Streamline my French toast production!
April 11, 2009 5:19 AM   Subscribe

I loves me some French toast, but find it's kind of a pain to make. I don't need a recipe for French toast, I need a battle plan.

Recipe is easy: eggs, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon sugar. Mix, dip bread, fry. It's that "fry" part that drives me nuts. I have a frypan (no big griddle, unfortunately) in which I melt some butter, toss in my batter-laden bread and cook up.

Problem is the pan is only big enough for one, maybe one and a half pieces of FT. So I put the finished ones aside and the butter that I used originally is now a blackened, gunky mess. So I clean that off but have to let the red-hot pan cool down a bit doing so, and when I add more butter for the next batch the pan is waaaay too hot. Big sizzle! And I'll have immediately scorched butter unless the pan is cool. So I have to wait to cool the pan, then repeat. Meanwhile all my finished FT is cooling off to room temperature--no good.

If it were just me eating one slice of bread there'd be no problem. But it's at least my wife and sometimes others, so we're talking 5, 6 pieces of toast at the very least. My point is it's all very time consuming, so can you give me some pointers about how to have a streamlined French toast production plan? How do you feed an army French toast in record time? Am I overthinking this plate of French toast? BTW, I've recently tried cutting the toast in quarters for French toast sticks, thinking this is a good shortcut, but unfortunately not--doesn't make a difference.
posted by zardoz to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: a couple of points..

I use oil instead of butter, and I don't know why you're using a "red hot" pan.. I'm at a bit above medium on an electric stove..seems to work just fine..

warm the oven to about 200 degrees, put the completed french toasts in a baking dish, put in oven, covered with tin foil (keeps it moist).. add each completed piece...
posted by HuronBob at 5:22 AM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

And, the only way to cut back on the time is to go the the resale store and locate a larger frying pan or griddle to do four at once.
posted by HuronBob at 5:23 AM on April 11, 2009

Best answer: What HuronBob said: oil can take higher temperatures than butter, and the oven is for warming French toast (pancakes, latkes, crepes, etc.)

Use 1/2 butter and 1/2 oil in a moderately hot pan if you want to keep some butter flavour.
posted by maudlin at 5:29 AM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lower the temp and cover the FT while it burbles along in the pan, you'll get the same custardy interior that you are achieving by searing the outside with the red hot pan but you'll also be able to keep cooking. And yeah, the oven is for keeping the toast toasty.
posted by legotech at 5:31 AM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you have the heat up too high; are you heating the pan up just before you fry 'em? If so, try a lower heat setting, but starting it heating while you're beating stuff together so that it has plenty of time to reach a nice even heat. Using the heaviest pan you have for this will also help avoid thermal fluctuations. You shouldn't really need to be cleaning out blackened butter between slices.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 5:35 AM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

You may not need oil if your heat is lower.
posted by Pants! at 5:53 AM on April 11, 2009

Best answer: Lots of good advice here, the big one being your heat is too high.

I don't have a griddle, so when I need to make large batches of pancakes or French toast I put two pans on the stove (two seem to be about the limit I can handle without forgetting a pan). I've never had to clean out blackened butter between slices, and I've only had to add butter or oil sparingly as I proceed with the cooking.

Your profile location says you are in Tokyo, which leads me to assume you might have only a cooking range and no oven. In a pinch, I've found sticking things in a microwave oven helps keep stuff warm compared to leaving them outside. The microwave oven stays off - it's not being used to heat stuff, but used for its insulating properties.

Or, you might consider purchasing an electric griddle - this would let you cook large batches of French toast as well as be used for a number of other cooking purposes.
posted by needled at 5:54 AM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree completely with all the answers so far. I'll just add that using clarified butter or ghee (we have a crock of ghee in the fridge for Indian cooking anyways) takes care of that burnt butter problem and gives you stellar flavor.
posted by werkzeuger at 5:54 AM on April 11, 2009

How do you feed an army French toast in record time?

You bake it.
posted by effigy at 5:55 AM on April 11, 2009

Best answer: Buy an 11 inch high-end cast-iron frying pan. It's a once in a lifetime investment, if yo treat it well. On a pan like that, you'll be able to keep a steady medium heat, which is what you need here.
Your heat is not too high, it is much too high. Perhaps butter tastes better than oil in some recipes, but not if you burn it. Burnt butter is also not healthy (no, Precious, not healthy at all...).
Heat the pan slowly, as other said, wait until the foam dissolves and the butter is light brown, this is when it tastes best and gives you a good non-stick result. Experiment with the optimal cooking time. Of the necessary total cooking time, use two thirds for the first side of the toast and one third for the second.
If you can't, for some reason, arrive at, or maintain this routine, use sunflower seed oil instead, heat it up just as high as your fire detector will allow you to do, and proceed as always. Rustic, but for impatient people perhaps the better way.
posted by Namlit at 6:01 AM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: needled, you are most astute; I am indeed in Japan and have no oven to speak of. I'll try the microwave suggestion. Thanks all for your input, I never would've guess it would be so simple as too-high heat. I'll keep that in mind for tomorrow's batch. Thanks again!
posted by zardoz at 6:06 AM on April 11, 2009

Best answer: I would also suggest cutting the pieces of bread in half. More of them will fit in the pan, and the smaller pieces are easier to manage.
posted by hworth at 7:00 AM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Smaller pieces, and jebus, lower your heat!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:16 AM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Alton Brown says medium-low heat. (He also advises stashing the batches in the oven to keep warm, but as you have pointed out that isn't possible.) He also cooks his in butter, but I usually use a spray of vegetable oil -- maybe not quite as flavorful but I have never had a problem with scorching.
posted by sararah at 7:17 AM on April 11, 2009

An easy way to cool down a very hot frying pan is to flip it upside down under running water. Is it the safest of kitchen maneuvers? No, but I've never had anything resembling a problem.
posted by jedrek at 7:44 AM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lower the heat to warm once the pan is hot. Doesn't take much to keep a heavy pan hot. A little grape seed oil in with your butter will raise the smoke point.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:40 AM on April 11, 2009

Yes, turn your heat down, way down. If you've got blackened butter in the pan, you've got blackened butter on the french toast that just left the pan. Butter should be a little nutty, not charred, at the end of the cooking.
posted by palliser at 9:21 AM on April 11, 2009

Can you find yourself a cast iron griddle? You loves french toast; I would spend a bit more for something like this.
posted by pointilist at 9:36 AM on April 11, 2009

Why rush French Toast? See ftx for all the reasons to prolong the art of french toast.
posted by silsurf at 10:08 AM on April 11, 2009

My french toast life was changed forever when I received an electric non-stick griddle for Christmas a few years ago. 25 bucks or so at Wal-Mart, I'm sure you can find something comparable there. French toast comes out perfect every time and you can cook eight pieces at at a time. I also use it for salmon, grilled cheese sandwiches, tons of other stuff. It's great.
posted by raisingsand at 11:27 AM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: An easy way to cool down a very hot frying pan is to flip it upside down under running water. Is it the safest of kitchen maneuvers? No, but I've never had anything resembling a problem.

That's a great way to cause a pan to buckle and crack the non-stick coating. Only do this with aluminum or stainless steel pans (if you must, it still ain't a bright move) -- never with a coated non-stick pan.

And an electric non-stick griddle is AWESOME for making French toast and pancakes -- you can get better temp control over a greater cooking surface.

Also: leave your bread out overnight before you make French toast. It works better with slightly stale bread.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:49 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Bake it
posted by fifilaru at 12:56 PM on April 11, 2009

An easy way to cool down a very hot frying pan is to flip it upside down under running water. Is it the safest of kitchen maneuvers? No, but I've never had anything resembling a problem.

jedrek, you can either come visit me in Trumbull CT, or take my word for it: I've wrecked two cast-iron skillets this way. They form a crack through that doesn't penetrate either edge, but seeps oil quite nicely to the burner side.


Patience: at what age does it first appear?
posted by IAmBroom at 10:18 PM on April 12, 2009

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