DIY Food

How to Make French Toast—A Definitive Guide

Follow this simple, easily customizable formula straight to bread's favorite second act.

February 26, 2021
Photo by James Ransom

It's late, you just got home, and you're hungry. You have some stale bread, some eggs, and some dairy. Or: It's Sunday morning, and your kids are shrieking, and you want to cook something quick and easy that will get them all starry-eyed, quiet, and happy. Or: You're tired of salads and roasted vegetables and even meat and fish and you want something soothing, something easy, and something decidedly un-seasonal for dinner. Good thing you know how to make French toast

The French call it pain perdu, meaning "lost bread," but "found bread" might be more accurate. As in, you don't know what to eat, so you look around. Your humble pantry holds just a few basics: milk, eggs, and, forgotten in a cupboard, a hunk of stale bread. It's an excellent find, because with a little alchemy, you'll soon have culinary gold. 

Step 1: Find Bread

Can you use any bread for French toast? Yes. Old hamburger buns? Waste not, want not. White bread is perfectly fine. If you want to be fancy, use brioche or challah, but any bread will do. Croissants, rye bread, and chocolate babka are all strong contenders. Are some breads better than others? Probably, but you'll never know until you try. 

Step 2: Slice Bread

Or don't! Decide: Do you want a slice of French toast? Sticks? A whole pan? And how soon do you want to eat? Because the thicker the bread, the longer it will take the custard to soak through, and for your French toast to cook. Do you want French toast that's soft and gooey in the middle, or do you prefer a lighter texture? Don't want to think too hard about it? We get it. Make slices about 3/4-inch thick. If your bread is especially fresh, you'll want to dry it out a bit at this point by placing slices directly on the rack in a 400°F oven for about 10 minutes to help it absorb more of the mixture without getting too soggy to flip easily. 

Step 3: Soak Bread

How many slices do you want? Divide that number by two. That's the number of eggs you need. Divide that number by four. That's the number of cups of liquid, typically dairy and/or dairy substitutes. For example, two slices of bread for classic French toast require one egg and about 1/4 cup of milk.

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French Toast from Food52

Mix these ingredients thoroughly. If you want to add any bells and whistles, like spices, sugar, booze, citrus zest, or flavor extracts, now is the time. Dip the bread and let the it soak for as long as it takes to soften, but not so long that it falls apart. This length of time will vary with the type of bread, how dry it is, and its thickness. Thick, dense, dry slices will take longer to soften than thin, light, moist slices—so plan accordingly. 

You can also coat or stuff your French toast, if you like. If you're looking to get a little fancy, give you French toast a crunchy coating, or a sweet or savory filling. 

 

French toast from Food52

Step 4: Cook the French Toast

Cooking French toast is all about setting the custard, which starts to happen around 160°F. On your way there, you're looking to caramelize the exterior to the ideal golden brown, keeping an eye out for any burning (which can happen quickly). 

To achieve this balance, use a skillet or griddle over medium heat, greased with a little neutral oil or butter. You can also use an oven, or even a deep-fryer. If your slices are very thick, you may want to use a thermometer to check the center temperature of the French toast to make sure it's done. For standard 3/4-inch slices, griddling for about three minutes per side is a good rule of thumb.

Melting butter from Food52

If you're cooking French toast in batches and need to keep the first slices warm while you cook the others, lay them on a baking sheet and hold them in a 200°F oven until ready to serve. 

Step 4: Add Toppings

When your custard is set and the French toast is nicely browned, it's time to serve. This is your last chance to dress up your French toast before you take it down. On the sweet side, the most popular toppings are powdered sugar, butter, maple syrup, fruit, whipped cream, and so on. 

French Toast from Food5

For a more savory take, try topping your French toast with cheese, or even avocado and kimchi. 

What's your favorite way to top French toast? Any go-to tricks we should know about? Let us know in the comments. 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • kayn
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Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.

38 Comments

kayn May 22, 2019
I'm sorry, using only egg yolks avoids "any eggy flavor"? That is crazy talk. If you're a fan of eggy flavor, go for it, and I'm not knocking it (though I'm not a fan myself), but yolks are precisely what cause an eggy taste. And then you're recommending cooking a RUNNY-YOLKED EGG to eat with the toast. I don't understand the inconsistency.
 
HalfPint April 13, 2021
This is a bit late, but...the eggy flavor does not come from the yolk, it comes from the whites. That's why "yolk-only" was advised.
 
Nancy M. March 27, 2015
Why would anyone need a recipe for french toast?
 
Bubbawubba G. March 21, 2015
"How to Make French Toast Without a Recipe" ? I opened it and low and behold.... a recipe? Let's see, ingredients, quantities and directions, yup, that's a recipe! I don't get it.
 
Andy T. May 23, 2019
Click-bait! You clicked it, I clicked it, so successful click bait. We are just a number to them. Numbers turn into money for them, not us.
 
Sharon January 29, 2015
I made this with coconut milk. The sauce was wonderful. I didn't get the curds with coconut milk but that certainly was not a deal breaker. I'll make this again and use packaged chicken (drumsticks, thighs, breasts). What a fragrant dish!
 
NotMeMon January 25, 2015
I agree with most ... I use thick-sliced (3/4") homemade bread (my Panasonic breadmaker makes a slice that is about 4"x7"), soak it in the fluid mixture (I use almond extract and grate some fresh-ground nutmeg - yummy), then put on a Corning "plate and a half), two slices per layer, separated by cling wrap ... refrigerate overnight (no, it doesn't get soggy nor fall apart!!), then pan-fry until golden ... use pure maple syrup and enjoy!!
 
Darvel S. January 16, 2015
Eggnog is a wonderful addition also! :-)
 
Jacque January 5, 2015
I have made French toast since 7 or 8 years old. This is the first recipe I've seen. I always used 1 egg for every 2 slices of stale bread. Adding a Teaspoon of sugar. Mix with a fork. Add a teaspoon of vanilla for every 2 or 3 eggs. Stir and add milk until it looks right but is not thin. Soak bread on both sides. Stop soaking while you can still transfer bread to skillet without it falling apart. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and fry until slightly crispy and brown. I've always loved it plain but some of the children liked syrup or fruit preserves on it.
 
liz C. December 28, 2014
Being from Kentucky, bourbon is always a great addition to everything. I add bourbon, bourbon barrel vanilla extract and orange zest to my custard. A nice handful of toasted pecans and maple syrup finish the dish.
 
Cathy B. December 23, 2014
I make my strictly with whole beaten eggs - yummy and less fuss!
 
alia March 6, 2014
here is recipe I found gives fuller custard french toast which I prefer (most versions I find dry):

Pain Perdu
4 servings

Ingredients

1 cup/250 ml milk, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 slices baguette
1 egg

2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for caramelizing
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more if needed
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Cherries and blackberries, for serving

Directions

Stir together the milk and vanilla in a shallow dish. Soak the bread slices in the milk mixture for about 5 minutes, turning once so that they absorb the milk evenly.

Beat the egg with the sugar and pour onto a plate.

Heat the butter in a skillet until sizzling. Take the bread from the milk, holding it above the bowl to drain slightly. Dip into the egg mixture to coat both sides, then drop into the sizzling butter and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side.

At the last minute, sprinkle the tops with a little extra sugar and "broil" with a blowtorch (or place them on a baking sheet under the broiler until the sugar, melts, bubbles and turns golden).

Divide the bread among serving plates. Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dribbling of fresh, ripe cherries and blackberries that have been sauteed in butter and sugar and possibly flamed.
© Recipe courtesy Laura Calder


 
Diana B. February 17, 2014
one and a half cups of dairy? I have never used that much, ever. That seems totally unnecessary to me. I can see why you have LOTS left over.
 
Yolanda B. November 24, 2013
I do Italian bread on the cheap and splurge with almond milk - its delicioso!
 
NJB November 15, 2013
I love using Challah bread dipped into eggnog...
 
I_Fortuna October 31, 2013
I take the leftover batter, add flour and save it for a dessert crepe in the morning. Easy breakfast. I like mine eggy.
 
djgibboni September 19, 2013
Really? People use a recipe for French toast?
 
thedomesticb September 16, 2013
Something that has always bothered me about making french toast is throwing away the milky, eggy mixture goodness. Are there any brilliant ways to re-use the dairy bath after soaking the bread?
 
Moe R. September 16, 2013
After I put the slices in the pan, I drizzle the leftover liquid onto the surface, just a bit. But really, it's a total of 25 cents worth of stuff, hardly worth saving.

In the past, I have used it to make kind of a scrambled egg but it's not very good.
 
[email protected] September 15, 2013
It's a question, really...you gave proportions for milk to egg....but what about the bread? How many slices of bread for the three egg ratio?
 
Jeremy P. September 15, 2013
There was a deli in Phoenix that used to cut the challah corner in a diagonal and then fry the pieces. Amazingly not healthy and amazing at the same time.
 
Janice D. September 15, 2013
That's about how I've done it for over 50 years. The main difference I use a dry griddle, just like when I make pancakes.
 
@JuliaMoskin September 15, 2013
Why only egg yolks?