Food Science

Is it hot enough in Sacramento to fry eggs in a car? An unscientific but egg-cellent discovery

The Bee staff investigates if an egg can cook in a car

The Bee staff investigates over several days if an egg can be cooked in the summers heat of a car at the Sacramento Bee parking lot.
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The Bee staff investigates over several days if an egg can be cooked in the summers heat of a car at the Sacramento Bee parking lot.

Call it internet canon ... or a journalistic triviality. Either way, the arrival of Sacramento’s summer heat demanded an answer to the question: Does it get hot enough here to fry an egg in a hot car?

My name is Candice Wang, and I’m an intern at The Sacramento Bee this summer. Food and cooking are two things that are always at the forefront of my mind. So, naturally, at the start of several hot days expected after a mild summer in the capital region, fellow reporter Alex Yoon-Hendricks and I came to work armed with aluminum foil, a dozen eggs, a car that had been brewing in the crazy afternoon heat and an infrared thermometer gun.

Prior online research revealed to me that eggs fry at precisely 158 degrees Fahrenheit. I spent Tuesday evening watching far too many YouTube videos of Australians flaunting their fried egg successes in 116-degree weather. A little worried that Sacramento isn’t quite steamy enough, we headed out on the first day with wavering optimism.

DAY 1

4 p.m. Wednesday, July 24. 100 degrees.

We headed out to the parking lot during the hottest time of day, and made little bowls out of aluminum foil to crack the eggs into.

The verdict, after leaving the eggs on aluminum foil, both inside the car and outside on the windshield, is that aluminum is not an ideal surface for egg frying. The yolk on the windshield cooked slightly, hardening a little to the fork’s touch.

That day was a bust.

That evening, Bee photographer Daniel Kim and Alex did some research and made a groundbreaking discovery.

Daniel sent Alex a cryptic DM on Twitter: “It’s all about the cast-iron skillet.”

DAY 2

4:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25. 100 degrees.

The next day, Alex brought a cast-iron skillet and a regular steel pan, and I brought vegetable oil.

Day 2 commenced with me placing the steel pan inside a Bee car and the skillet on its windshield at 9:44 a.m. to allow the pans to heat up during the day.

Around 4:30 p.m., our team met in the parking lot, ready to make magic happen (and to make eggs fry). I cracked an egg onto both pans, and left them sitting for 15 minutes. Upon our return, the egg white inside the car had whitened somewhat. The pan was 140 degrees. The egg sitting in the skillet on the windshield hadn’t quite budged.

Alex returned to check on the eggs an hour later, and they had solidified and cooked about halfway through. She even bravely ate some of the egg.

Still, we weren’t satisfied.

DAY 3

1:45 p.m. Friday, July 26. 91 degrees.

Determined to make the eggs actually fry, we started Day 3, undaunted. Today is the day that we would make those yolks actually cook.

Alex had already placed her cast-iron skillet in The Bee car the night before. We headed to the parking lot at 1:45 p.m. to make that egg sizzle.

Alex and I both gingerly entered the car (the inside seats were a steamy 130 degrees). She touched the skillet and immediately recoiled.

“Ow!”

According to The Bee’s thermometer gun, the skillet was 190 degrees.

I cracked the egg in. Almost immediately, the edges of the egg white began turning cloudy. We placed the lid over the pan, and left it to cook for 25 minutes.

When we came back, there it was — cooked all the way through, completely hardened. Even jiggling the pan couldn’t shake that overcooked, solidified, deliciously rubbery egg.

Tips from two self-proclaimed ‘eggsperts’

Alex and I learned a lot throughout this three-day journey. Follow these tips if you want to try this at home.

I can’t emphasize this enough. Cast. Iron. Skillet.

  • Park your car under direct sunlight when it’s at least 90 degrees out. Place the well-oiled skillet on the dashboard, and put the lid on the skillet.
  • Wait at least 2-3 hours before cracking your egg in. The skillet should be painfully hot to the touch.
  • Put the lid back on the skillet. This creates an oven effect, and the steam speeds up your cooking process.
  • Bring condiments! Salt, paprika, soy sauce, wasabi, ketchup, tajín, anything... you really don’t want to be eating a rubbery, eggy smelling, eggy tasting ... egg.
  • Show off your “eggstraordinary” accomplishment.
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Candice Wang, from Yale, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee interested in climate change, sustainability, socioeconomic inequality, and culture. She grew up in Connecticut.
Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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