French toast is famous for its custardy interior and its toasty, buttery exterior. Think of what it can be if you add an element of crispiness on the outside to contrast with the soft, luxurious insides!
Keep reading to find out how to make French toast crispy, all while maintaining the textural contrast between the crust and the middle. Trust me; you wouldn’t want to miss this!
French toast in its purest form is made of stale or dried bread dipped in an egg and dairy custard, then fried in butter. This yields a browned exterior and a pudding-like interior.
However, the crust on the outside seldom gets crispy. That’s simply because you can’t subject the bread to high-enough heat to brown and dry out the surface while cooking the insides all the way through.
So what happens, if you attempt to fry it at high heat, is that the bread will brown too fast while the inside remains raw. With eggs in the mix, you wouldn’t want that.
Alternatively, you can create a crust with an already crispy material to compensate for the wetness of the bread dipped in the custard. Think of your French toast as chicken schnitzel or Japanese katsu, but richer and with more syrup.
There are several crumbs that can work wonders in this application. We’ll start the list with the most commonly used ones in restaurants for crispy French toast and end it with one that you might not have seen coming.
Corn flakes are a popular choice for crispy French toast. After all, you already associate its flavor with breakfast, so adding corn flakes to the equation won’t throw you off in the least bit.
There are several ways you can crush corn flakes into smaller bits to prepare them as a crumb coating for your French toast:
- You can either put them in a zip-top bag and go at them with a rolling pin
- Or, you can put them in a food processor, pulsing on and off until you achieve the desired texture.
Using corn flakes has its pros and cons, though. The pro is that the flavor is pretty darn great! But at the same time, it can be slightly overpowering if you don’t flavor your French toast custard enough.
Corn flakes crisp up pretty well in butter, too, but beware of overly browning them or burning the butter because their nuttiness will turn into bitterness pretty fast.
Just like corn flakes, oat cereals are a breakfast staple. You might now be thinking of Cheerios or the “Crunch” in Cap’n Crunch, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
These cereals are crispy and airy in their own right, so crushing them and coating French toast with them is only logical. Aside from the natural nutty flavor they impart, they remain impeccably crispy for a while after frying.
A quick disclaimer, though: try to avoid sweetened oat cereals for this application because the sugar in them will caramelize pretty fast in the butter and can cause the French toast to stick to the pan. Not to mention how acrid and burnt everything will taste.
Graham crackers are the foundation of many desserts. Think cheesecakes, pies, s’mores, and almost all icebox cakes. Just delightful!
Using graham cracker crumbs as a coating for your crispy French toast will give you that same delicious quality. There’s something magical that happens when those crumbs meet butter.
If you’re feeling extra indulgent, you can try marrying your French toast with one of the aforementioned desserts. For example, crispy French toast with key lime curd and fresh whipped cream or s’mores stuffed French toast with chocolate and marshmallows in the middle.
If you’re not familiar with Panko, it’s a Japanese-style breadcrumb that’s ground much larger than traditional breadcrumbs. It’s also dried, not toasted like other types of breadcrumbs, which gives it a milder flavor and a lighter color when fried.
This one’s a bit unusual, I’ll admit, but hear me out. There’s almost no other substance on Earth that can crisp up better than Panko. And in a bread-based dish, what harm does a little bit more bread do?
It doesn’t taste like much because it’s just white breadcrumbs, but what this option lacks in flavor, it more than makes up for it in texture. The crunch and crispiness you get from a Panko-coated piece of French toast are far superior to any of the previous options.
The greatest thing about it is that it will maintain its crispiness even after you douse it in maple syrup. It will also remain crispy for a longer time, which is helpful if you’re making a big batch.
Now that we’ve tackled the coating, let’s discuss the frying method that yields the most crispiness.
Traditional French toast can be cooked on a griddle, nonstick, or cast iron pan with enough butter to coat the bottom.
Crispy French toast needs a little more butter than that because you’re trying to reach the bread itself beyond the crispy coating. That way, the crumbs won’t burn while the inside remains raw.
The problem here is that regular butter can cause a bunch of issues to happen.
Because regular butter is 15% water, you have to leave it on heat until the water evaporates and the butter starts foaming, or else it’ll get pretty greasy and soggy.
And if you do that, you have another dilemma; the milk solids in the butter will start burning before your French toast is fully cooked.
The answer to these issues has to be clarified butter. It gives you the same rich, nutty flavor without the acrid black bits or the uneven cooking.
All you need to do to make clarified butter is to put some butter in a pan over medium heat. Then, wait for the foaming to subside and for the milk solids to start turning slightly golden.
Next, pass the butter through a sieve lined with a coffee filter to catch all the bits, and voila! You have clarified butter that will make frying your French toast a whole lot easier.
Here are different frying methods to end up with crispy French toast.
This is the most common way to make French toast. You put two tablespoons of clarified butter in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, swirl them around, and then place your soaked and crumb-coated toast in.
It’s a fairly straightforward method because you can peek at the bread for doneness. Just gently flip the toast to the other side using a spatula when the first side is browned.
If you feel like the bread is browning too fast, lower the heat a little.
After you’re done with a batch, wipe the pan from the excess butter and crumbs and apply some more butter to the pan. This is crucial if you want your last piece to taste as good as the first.
Any fan of big old Texas toast will want to make crispy French toast out of it. If that’s the case, your best bet is to double-cook it.
Shallow frying will yield a crispy, golden exterior, but the insides might not cook as fast.
So to make sure you’re not eating any raw eggs, fry the toast in clarified butter as usual, and then place the done pieces on a rack and put them in a 300 degree-oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking.
This is also a great way of making French toast for a crowd if you’re hosting brunch this Sunday!
If you want to take a page out of the book of fast food restaurants, you can deep fry your French toast to ensure even cooking, crispiness, and a golden color you can’t resist.
I’d recommend you cut the bread into long strips instead of frying it whole, though. This will make for pieces that are easier to flip and increase the area of the crumb-coated surface.
Preheat a pan of neutral oil, like canola or peanut, till it reaches 350 degrees F. Then, carefully lower your French toast pieces using a slotted spoon or wire spider.
Flip the pieces every 30 seconds until they’re golden brown and crispy. Place them on a wire rack to cool slightly before dusting with powdered sugar and drizzling with syrup.
Learning how to make French toast crispy will put a twist on that custardy classic. This is a two-step process involving a crumb coating and a cooking method that will ensure a crisp exterior and a fully-cooked interior.
You can choose to coat the bread in corn flakes, oat cereal, graham cracker crumbs, or Panko breadcrumbs. They all have their strengths and unique advantages they impart on the flavor and texture.
As for the cooking method, you can either shallow fry the French toast, add an extra baking step to make sure it’s cooked through, or deep fry it for a super-crispy golden crust.
What I can guarantee is that they’ll all turn out amazing!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.