The French Egg

I hesitated calling this post “The French Egg,” lest I give anyone the wrong impression. I am not declaring this is the definitive way to cook an egg à la française. This is just my favorite way to fry an egg, and it happens to be inspired by French Chef Fernand Point.

I developed a greater appreciation for the egg after reading La Bonne Cuisine, a culinary masterpiece that dedicates 26 pages solely to the preparation of l’oeuf, including recipes for “eggs in brown butter” and “deep fried eggs stuffed with mushrooms and ham.” First printed in 1927 and translated into English in 2005, La Bonne Cuisine is the French housewife’s equivalent of The Joy of Cooking.

La Bonne Cuisine  recommends cooking eggs in a warm oven to achieve the perfect oeufs sur la plat (fried eggs). However, I prefer pan-frying my eggs. After some research, I came across Chef Fernand Point’s method, and it produced exactly what I was looking for: an evenly-cooked, creamy-white egg with a velvety yolk.

Below, I describe two ways to experience the holy grail of pan-fried eggs: a steam-fried method that takes 10 minutes and a longer version that takes 20-30 minutes, depending on your stove and the way you like your eggs. The secret isn’t much of a secret: simply cook the egg on low heat and in lots of butter.

I strongly recommend trying the longer version first. I think it produces a perfect pan-fried egg. Every time. Slide the eggs into the pan, walk away for a half an hour and come back to a perfectly-cooked egg.  It will feel as if someone has sneaked into the kitchen and made you breakfast.

Another benefit is the longer the butter cooks, the more it caramelizes around the egg. Yes to that.

The French Egg

If your stove is like mine, you may have to adjust the cooking time according to its idiosyncrasies. For example, my right-front burner’s lowest heat is slightly more intense than my left-front burner’s. What’s going on with those two, anyway?



Preferred Method: On lowest heat, melt one tablespoon of butter in a medium-sized frying pan, preferably a cast iron skillet. When butter has melted, carefully break two eggs into the pan. Cook for approximately 25 minutes, just until the eggs have set on top. You may want to check on the eggs at the 20-minute mark — lightly touch the yolk with your finger or a spoon to determine if it has set. It should bounce back slightly but not be overly runny. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Alternative Shorter Method (Steam-Fried): On lowest heat, melt one tablespoon of butter in a medium-sized pan that has a fitted lid. When the butter has melted, carefully break two eggs into the pan. Cover with lid. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until tops of eggs are set. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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