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I've recently found a recipe that I really enjoy, but it calls for a sunny side up egg. Every time I try to fry an egg in this way it ends up sticking to the pan, the yolk breaks, and it ends up as an eggy mess.

I've tried multiple pans including my cast-iron pan, a teflon, pan, and others but they seem to always stick. What am I doing wrong?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I like to use low heat and a lid on a teflon pan. The lid helps the top side of the egg set faster, and prevents the underside from over cooking. Of course, this is easier if you have a glass lid. (also, as others have noted, it is important to add fat and to preheat the pan)

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If you are going to down vote, let's see a comment please. –  michael May 15 '11 at 15:33
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The key to non-stick cooking is to heat up the pan enough before adding oil. This allows the microscopic "teeth/pits" on the surface of the to pan close up as the metal expands from heating.

Only after reaching this point, add oil. If the recipe calls for a lower heat, the pan will still remain non-stick even if you let it cool down, now. Otherwise, these teeth/pits will bite down on the food that is being cooked.


Use the "water test" to know when the pan is hot enough to add oil. Besides being fascinating to watch, passing the water test ensures the pan becomes amazingly non-stick.

When the pan is hot enough, water will ball up like mercury and slide around the pan without evaporating. The temperature required is pretty high, but I've found the non-stick properties remain if I add the oil and let the pan cool to the cooking temperature I want.

Note: preheating the pan like this applies to non-stainless steel pans, but water only balls up like mercury on stainless steel. Also this may not be safe to do on a Teflon-coated pan.

Detailed explanation of how/why this works: On properly heating your pan

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Wow, that video on the water test is great. Thankyou. –  tonylo May 15 '11 at 3:25
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First thing to do, make sure your pan is at the correct level of heat (around the mid-range on my stove top). Then, make sure you spray your pan with some food release. Then, crack the egg into the middle of the pan, and let it cook. You shouldn't have any problems.

Don't have the heat too high, don't start with a cold pan. Teflon coated should work like a charm.

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Careful with Pam and other canned sprays on high temperature surfaces such as pans. They often contain soy lecithin and other chemicals that turn gummy when cooked. After many uses this will create a permanent sticky patina on the surface of a frying pan. –  Peter DeWeese Jan 18 '12 at 3:45
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There is absolutely no need for a teflon pan, leftium has is correct about heating the pan before adding any fat. I prefer to get a (cast-iron) pan smoking hot, add the egg, and quickly put the egg in the oven, or broiler.

The Teflon pans on the market are still fairly fragile and eventually the Teflon degrades and begins to get into the food. Hard anodized pans from Calhpalon are great non-still pans with a surface harder than steel.

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Although you've said you've used a teflon pan do you normally have problems with the pan in general? If so it might be worth buying a new one. Keeping the pan at a low heat throughout can help with preventing sticking (although admittedly it makes the egg take longer to cook). Also, if you wait until the egg has cooked through a bit before trying to move it at all it should make it a bit easier and less likely to break. If you wait until the egg has at least started to slightly bubble it should be easier for you. Good luck!

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