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Do You Dare Flip Your Eggs The Insane Way?

An egg, frying in a pan
Photo by Albert Burneko/Illustration by Chris Thompson|

This egg thinks it knows what is coming. The fool!

I was bleary and grumpy and the big dumb spatula was too wide and unwieldy for its job, which was to flip the trio of eggs frying together in the little eight-inch nonstick egg pan.

I don't often fry eggs, despite the over-easy fried egg being my favorite type of breakfast egg, for the simple reason that I will want buttered toast or bacon for the runny yolk, and I mostly try to stay away from buttered toast and bacon now that I am old and would prefer not to die right away. This one particular grumpy morning I had decided to fry some eggs, three of them, all at the same time—with a reasonably healthful type of cooking oil, rather than with butter or bacon grease, I swear!—and then I had decided that the jerk spatula was too stupid a damn asshole to help me with flipping them.

You know the little wrist-flip, for pancakes; possibly you have mastered it, but even if you haven't, you've likely seen it done. You tilt the pan forward and then, when the pancake starts sliding that way, with a quick wrist movement you snap the far end of the pan sharply up an inch or two, popping the pancaked up in the air so that it flips over, and then you catch it with the pan on its way back down. It's basically the same movement you use to toss the ingredients into the air when stir-frying or sautéing, only with slightly higher stakes because it is not enough for the pancake simply to return to the pan—it must do so flat and flipped over, or else you have accomplished nothing.

This rules. Once you are good at it you can pop that pancake a dang foot in the air if you want. Personally I stopped using a spatula at any stage of making pancakes or French toast a very long time ago, for the simple reason that flipping them using nothing but the pan itself and the nimble deployment of one (1) human wrist is a lot more fun. On this one grumpy morning, though, on grumpy, impatient impulse, I wrist-flipped the eggs. What the hell! Why not! Who gives a damn!

They were in the air for a mere fraction of a second. This was plenty of time for me to reconsider the whole thing. If a pancake flipped this way comes down bad, clips the edge of the pan, it's not all that big of a deal. Maybe it flops onto the stovetop, or dangles halfway out of the pan, or breaks in half; oh well. If a frying egg flipped this way comes down bad and clips the edge of the pan, it is going to splatter hot, runny egg yolk all over the damn place. It's going to be a big gross mess. But also, even if the flying egg comes down the securely, right into the middle of the pan, the impact alone might suffice to burst the yolk; in mere moments it will not be runny anymore. That will be terrible.

I think that if I had planned this, if I had considered the possibilities at any point before the eggs were rotating through the air, I would have botched it. If I'd been fully awake, if the neural pathways from wrist to brain and back had not been all sludgy with sleep, I would have overreacted to the sudden mid-flip realization that this might have been a bad idea, and I would have flailed wildly, and catapulted the eggs onto the ceiling, and, like, seared the side of my own face with the back of the pan. But that is not what happened! What happened is, my wrist, reduced to gluey slowness by my groggy brain, remained in exactly the right place, and the egg-white discus with three yolks in it plopped gently into the pan, perfectly flipped, yolks intact, and I—now extremely wide awake—slid the eggs onto a plate and ate them, feeling like Superman.

I might never take the spatula out of the drawer ever again while making eggs, except for the purpose of making it watch in shame while I flip the eggs without it. If you have a nonstick pan and a working human wrist, I cannot recommend this eagerly enough. Flip some eggs without a spatula!

(Before you start in: Yes, I know, not everybody flips the fried egg. In fact it is much trendier these days for the egg to be served sunny-side up; this is its most photogenic presentation, and it removes the flipping altogether, and for that reason is the one most compatible with using cast-iron cookware to fry an egg. I don't give a damn about that! We are not here to debate which type of egg preparation is better! We are here to talk about the raddest way to flip an egg, and whether you are made of heroic enough stuff to do it.)

This isn't really a recipe, and for that I am sorry. As far as instructions go, I suggest starting with one egg. I suggest using a nonstick pan and the minimum volume of cooking fat you can get away with, so that when you flip the egg you do not also flip some amount of scalding oil into your own eyeballs (or anybody else's). I suggest, if you are doing this with more than one egg, tilting the pan as you add them to it, so that their yolks settle close to each other; I suggest breaking their whites (OK, with a spatula, fine) so that they run around the bottom of the pan and cook evenly.

I suggest, just before going for the flip, tilting the pan around in all directions a few times to get the egg sliding around in there real easy-like. I suggest, when you go for the flip, watching the egg and not the pan, the way that you watch the balls and not your hands when juggling, and trusting your reflexes and unconscious systems to get the pan where it needs to be to meet what you are looking at. I suggest committing to really flipping that fucker; a tentative, half-committed flip will not get the egg far enough out of the pan nor project it upward rather than outward, and you will end up hating my guts with a sad incompletely cooked egg on your countertop or floor or splattered among the back burners of your stovetop.

Here, check it out: I took a video of myself doing this with three eggs, while holding my phone camera in the other hand.

Yes, I recognize that the pan and the eggs slide out of the frame at the crucial moment, here. That is because I was watching the pan and not the phone! You will just have to take my word for there being no CGI involved in this frankly Herculean achievement. Now it's your turn! It is not my fault if you get egg all over the place, and I will not answer for it.

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