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Say I want to cook sunny-side up or scrambled eggs, I would ask help from my family, but I wanna try it on my own.

I have a non-stick pan which as of now kinda sticks and it's what we usually use when cooking something, apart from our wok, which is less stickier. What I would want to do first is heating up the pan, adding the oil, then inserting the egg. Cook for a while then serve it on a plate.

Under what circumstances should I use oil for cooking eggs, and how much?

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    If I may add to the two excellent answers. The oil you fry anything in affects the flavor. I usually use olive oil, sometimes butter and on occasion bacon grease. So experiment and discover what oil/fat works best for your palate. – Steve Chambers May 25 at 0:11
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    @SteveChambers true. if there's some bacon grease left, might as well try it. – Derrick Williams May 25 at 0:13
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    Do you actually want to fry eggs like your title says, or do you just want to cook them as the question body suggests? – Kat May 25 at 12:33
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    If you're new to cooking, you may not know, but if your non-stick pan has scratches in it, you should toss it out and get a new one. Scratches are the non-stick coating coming off, which may be why you feel the pan is "more sticky". Also, never use a metal utensil or spatula in a non-stick pan, since it will scratch the coating and lead to the above. Welcome to cooking, I think you'll enjoy yourself! – SnakeDoc May 25 at 21:18
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I'd say not more than a table spoon (around 15ml), maybe a little more if you feel your eggs are sticking; you need to experiment, but I think you should use as little as possible.

Use oil (or other fat) to help crisp up the egg.

Butter will work better for scrambled eggs (IMO).

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  • Butter shouldn't be added at the start, no? Otherwise it might burn... – xuq01 May 26 at 20:27
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    @xuq01 No. Butter needs to be added at the start since it's being used instead of oil. You just don't cook with high heat when using butter. In fact, for perfect scrambled eggs and omelettes you need to take the pan away from heat from time to time to control temperature (I learned this from youtube.com/watch?v=1dGBRGtyzX0) – slebetman May 26 at 21:52
  • Yes, the later is necessary. I also see some people folding in cream from time to time to cool the pan down. – xuq01 May 26 at 21:54
  • There's always a second stick of butter in my fridge reserved for the purpose of painting pans. I use high heat from start to finish; it's just a timed exercise. But that's because 'perfect' is caramelized over easy. – Mazura May 27 at 3:25
  • I'd say this answer is misleading since the amount of lubricant needed is heavily influenced by the pan used to fry the eggs. The "stickiness" of the pan is what influences the amount of oil needed the most. I have an old non-rust (I don't know the proper English translation) pan that is really really sticky and you need to add a lot of oil. I also have a new pan with ceramic coating where only a very small amount of oil (or even none at all) is needed to make bull's eyes (sunny side fried eggs). – mishan May 27 at 13:15
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Technically, an egg is not "fried" unless there is at least some oil involved. So even though you could cook an egg in a very well-seasoned cast iron pan with no oil, it wouldn't technically be a fried egg.

The primary reason you use oil, though, is to keep the eggs from sticking. So in a pan like yours -- a worn-out nonstick pan that's not really nonstick -- you're going to need oil, and probably a fair amount.

The exact amount is going to vary according to three factors:

  1. How large your pan is
  2. How many eggs you are making
  3. How "sticky" the pan is

So if that nonstick pan is only 6"/15cm, just a tiny bit scratched, and you're making two eggs, you can use just 2 tsp of oil. But if you're cooking 8-10 eggs in a 14"/35cm nonstick pan that's completely scratched up, then you'd need more like 4oz/100ml of oil.

Which brings us to the other reason to use oil: flavor and texture. Some ways of making fried eggs use even more oil. For example, the standard Thai fried egg is cooked in a pool of oil 1/2"/1cm deep or more, in order to get lacy, crispy whites.

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    "The primary reason you use oil, though, is to keep the eggs from sticking." Unless you're making deep-fried eggs, in which case the oil is the primary cooking medium. – nick012000 May 25 at 6:38
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    Isn't the seasoning on an iron cast pan oil anyway? – bunyaCloven May 25 at 10:40
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    @bunyaCloven - no, it used to be oil, now it's a polymerised coating. – Tetsujin May 25 at 10:43
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    Yes, the official diameter measurements, which are often slightly different from the actual size. Try measuring across the bottom if you don't know what you have. – FuzzyChef May 25 at 16:31
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    I disagree with the first sentence. From M-W, for example: "Fry (v): to cook in a pan or on a griddle over heat especially with the use of fat" (emphasis mine). There is no meaningful difference between an egg cooked in a small amount of fat, and no fat, other than a slight difference in color; it's the same cooking process, i.e., frying. – Joe M May 26 at 17:22
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The amount of oil required is dependant on the result you want.

At minimum, you can fry an egg in a teaspoon of oil, but if you want the top basted you will need sufficient that you can splash some over the top to finish it. Otherwise you either have to fry it for longer, or risk the white still being runny. Alternatively, abandon the sunny-side-up idea & flip it.

Butter will burn unless you keep the heat down, but it's a viable alternative if you have the patience. It's not what I would consider a 'true' fried egg, though. Hot oil, fast cook is my ideal. Slight crisping around the edges.
As mentioned in comments - if you have bacon fat, that's the best.

Catering fried eggs are a different thing altogether - to save having to carefully monitor each egg's progress, they're cooked in maybe an inch of oil, so they float.
I wouldn't suggest this as a particularly delicious method for home cooking, they come out rather pale & insipid. Sometimes they'll grill them to finish.
Just to cover all bases - some caterers will fry eggs on a griddle/hotplate surface. This is similar to the pan method, but you can't baste.

Scrambled eggs are a whole different thing - though you would traditionally start with a butter coating on the pan, for flavour, the result is not 'fried', it's merely 'heated & stirred until it mostly solidifies'. If you have a really good non-stick pan, you can make scrambled with no oil/fat.

Fried, on the other hand, really can't properly be called fried unless it's in oil/fat.
That's the very definition of flrying.

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Although the accepted answer suggested around 15 ml, I would do around 5 ml (a teaspoon) for a single egg. Just make sure you don't unnecessarily coat the whole pan, and you should be good with a teaspoon.

For me, pans are remarkably non-stick right after they have been used (still hot), meaning I can fry an egg with the super thin layer of oil left on the pan.

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Under what circumstances should I use oil for cooking eggs

I will turn that around: the circumstance where you will not use oil is when you have a working non-stick pan (so not the worn-out one you described) and you prefer eggs made without oil. If any of these conditions is not true, you should use oil.

and how much

The range is huge. Upwards, it is basically unlimited - I haven't had deep-fried eggs, but I don't doubt that somebody is making them. What is more interesting is the lower limit. You have to have a layer of oil that is sufficiently thick for the egg to be able to slide on it without touching the pan, no matter how many milliliters it takes This is quite thin, less than a millimeter of depth is sufficient, although you might not be able to get a continuous layer that thin on a failing nonstick pan.

Make sure you are not using less oil than that. If you have a normal pan and use too little oil, the eggs will stick. If you have a nonstick pan, the oil will polymerize and gum the pan up.

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  • "I haven't had deep-fried eggs, but I don't doubt that somebody is making them." Except deep-fried *hard boiled" eggs are really popular :) – Anastasia Zendaya May 27 at 12:57
  • I get 'deep fried' eggs every day when I'm working on location - that's how the caterers make them, an inch of oil. They're not great, but sometimes their alternative of scrambled is even worse. This is usually not high-grade catering, but you have to stoke up on the calories for the day ahead ;) – Tetsujin May 27 at 17:24
  • @AnastasiaZendaya For me, they are the opposite of "really popular", I have never ever had them, or heard of them. Which is one of countless examples of why food culture is extremely varied, and many of the "absolute truths" people tend to learn are in fact arbitrary and highly local. – rumtscho May 28 at 11:22
  • @rumtscho Good point. In case you're wondering though, they're called scotch eggs: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotch_egg – Anastasia Zendaya May 28 at 12:12
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The heat matters as much, if not more, than the oil, unless you're basically shallow frying (like, enough oil to not cover the egg, but still get halfway up it or so). Get the heat right, and only a bare touch of oil will be enough (or maybe, none at all). Get it wrong, and even a fair amount will still see you sticking.

What's really important is that it's hot enough before putting the egg in. Oil will help you here, because it will transfer the heat a bit better than the pan itself will. Make sure that the pan is preheated (meaning, as hot as you want to cook the egg on), and that the oil is also preheated (so, on the pan for at least 15 or so seconds before the egg is).

Also make sure you're using the right level of heat; if you have a laser thermometer or an electric griddle/induction range, this is easiest. Aim for something like 325°F/165°C. Much higher and your oil might burn, much lower and you'll end up sticking.

Ultimately I use just a tiny bit of oil - a faint spray from an oil mister - and don't usually stick when I cook my eggs, on a non-teflon nonstick pan (so, a pan that isn't quite as non-stick as the teflon ones).

One other note: you can season non-stick pans just like you season cast iron! Put a thin coat of oil on them, then heat them up until the oil is quite hot (some smoking is okay, but it will discolor the pan if it's not a dark color pan). If you're using Teflon pans (PTFE), be careful not to heat the pan beyond the safe temperature your manufacturer recommends, but the hotter the better for this up to that point. Let it go for a while, at least a minute or so. Then turn it off, and let it cool completely. Finally, wipe it out with a towel (but no soap/water). This page for example goes over this. You can do this to an older pan and regain much of the nonstick ability, as long as not too much has actually flaked off!

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  • The 're-seasoning' will never be as non-stick as the original coating, though. It's something i periodically have to remove from non-stick pans… either that or throw them out - see cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/114569/… – Tetsujin May 26 at 17:52
  • At least for me, it’s worked very well - the seasoning is better than the original. It’s explicitly asked to be done by the manufacturer in the instructions at the start. – Joe M May 26 at 17:57
  • Are you talking about ceramic non-stick? Because heating teflon pans to the point where oil will polymerize might create poisonous fumes. – Joe May 26 at 18:14
  • @Joe Probably depends on the oil you use - don't use something with a high smoke point for Teflon! Some oils have smoke points in that 325 range, though. I do use ceramic, so i'll make an edit to make that clear. – Joe M May 26 at 18:47

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