I'm not a chef; I'm a (new) waitress and a few days ago a customer ordered her eggs over medium, but she didn't want the yolks runny. She was very insistent on this, and said she would send them back if they were runny so I put the order in as over hard eggs because I thought the very definition of over medium is that the yolks are just a bit runny.

She was pissed and sent the over hard eggs back and told me that she didn't want over hard. So next I tried putting them in as over medium but well done and put a note "yolks not runny". She sent these back too and was absolutely livid, and complained about my terrible service to the manager.

How should I have translated her request to the kitchen?

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    You've told us what the customer wanted, what you ordered, and how the customer reacted. Fundamentally missing is a description of what the customer received. It's always a good idea to look at the food before and after the customer complains. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 12:09
  • Did your manager have anything to say on the matter? They're probably seen things like this before and have good advice to offer if you catch them in the right mood.
    – user52649
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 22:36
  • 8
    Kudos to you for trying to improve outside of work time Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 23:47
  • The good thing about this experience is that you will not have to deal again with that picky, annoying person. Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 22:14
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    There are 3 states of over-medium, and there's only one standard definition, so it's a real pain for both customers and cooks. The standard definition of over-medium is the yolk is still runny, but will be slightly more congealed than over-easy. I personally like my yolk cooked a bit longer than that, so the run has a very slow, molten consistency. The customer described in this story sounds like she wanted no run, but the yolk to still be a bit wet and orange, as opposed to over-hard's completely set and yellow.
    – BobbyA
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 15:13

6 Answers 6


Not to be dismissive, but this just sounds like a difficult guest to me. I think you'll find that this happens from time to time and it can be tough to know exactly what they're asking for.

There are two major possibilities here:

  1. She was looking for the standard definition of "over medium", but has gotten under-done eggs before and thought she was clarifying; instead her additional information ("not runny") just confused things.
  2. She's got some non-standard definition of "over medium", in which case she's going to find it difficult to locate any kitchen that can deliver. This is a bit like defining a "medium-rare" steak as one without any pink in it, then getting mad when you receive a well-done steak.

From a server's perspective, it sounds like you tried a couple ways to deliver what she asked for. Her not being satisfied with that could be the result of the kitchen not quite meeting your request, her not really knowing what she's asking for, or other factors entirely. Perhaps you addressed her in a way she found disrespectful or annoying, and used her eggs as a proxy to complain.

(A side note from my experience: somebody insistently telling you up-front that they'll send back their food is a huge red flag. It almost always means they're looking for an excuse to cause a fuss.)

Frankly, it's not unusual for someone having a bad day to take it out on service staff over something minor. It's an occupational hazard. When this happens, be polite and clear with your manager about what happened and explain the situation as best you can.

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    is right, sometimes customers come in and no matter what you do it will not be good enough. Don't worry about it.
    – GdD
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 15:58
  • Expecting eggs cooked to within 5 seconds of your expectations any place you are not a regular seems a bit much. I'd've stayed home and cooked them myself. She should've at least supplied the final temperature of the center of the yolk to within 1°. Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 22:56

My understanding is:

  • Over easy - yolk runny and some white runny
  • Over medium - yolk still runny and white firm
  • Over medium well - yolk not runny but still soft and white firm
  • Over hard - yolk firm; break the yolk before flipping

Talk to the cook and ask them what to call a not runny yolk.

You could just have a cook that is not good with eggs.

Based on a comment there seems to be misunderstanding about talk to the cook. You don't ask the cook what it is called to argue with the customer. You ask the cook to know what to write on the ticket. If someone orders a not runny yolk what do I call it on the ticket. If someone orders a well done steak but with some pink you don't argue that is medium well. Just turn in a ticket for medium well and scratch out the medium before you give the ticket to the customer.

  • 1
    Agree completely. That was a general of not trying to get the customer to correct their definition. As a waitress, the OP has the unenviable task of taking the customer's unusual definition of over medium and translating it to what the cook's definition is. The cook is probable the same or very close to yours. Customer is asking for over medium, but what they want is more of a medium well, so OP has to play translator for the cook and then call it over medium for the guest.
    – dlb
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 16:26
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    +1 -- ask the customer what they expect their yokes and white to be like, then ask the cook how they want you to write it. Think of steaks -- if a customer orders "medium" and you tell them "ok, hot pink throughout" and they say "no i want no pink", they don't need to know from you that they are really ordering a well done steak. Let the customer call it whatever they want Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:25
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    I think a little different from you; the top answer here matches what I think. In particular I don't see runny whites in any over-x eggs; honestly I don't know how you would flip an egg and even cook for a few seconds and have any sort of runniness in your whites, but maybe I cook at a hotter temp than you.
    – Joe M
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:10
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    @JoeM Does not matter what you call it. You ask the cook what to call it and write that on the ticket.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 20:15
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    I've always heard it as: easy, soft, medium, and hard....with the definitions being the same as above just replacing soft with medium, and medium with medium-well.
    – mrTomahawk
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 18:22

"Over" = cooked on both sides, such that the whites are completely solid.

"Over easy" = cooked on both sides, but lightly enough that the yokes are still runny.

"Over hard" = cooked on both sides, long / hot enough that the yoke is completely cooked, pale yellow and dry like a hard-boiled egg.

"Over medium" is, as you might expect, somewhere in between. Cooked on both sides. Yolk is NOT runny; it is completely congealed. But it's not cooked long / hot enough to get the yolk completely yellow. It should be congealed but still very orange in color.

The idea is that you need to cook it enough, even the yolk, that you kill any pathogens; that usually means internal temp > 140 degrees Fahrenheit. "Over easy" and "basted" may not accomplish this; the centers of the yolks aren't there. The more you cook it, the greater the fraction of the protein that is denatured, reducing the nutritional value. "Over medium" is expected to be "just right," safe to eat but minimally denatured and still retaining maximum nutritional value.

There are an increasing number of people (or, at least, so it seems to me) who are getting really picky about their food. Many have weakened immune systems and can't handle "risky" foods. Some just want maximum nutritional value from what they eat and they're not satisfied with the old norms. It has taken some practice for me to get reasonably good at "over medium" because I live with one of those people.

  • 1
    Thank you for the medium is not runny distinction. Can you offer a citation regarding the denaturing of egg protein affecting nutritional value?
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 23:18
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    I always order fried eggs over medium. The few times I've received it without a runny yolk either the yolk was broken (by accident or on purpose), or my request was ignored and the egg was over hard. I've never heard of (not would I expect) over medium to have a "fully congealed" yolk.
    – briantist
    Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 20:42
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    I think more than anything on this question we are reading different things into the word "runny". To me runny is almost completely liquid. I would call the yolk of over medium "creamy"
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 1:04

Over medium should have a fairly firm yolk. Over hard is something entirely different (you break the yolk and mix it in). This is by definitions I've read at least. I have only seen one restaurant that does it correctly though and most seem to make their over medium identical to their over easy.


"Over medium" is that stage at which the yolk is still bright/deep yellow and not brittle, but not liquid/runny. Might say it's "thick".

Over-hard eggs have a pale yellow, solid, brittle crumbly yolk, like that of a hard boiled egg.

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    The question is not asking for a definition of these terms, it is asking for how to convey the information to the kitchen. Please consider reviewing the question and editing your answer appropriately.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:05
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    This isn't what you would tell the kitchen?
    – Beanluc
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:36
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    Since you've not said that explicitly, it looks like a definition, not an explanation. As the other answers seem to indicate, what "over medium" means seems to differ depending on the person, so going by a strict definition won't necessarily help in this situation. I think Paparazzi's point about checking with the cook to see what they call it is valuable because you're not assuming the cook has the same definition as you do.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 22:24
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    @Catija I find this answer helpful because it directly contradicts highly voted answers, yet I believe it to be absolutely correct (unlike the top answers). And, it actually answers the question. Definition is central to understanding, and an agreed-upon definition was what was lacking between the server, the cook and the customer.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 23:24

The guest should have ordered - fried eggs "basted medium". This is where eggs are fried for 1 minuted and then hot grease ladled or spooned over the yolks until the top of the yolk is cooked as fast as the skillet side. The eggs are never flipped and the yolks are never broken. Basted eggs are removed from the skillet while the center of the yolk is still liquid in the center but hot. To prepare fried eggs - basted requires the cook to stay focused on the order. Most cooks are tossing too many orders at one time to do basted eggs justice. If the guests seems a bit particular with their eggs, politely recommend the guest order scrambled eggs. It works every time.

I know this because..... I was married to that woman.... and she taught me how to fry her eggs.

  • 2
    If someone asked for an egg "over", that means that they expect both sides to be cooked directly on the pan. Considering how picky this woman is, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have been happy with this.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 4:15
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    "I was married to that woman" I feel sorry for you already. In customer service at least she leaves at some point on her own.
    – CodeMonkey
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 9:31
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    That is not even what basted is let alone what was ordered.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 9:31

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