You’ve heard the expression before, “it’s hot enough to fry an egg!” But can summer weather ever really get that hot?
Summer afternoons can get pretty steamy, especially during the Dog Days of summer—the stretch of hottest days from July 3 to August 11. But to actually fry something? Here’s the eggs-planation.
An egg needs to reach a temperature of around 160º Fahrenheit before it’ll cook. The hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth is nowhere near this (the record is 134° F recorded in Death Valley, California on July 10, 1913), but because concrete and pavement surfaces absorb and hold the Sun’s heat, sidewalk surfaces can actually heat tens of degrees hotter than the air temperature. So in theory, outdoor temperatures do get hot enough to cook a raw egg on the ground.
So, why don’t most cook-an-egg-on-the-road experiments work?
In order to cook the egg, the ground must remain at or above the 160° mark. But this is hard to achieve. First, the sidewalk doesn’t hold the Sun’s heat for more than a few hours, which isn’t hot enough for a long enough period of time to fully cook the egg.
Also, hot and dry air doesn’t transfer heat as efficiently to food as humid air does. So, even if the pavement is a scorching 160° F or more, all that heat won’t transfer to the egg. In fact, hot and dry air speeds up evaporation, which actually cools the egg somewhat.
What’s the origin of this saying?
So if you can’t really cook an egg on the pavement, where did the term “it’s hot enough to cook an egg” saying come from? No one really knows! What is known is that it’s been around since 1899, when it first appeared in The Atlanta Constitution newspaper. With summer heat a constant force, hotter every year, it’s one expression that’ll never cool off.
Tiffany Means is a freelance writer and a degreed meteorologist. She specializes in weather forecasting and enjoys making the subject of weather (and the science behind it) more relatable. She currently resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.