How to Make the Best French Toast Every Time
There's nothing quite like digging into freshly made French toast. It's crispy on the outside, custardy on the inside, and delicious with a wide range of toppings. What's more, French toast is one of those dishes you can make with standard kitchen staples. Read on for exactly how to make the perfect French toast, along with expert-approved tips for troubleshooting common cooking snafus and how to make key substitutions.
How to Make French Toast
The main components of a standard French toast recipe are bread, milk, and eggs. Any type of bread will do—including gluten-free varieties—so long as you use stale pieces. The reason? "If you use fresh bread, it will soak up the [custard] so quickly that you run the risk of your French toast falling apart," explains Traci Weintraub, founder and head chef at Gracefully Fed. Alternatively, "slightly stale bread tends to hold up better in the liquid mixture," she says. To make the custard, you'll need to mix eggs and liquid, such as heavy cream, cow's milk, or your plant-based milk. According to chef LaMara Davidson, the ideal ratio is four eggs for every one cup milk, though you can halve this if needed (i.e., two eggs for every half-cup milk).
From there, you can flavor the custard with a variety of add-in ingredients. Popular options include vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and sweeteners like white sugar, maple syrup, or honey. However, these ingredients aren't essential, so you can leave them out. (For example, if you want French toast without vanilla, simply skip the vanilla extract.) Craving something savory? Try adding grated Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper to your custard suggest Weintraub. Or add a dash of mushroom powder, as recommended by Bary Yogev, baker at Liv Breads, an Israeli and European-style bakery in New Jersey. Regardless of your add-in ingredients, make sure to count the liquids as part of the overall amount of liquid in the custard, suggests Kierin Baldwin, chef-instructor of pastry and baking arts at the Institute of Culinary Education. (In other words, if you add vanilla extract and maple syrup, you may want to use slightly less milk.) Similarly, "if you add any flavorings that are chunky, blend them into the custard well," says Baldwin. An immersion blender can be helpful for this step, especially if you're adding ingredients like bananas.
Once you've prepared the custard, it's time to make French toast. The process involves two main steps: soaking bread in custard and cooking the bread to set the custard. To soak the bread, pour the custard into a sheet pan or baking dish, then place the bread in the pan, says Baldwin. Turn the bread over several times to ensure both sides evenly soak up the custard; you can also soak it overnight for a make-ahead breakfast. The bread "should feel like a heavy, sodden sponge and may dribble a bit when it is properly soaked," explains Baldwin. Avoid rushing this step, she adds, as it will take time for the bread to fully soak up the custard. To help this process, you even lightly toast your bread before soaking to dry it out and make it "thirstier" for custard, says Baldwin.
When it's time to cook, melt butter in a pan and fry the soaked bread, about two to three minutes on each side. Medium to medium-high heat is best, notes Weintraub, as this "will ensure that your saturated bread cooks all the way through without burning on the outside," she says. Otherwise, if the temperature is too high, the outside will burn, leaving the middle raw. Conversely, using too low of a temperature will dry out your bread, resulting in the loss of that delicious fluffy texture. Your French toast is ready once both sides are nicely browned. If your bread is relatively thick, you can "finish it in the oven to cook the custard all the way through," shares Baldwin.
How to Avoid Soggy French Toast
If your French toast is soggy, it likely means it was undercooked or oversoaked. In other cases, it might indicate that the custard had too much liquid. (In contrast, if it's too dry on the inside, it typically means it was overcooked or undersoaked, says Baldwin.) To avoid mushy French toast, be sure to use stale (or lightly toasted) bread. Be mindful of the milk-to-egg ratio in your custard and overall cooking times, too. One trick is to fry the French toast "for a nice, crispy brown exterior then finish in the oven until it just barely puffs, a sign that the custard has cooked all the way through," recommends Baldwin.
French Toast Without Eggs
If you're out of eggs—or serving someone who is allergic to eggs—it's still possible to enjoy French toast. According to Davidson, you can use ground flaxseeds to replace eggs in French toast. To substitute one egg, simply mix one tablespoon of ground flax and three tablespoons of water, she says. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes until it develops a gel-like consistency, then add it to the liquid as you would eggs. Another similar option is cornstarch, says Yogev. For one egg replacement, "combine one tablespoon of cornstarch with three tablespoons of warm milk or other liquid," he explains. The mixture can then be used to make the custard.
French Toast Without Milk
When making custard for French toast, the purpose of mixing liquid with eggs is to the thin out the egg mixture. However, you can technically make French toast with eggs alone, notes Baldwin. To do so, whisk the eggs and flavorings together, then soak and fry as usual. The result will be more eggy than standard French toast, but it will still be tasty. Another option is to replace cow's milk with a dairy-free milk, such as oat milk, says Weintraub.