I'm currently at a hotel in Spain. We are having a buffet breakfast and one of the meals are sunny-side-up fried eggs. I estimate they probably fry several hundred eggs per breakfast. I wondered how they pull it off in the kitchen, especially the "breaking eggs" part.

I can imagine two extremes:

  1. A cook is breaking eggs manually, taking extra care not to put any shell onto the frying pan.
  2. Some kind of automated process takes place, e.g. eggs are put in some foamy container, the top is cut off and then the whole lot is flipped over the pan.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. Anyone with mass-kitchen experience, care to enlighten me?

  • 1
    lots of junior chefs?
    – Sam Holder
    Aug 13, 2010 at 8:53
  • 3
    Sorry, but the title does sound like the beginning of a joke... (:
    – Kieron
    Aug 13, 2010 at 9:19
  • 3
    Since you're still there...ask one of the cooks or servers. Aug 13, 2010 at 14:39
  • @Darin I've been mostly on my way out, but I probably should have asked earlier ;) Aug 14, 2010 at 13:58

6 Answers 6


Chefs are really fast at cooking. It's what they do. A chef can almost effortlessly crack an egg with one-hand in about a second. Scrambled eggs would be pre-cracked and beaten prior to the cooking-shift.

  • His question says sunny side up, not scrambled.
    – hobodave
    Aug 13, 2010 at 10:14
  • 8
    @Hobodave Hence the third sentence. It does not specify scrambling. Scrambling is an additional step. Hence the verb 'would'.
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 13, 2010 at 10:25

As a chef, the bigger question I would have is how are they serving sunny-side up eggs buffet style without them breaking to pieces and making a mess in the chafing dish?

I wouldn't ever put them on a buffet or suggest doing them for a large group but it can be done. Most likely they are baking them on sheet pans in the oven or doing them in what we call "hotel pans" in a convection steamer covered with plastic wrap.

Large volume commercial kitchens will either do scrambled eggs in the oven (pour the egg mix into a greased hotel pan and stir periodically to break up and mix as the curds form) or in a bain marie where they also need very little attention and will cook to a creamy curd without getting crusty.

  • They had those big aluminium pans (like this one) and those were mostly filled with 1.5 to 2 layers of fried eggs with a lot of oil in between, i.e. it wasn't really difficult to grab one. Breaking percentage was probably around 10-15%, but for the most part, only yolks were broken. Aug 14, 2010 at 14:03
  • 4
    @Rassie: That's what is commonly called a "hotel pan". If there wasn't any browning around the edges of the egg white at all I'd say they were probably done in the steamer. If there was a little bit of browning, then most likely in the oven. Aug 14, 2010 at 21:17
  • 2
    Hmmm, even if the chef and staff were perfectly careful in preparation and presentation, I'd find it hard to believe the guests/customers aren't ham-handed buffoons when loading up their plates. This does seem like a bad idea, unless we're missing something. Nov 5, 2018 at 17:05

From personal experiance, I cooked on a flat top with six 8" pans for two to three eggs and three 7" pans for single egg orders. I had one frying pan with an insert for poached egg orders. Avoid electric grills, gas is much better, but a steam griddle like the AccuTemp is best as they hold a uniform temperature much better. Use an IR thermometer to make certain the surface of the grill is 325º to 335º uniformly over the surface. Take the temperature on 8" centers.

Preheat the pans on the grill, take the bottom pan for each order, add the oil, we used a mix of half butter and half bacon fat, then carefully break the eggs into a shallow bowl and gently add them to the pan. Cook to order. I would often have 4-6 orders working at once. One important item: learn to flip the eggs, a hasty spatula will break yolks.

DO NOT set precooked eggs on a buffet. Set up an egg station with 2-3 cassette stoves next to the serving line and have a Petit déjeuner Chef cook to order. Set up a dozen fillings for the scramble and omelet orders, fewer will be disappointing to the customer, but more and they take too much time deciding.

For omelets and scrambles we would break and whip ahead 15-30 eggs depending on the time of day into a gallon cup. For one egg we would measure two and a half ounces of prewhipped egg, for two eggs - five ounces, and for three eggs - eight ounces. The left over prewhipped eggs would be set aside at the end of each hour for the use of the bakery. All omelets and scrambled eggs were made as ordered.

For most days we would use a skillet with a poaching insert due to the low demand. Sometimes we would have two in use. On Sundays we had Eggs Benedict on the menu as a special, and with the high demand in the morning we would use a large poaching frame in a steamer to keep enough being made.

Incidentally my skill level is Certified Master Chef.

  • 4
    The question wasn't "what is the best way to serve large quantities of eggs", but "how did they manage this particular setup, where vast quantities of sunny-side-up eggs were served from hotel pans".
    – Marti
    Oct 2, 2013 at 18:32

Two massive pans (15 eggs in one pan at a time) on a low heat with lots of oil, yes its sounds oily and unhealthy but it makes mass egg cooking possible. Slow cook the eggs to perfection, just make sure to drain off the oil for perfectly cooked sunny side up eggs. I do this every morning and go through about 200+ eggs a day in a buffet style, and people always ask for more.


For a large kitchen they would probably use a griddle for this instead of frying pans. There are griddles available about a meter across. As long as the hotel doesn't come down for breakfast en masse I imagine that would provide enough throughput.

  • I should note that I've never actually worked in a large kitchen. I have a vague recollection from university that the canteen did fried eggs on the griddle. Aug 13, 2010 at 18:31
  • I suppose they either used a griddle or were baking them, but the amount of oil suggests griddle. I can't imaging doing that many eggs on a normal household pan, even with many of them. Aug 14, 2010 at 14:09

I probably cook scrambled eggs for about a thousand people a day. As well as cook to order fried eggs at the same time. I use a large, deep well, non stick skillet over a gas burner. Each pan pan holds about 3 quarts of shelled eggs. I keep the pan in constant motion and use a flat spatula to stir as the pan rotates underneath. This keeps the eggs from browning and they remain fluffy. The eggs are removed at a very soft scramble as they will continue to cook after put in the warmer pan. Individual fried eggs are made in a tiny omelet pan inbeteeen large scramble batches. Cracking the egg with one hand while again moving the pan beneath to keep the egg from browning. Fried hard are made by flipping the egg and puncturing the yolk underneath and pressing the egg into the pan to cook quickly without browning. I have better control with the pans as opposed to the flat top which I leave untouched all day lol. Besides, our kitchen is open to the “audience” and they love to see eggs flipping through the air and the small “flash fires” this can create. Makes them feel like they’re watching Hells Kitchen or something haha. Every chef is different and will swear their routine is best. This is just what works for me and keeps our customers happy 👍🏼.

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