it would be an easy dish to make in a big batch. You can make that creamed mustard up to five days in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge; the slices of toast can be cooked together in the oven, as opposed to individually in a toaster. Plus, since you’re not dealing with a super-hot, oily pan, you can also cook several eggs at once without the typical drama. The end result is an elegant dish that comes together in just 15 minutes, with less stress for you and impressively tender eggs for your guests.