Cooking

Golden Boy

How to make the perfect egg in a hole, plus five variations
Egg in a Hole
Photo: Katie Foster/Tasting Table

Whatever you call it—one-eyed Jack, fireman's egg, chicken in a basket—an egg in a hole is a tidy way to get your fried egg on or, rather, in. It's a self-contained complete breakfast ideal for those who prefer a knife and fork in the morning. So you just crack an egg into a piece of bread with a hole in it, right? Sure, that'll do. But just doing is not the point. Play by these rules first for a superior breakfast snack. Once you master the approach, you can riff on it to your heart-shaped hole's content.

The Bread
Any bread will do, as long as it's sturdy enough to have a hole punched out of it; crustier loaves are better and help ensure safe flipping. Sandwich bread can work, but to be safe, buy a whole loaf, slice it yourself and stick to about a three-quarter-inch thickness. About that hole: Circles are easiest, but hearts and stars work, too. Just avoid shapes with too many bits and bobs (looking at you, witch riding a broom). And hold on to that cutout. Toasted in the skillet alongside the frame, it makes an excellent yolk sopper.

The Tools
Why make life harder than it is? Just use a nonstick skillet. Make sure it's big enough to hold the bread and the hole comfortably but still leaves you enough room to get a spatula under there. Speaking of the spatula (pancake turner, not bowl scraper), think wide and flat. A fish spatula is ideal, because it's thin, flexible and long enough to get under big slices.

The Heat
We don't need to tell you this (do we?), but all stoves are not created equal. Your medium may be hotter or cooler than our medium, but it's still a safe place to start. You are by no means obligated to keep the heat exactly the same when you're cooking an egg, or anything for that matter, and, in fact, probably shouldn't. Look at the toast, listen to the egg, be an egg whisperer and adjust your heat accordingly. You're going for golden and just set.

The Fat
No. sprays. allowed. Butter offers great flavor and aids in browning, but see below for some exciting ways (pork fat! mayonnaise!) to change up your frame game. Whichever fat you choose, just make sure you use enough to evenly coat the bread and/or bottom of the skillet.

Now let's get cracking.

① Make It Cheesy
1 piece sturdy sandwich bread, about ¾ inch thick
1 tablespoon butter, plus more
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan, pecorino or Gruyère
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Punch a 2-to-3-inch circle out of the bread and reserve the hole. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter until foam has subsided. Add the cheese roughly in the shape of your frame and place the bread frame on top (add the bread hole to the skillet, too).

Crack the egg into the frame and cook until the cheese is golden and the egg white is beginning to set, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Flip, adding another pat of butter to the skillet if it looks dry, and cook until the bread is golden and the egg white is just set, 1 to 2 minutes more.

② Make It Spicy
1 piece crusty bread, about ¾ inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more
1 ounce dried chorizo, thinly sliced
¼ cup cooked chickpeas
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Punch a 2-to-3-inch circle out of the bread and reserve the hole. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chorizo and chickpeas, and cook until fat is rendered and the chorizo and chickpeas are crispy, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo and chickpeas to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium.

Add the bread frame and hole to the skillet and crack the egg into the frame. Season the egg with salt and pepper. Cook until the bread is golden and the egg white is beginning to set, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip, adding a little more olive oil if the skillet looks dry, and cook until the egg white is just set, 1 to 2 minutes more. Serve with chorizo and chickpeas scattered over top, sprinkled with parsley.

③ Make It a Reverse Shakshuka
1 piece crusty bread, about ¾ inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 beefsteak tomato, chopped
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 large egg
1 ounce feta, crumbled
Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

Punch a 2-to-3-inch circle out of the bread and reserve the hole. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic, tomato, paprika and cumin, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes begin to break down and become jammy, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, push the tomatoes to one side of the skillet and add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet.

Add the bread frame and hole to the skillet and spoon some of the tomato mixture into the frame. Crack the egg inside the frame alongside the tomato mixture and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the bread is golden and the egg white is just beginning to set, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip, adding a little more olive oil if the skillet looks dry, and cook until the egg white is just set, 1 to 2 minutes more. Serve topped with any remaining tomato mixture, feta and cilantro.

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④ Make It Appetizing
1 piece crusty pumpernickel, about ¾ inch thick
1 tablespoon butter, plus more
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons sour cream or crème fraîche
Few slices smoked salmon
Thinly sliced red onion, capers, chopped chives, for serving

Punch a 2-to-3-inch circle out of the bread and reserve the hole. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the bread frame and hole, and crack the egg into the frame. Season the egg with salt and pepper. Cook until the underside of the bread is toasted and the egg white is just beginning to set, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip, adding another pat of butter to the skillet if it looks dry, and cook until the egg white is just set, 1 to 2 minutes more. Serve topped with sour cream or crème fraîche, smoked salmon, onion, capers and chives.

⑤ Make It Cuban
1 slice sturdy white sandwich bread, about ¾ inch thick
1 to 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Couple slices thinly sliced deli ham
Couple slices roast pork, optional
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 thin slice Swiss cheese
Mustard and sliced dill pickles, for serving

Spread both sides of the bread with mayonnaise. Punch a 2-to-3-inch circle out of the bread and reserve the hole. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the bread frame and hole, and nestle the ham and roast pork inside the frame. Crack the egg into the frame and season with salt and pepper. Cook until bread is golden and egg white is just set, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip, top with the cheese and cover skillet. Cook, covered, until the cheese is melted and the egg is just set, about 1 minute more. Serve with a swipe of mustard and pickles.

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