Help me have hot bacon, eggs and toast - all at the same time
January 26, 2009 7:21 PM   Subscribe

I like making big breakfasts of multiple dishes. How can I most effectively time my cooking so that everything is done, hot and ready to serve at the same time?

I like to make breakfasts that consist of any or all of the following: eggs, toast, bacon or sausages, home fries or hashbrowns (from whole potatoes, cut up by hand or shredded in a food processor), and pancakes. Often when some items finish cooking, I find I haven't coordinated and multitasked well enough to have all the items done and hot and ready to serve together.

Does anyone have any recommendations for how I can time my breakfast preparation to end up with the most things ready at the same time? I'm no chef, but I do enjoy cooking and trying new things in the kitchen, so any advice would be helpful. Also, my boyfriend often helps out, so any advice on how to make this two person effort run smoothly would be appreciated.
posted by illenion to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Well, to be sure: Practice!

Home fries can sit a bit, hash browns a little less so. Bacon is fine to sit. Eggs and pancakes should be as fresh as possible, and toast I'd say can sit just a little. All this depends on taste, though. If you need your toast to be piping hot and don't care if the eggs are rubbery, that's fine, too. Maybe try to note your preparation times and do a little sit-down to figure out the order to start. Also: go to short-order diners where you can watch the cook work.
posted by rhizome at 7:31 PM on January 26, 2009

The first and most obvious thing is to start with the stuff that takes the longest. Clock it if you need to. Second, for the quicker stuff, it may be easier if you can pre-mix some foods, or at least line up all the ingredients at one "station" in the kitchen. That way when you're all ready to go you don't waste that extra two or three minutes scouring the pantry for something. Last, we frequently use the oven at a low setting as a place to keep ready-to-serve dishes warm while we finish up the other stuff. A toaster oven or a microwave might work too- just a spot to keep as much heat in as possible.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 7:33 PM on January 26, 2009

Ovens are handy. Meat stuff can quite happily keep toasty in a warmish oven for a while, potato products similar.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:35 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, if you don't know how long each item takes to cook from start to finish, try them separately so you can get a handle on it for the next time you are going to gang the cooking together.

As the cook in my family, I have a (seemingly) innate ability to know what needs to start in what order, but really what that comes down to is knowing how long each item takes to cook.

There is some amount of slop in timing - you can lower temperatures on many dishes to stall for time, and stop cooking on them once they are done, yet keep them fresh.


- Make sure you have all of your items set up misa en place - have all ingredients ready to cook.
- Know each dish's timing.
- Understand what you can stall with and what you can't - eggs are harder to stall than potatoes, for instance.
posted by tomierna at 7:36 PM on January 26, 2009

I've never done it myself, but my dad uses a timer and post-it notes when making a big, multi-dish meal. Figure out how long it takes to prepare and cook each item. Write down the item that takes the longest first and how much time it takes (say, 20 minutes). Post it on a kitchen cabinet. Then write down the next-longest item, post it next to the first note, and so on. You set your timer to 20:00 and basically have a countdown clock. You'll have overlap and may need to start two things at approximately the same time, but having someone else to watch stuff or throw something on the skillet helps.
posted by lunalaguna at 7:43 PM on January 26, 2009

Now I love breakfast with every part of my being. I mean LOVE. There isn't another meal that compares. I can confidently say that I've eaten eggs for breakfast damn near 5 times a week, so I've had lots of experience with multi-tasking.

Prepare everything ahead of cooking time (MOST IMPORTANT). That includes getting everything out and whisked, batter ready, everything. While I'm doing this, I like to put out the pans on low heat because everything cooks better on a pan that has been slowly and evenly heated. Trust me.

If the potatoes are thick, start them first, they'll take the longest, followed by meats, eggs, pancakes and toast.

If the potatoes are thin, then start them somewhere around meat/pancake time.

You'll need at least 3-4 skillets/pans to make it all end at the same time, and everything tastes better when cooked on cast iron (of course you can combine some pans as you get better).

How I would do it:
* Put on the potatoes on med to low heat to allow them to cook through. Put it on the back burner. Needs up to 15 minutes.
* Put bacon/sausage into a pan on medium heat to start cooking (front burner). Needs around 12 minutes
* Put the eggs into the pan on LOW HEAT on back burner. For eggs, the slower they cook, the better for just about every type except for over easy as you need to take them off when the yolk is still runny. Needs 5-10 minutes.
* Pour out runny pancake batter on a HOT skillet, or thicker pancake batter on a MEDIUM hot skillet. Needs 5-8 minutes total.
* Put in toast. Needs 4-5 mins.
* Mix around all pans, flip/stir eggs, turn sausage/bacon.
* Flip pancakes
DING, you're done. Plate everything, season as necessary and dine in gastronomical bliss.
posted by namewithhe1d at 7:44 PM on January 26, 2009 [12 favorites]

Cheat. If your oven has a "warm" setting or similar, stow finished pancakes/bacon/whatnot in there as needed. Probably doesn't work with eggs, but does very well with pancakes.
posted by dilettante at 7:47 PM on January 26, 2009

My mom always stores the pancakes and bacon in the oven- actually, she usually makes the bacon in the oven too. That gives you time to make the eggs (which usually doesn't take very long at all) in time to slide them right out of the pan and onto the plate :).
posted by MadamM at 8:00 PM on January 26, 2009

I keep stuff warm in the oven, be it bacon, pancakes or toast. Bacon actually gets better in the oven, and some productive types don't even make it in a frying pan, but rather cook it in the oven.

I always cook homefries first, bacon second/first (if no fries) and everything else after... eggs take 5 min or less so they are last to be done usually.

Also, it helps a lot if you set your table first.
posted by furtive at 8:23 PM on January 26, 2009

Oh, 200-300 is where I'll keep the oven at.
posted by furtive at 8:24 PM on January 26, 2009

I used to be a short order cook at a busy brunch restaurant. This is something that requires practice. I liked the idea above of cooking things separately to get a ballpark on cooking times. Using the oven to warm is also a great idea.

One thing that may help is that you can cook bacon in the oven. Cook it at about 350 for about 10 minutes (keep an eye on it after about 7 or 8 minutes though.) Try putting some brown sugar and cracked pepper on it for some heavenly pig.

Pancakes and eggs should be done last so they are freshest.

Most importantly practice a lot, you'll get it soon enough.
posted by schyler523 at 8:27 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

restaurant trick: parcooking. if you know you're going to do a big breakfast feed on a Sunday, then on Saturday you can parcook bacon about halfway, and definitely parcook the potatoes. This means cooking them up until they enter the finishing/browning/crisping stage. For homefries, I use red potatoes, and boil them in chunks for about 10 minutes, then drain and cool. Pop 'em in the fridge. The morning of breakfast, coat them in oil, salt, and maybe some fresh herbs, and put them in to roast in a baking dish on high heat - 450 or so. They'll cook very quickly and get nice and brown. Bacon - you can fry it until it gets to that pink, flabby stage, pour off the grease, and put the parcooked bacon in the fridge. The day of breakfast, finish it on the stove.

The things you can't parcook are eggs and pancakes. Eggs really need to be served warm and fresh, so make them your priority. Pancakes can only sit a short time before getting soggy. I usually make them last, while eggs are working, cooking 2 or 3 cakes at a time and then slipping them onto a plate in a warm oven.

The eggs are a really versatile element of this plan, and you can make cooking big breakfasts easier by coming up with more, different egg dishes. They don't have to be scrambled or omeletted, and eggs to order, for a crowd, is a nightmare no home cook really wants. So check out some recipes for egg dishes that you can mix and put in the oven - some, you can even assemble the night before. Look into frittata, quiche, and strata as egg dishes that can sit happily in the oven minding their own business while you work your magic on the rangetop making pancakes.

Other thoughts: a cheap waffle iron is a fun thing to have. doesn't take up a burner, and is just as easy as pancakes to make. French toast is great, and lets you combine the egg dish and bread dish. Condiments can make a regular breakfast seem over the top - great jams, herbed butters, special syrups (not only real maple, but rose or apple cider syrup) are great. Bowls of fresh (or defrosted) berries are wonderful. One nice breakfast feature is a bowl of plain yogurt presented with bowls of berries, a bowl of brown sugar, some crunchy things like grape-nuts, muesli, walnuts, or almonds, and a nice honey for individually made parfaits. Sliced bananas.

oatmeal can bubble away on a back burner while eggs and bacon are working.

Huevos rancheros are pretty awesome. They are super easy but seem very special. Serve crisped corn tortillas piled with scrambled eggs, and then let your guests customize them with salsas, hot sauces, cream sauces, sliced jalepenos, sliced black olives, diced tomato and onion, etc.

Bagels are a good friend. While working on the stovetop you can warm a bunch of sliced bagels in the oven at 200. Serve with 2 or 3 different cream cheeses - plain, veggie/herb, and honey/walnut/raisin, for instance. Breakfast breads can take a similar role - cook them the day before, then warm in the oven and serve with spreads like honey butter. Banana bread, carrot bread, zucchini bread, etc.

Another oven item: cinnamon rolls. They take maybe 15 minutes and can be easily timed to come out when your eggs are done.

I'm a big fan of cooking bacon in the oven. It's a lot less messy, and it takes the constant watching out of bacon making. It always comes out perfectly, rather than going from pink to charred in 10 seconds while you're looking at something else. Bacon in the oven is a pro tip.

Sausage is even easier to cook than bacon, since it doesn't char so quickly. Also, it holds very well in a warm oven.

I may have gone a bit beyond your question, but breakfast is a fine if underappreciated meal, and deserves a lot of thought and a range of options.
posted by Miko at 9:04 PM on January 26, 2009 [11 favorites]

200˚F oven. Pancakes, breakfast meats and hash browns go in there when they're done.

As you're finishing up the above items, heat your egg pan on the range and do eggs to order. They're the only item you've mentioned that are most subject to losing quality from stovetop to serving plate.

If you want them particularly crispy (as I do) you may want to give your hash browns one quick toss in the skillet before you pair them with their compatriots.

Happy breakfast!
posted by pianoboy at 9:07 PM on January 26, 2009

You need one of these.
posted by minus zero at 9:50 PM on January 26, 2009

(Dammit. Meant to link to #3.)
posted by minus zero at 9:53 PM on January 26, 2009

I'm going to add another vote for cheating with the warming function of the oven (or if your oven doesn't have one... set it to 150-175F)
posted by JFitzpatrick at 5:39 AM on January 27, 2009

For the potatoes, if you're not above using the microwave, I coat them in oil then nuke it for a few minutes to speed things up a bit because they take the longest. After that, I toss them in the frying pan to give it some crispiness.
posted by perpetualstroll at 6:52 AM on January 27, 2009

namewithhe1d, that was exactly the kind of specific advice I was hoping for. Also appreciated were suggestions of using the oven, stalling foods, etc. Thanks everyone.

And schyler523, when I told my boyfriend I was going to post this question, to explain the beauty of AskMeFi, I told him I just knew there's going to be someone who answers, "I'm a short-order cook..."
posted by illenion at 1:41 PM on January 27, 2009

I'll just drop some few quick tips.

If you are cooking for a large party, poaching eggs is a great way to cook a dozen or more rapidly. I do eggs benny for parties regularly and it's impressive but it's also the easiest thing to crank out for a group. Add soda to the water (yep, soda) to prevent them from spreading, and use a big wide pan or pot and bring the water to a boil well before you begin poaching, and then use low heat while the poaching occurs.

Alternatively, quiches or fritattas make cooking breakfast for very large groups utterly painless. Similarly, Betty Crocker has a killer recipe for an "oven pancake" which is a sort of eggy concoction that rises as it cooks and ends up very fluffy. They are again, very impressive, very delicious, and way easier than cooking pancakes individually for a large group. Some other things you can do to totally cheat the process is grilled/roasted veg (can be prepared well ahead of time), baked goods like cinnamon rolls (as mentioned above), and creative use of not-so-breakfasty meat dishes. (As examples, braised pork cheek eggs benny? Leftover leg of lamb eggs benny? Basically anything with a poached egg on toast people will go nuts for)

Parcooking potatoes is EXTREMELY recommended. They turn out better that way. You can just bake russets ahead of time (to done, even) and then keep them in the fridge - chop them up and pan fry them for fantastic hash browns in minutes. Do it in the leftover bacon fat for bonus points.

Doing eggs last is obvious, and the easy part. The real challenge is keeping crispy things crispy, I find.
posted by mek at 4:26 PM on January 28, 2009

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