Nothing says “brunch” like a crisp, golden slice of French toast, generously dusted with powdered sugar or drizzled with maple syrup. But when you make French toast at home, it sometimes turns out burnt on the outside and unpleasantly soggy on the side.
What makes French Toast soggy?
French toast goes soggy if you’ve used too thin, fresh, and flimsy a slice of bread. Other causes are too much milk in the custard, skim milk, and soaking the bread for too long. French toast will also be soggy if it’s fried at too high a heat, searing the outside and leaving the center underdone.
Transforming bread and eggs into a magical meal that you can pair with fruit, cream, bacon, and a glass of bubbly is a delight at any time of the day or night. Not only is it delicious, but you also get to feel virtuous about using up leftover bread.
But what happens when your French toast doesn’t turn into the fried egg-rich treat you hoped for? Let’s look at the reasons French toast gets soggy.
Why French Toast Gets Soggy
The ideal slice of French toast is crisp and golden on the outside and creamy and fluffy on the inside.
When your slices turn out burnt on the outside and soggy on the inside, something has gone wrong: it’s either the ingredients (the bread or the egg and milk custard) or the way you’re cooking them.
A soggy slice of French toast is an indication that the custard hasn’t set properly, and you’ve got undercooked bread and eggs. Besides the unappealing texture, eating underdone French toast is a potential food hazard because raw eggs are involved.
What are the French toast mistakes that cause sogginess, and how can you avoid them?
Soggy French Toast Mistake 1: The Bread
The foundation of any French toast is the bread. For the perfect French toast, you need to use a sturdy slice of day-old bread, preferably an egg-based, buttery loaf.
The Wrong Type of Bread
One of the first mistakes people make in creating French toast is to use the wrong type of bread.
Plain white bread may seem ideal because it is soft. However, flimsy, airy bread without a solid crust is too weak to soak up and hold the custard. Not only will this generic bread break before you can fry it, but it will produce characterless, soggy French toast.
Another bread that makes for soggy French toast is crusty, rustic bread with lots of large holes. Although this rustic bread is heartier and has more flavor, the big holes catch dollops of the custard and create soggy toast.
To prevent soggy French toast, you need to use a spongy bread that can soak up enough custard to make a creamy piece of toast, but that is also sturdy and dense enough not to collapse in the pan.
Think about the kinds of bread used for French toast on brunch menus. The ideal types of bread for French toast have body, heft, a good crumb, and crust: brioche, challah, Pullman loaf, ciabatta, French loaf, croissants, and even banana bread.
Another cause of soggy French toast is using bread that is too fresh and soft. The best French toast is made with day-old, even slightly stale bread.
The clue to this French toast secret is in the name: this dessert-like dish isn’t called French toast in France, but pain perdu, translated as “lost bread.” In other words, French toast is made with bread that would otherwise have been “lost,” meaning wasted or thrown out.
Yes, this fancy brunch dish, like the Italian bread salad, panzanella, was originally a housewife’s way of making the food budget stretch by not wasting a single crumb.
The reason why fresh bread doesn’t make the best French toast is one you’ve probably experienced: fresh bread goes soggy the moment you dip it into your custard.
Instead, use bread that’s been hanging around a day or two. If you’re planning to make French toast, leave your bread uncovered on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours or in a cold oven overnight. It’ll dry out, even if the stove is off.
If you don’t have any stale-ish bread, try this trick. Heat your oven to 275⁰F, lay out the sliced bread on a baking sheet, and toast it for 10 minutes. Voila! Dry bread, perfect for French toast.
Thinly Sliced Bread
Even if you’re using a hearty, dry slice of bread, you’ll still end up with soggy French toast if you slice it too thinly.
Remember that the bread needs to soak up the custard – skinny slices will break easily and burn quickly, so you’re likely to take them out of the pan while they’re still undercooked.
The ideal slice is ¾ inch thick, no thinner. You’ll have to slice the bread yourself, as bread slicers in stores and bakeries tend to slice bread thinner.
Thickly Sliced Bread
Just as too thin a slice of bread makes for soggy French toast, so does too thick a piece.
Although a substantial slice of bread will soak up the custard efficiently, it won’t cook through to the center, leaving a soggy middle.
To avoid this problem, never slice bread for French toast thicker than one inch.
Soggy French Toast Mistake 2: The Custard
The second key element of the perfect French toast is the egg and milk mixture, referred to as the custard. (Whether you include sugar in this custard is a separate debate – luckily, it doesn’t influence the sogginess or lack thereof.)
The ratio of egg to milk is critical to prevent sogginess, as is the length of time you soak the bread in the custard. It would be best if you also used full-fat, not skim milk.
Too Much Milk
People’s principal mistake in the custard for French toast is adding too much milk to the eggs.
Too much milk will create soggy French toast because the bread will absorb the milk first, which leaves the egg on the surface of the bread. The egg will cook too quickly and the milky bread too slowly, leaving that unpleasant combination of burnt crust and soggy middle.
The best ratio for French toast custard is ¼ cup of milk for every large egg you use. This ratio depends on the size of your eggs, but you should use less milk than egg, not equal quantities. The function of the milk is to thin the custard, not to replace the egg.
Using skim milk can cause your French toast to be soggy, as the milk remains watery as it cooks. You need the fat here to make the French toast creamy.
Unfortunately, plant-based milk tends to create watery French toast as well, so it is best avoided. If you need to be dairy-free, choose a thick almond or cashew milk.
Ideally, use full-fat milk, half-and-half, or even cream for the most decadent French toast.
Soaked Too Long
The length of time you soak your bread in the custard is also crucial to the success of your French toast.
Soaking your bread in the custard for too long means that it absorbs too much, and you’ll find your bread swimming in custard in the pan. This custard will take too long to set and leave you with French toast overcooked on the edges but soggy on the inside.
Nobody wants dry French toast either, so you do need to soak rather than dip the bread to ensure that the bread has enough time in the custard to pull in all the luscious moisture and flavor of eggs and milk.
Depending on how thickly sliced and dry your bread is, you’ll want to leave it soaking in the custard for about 15 to 20 seconds per side. If you’re planning to bake rather than fry your French toast, you can leave it for longer.
To prevent the sogginess caused by oversoaking, lift the bread out of the custard and allow the excess to drip back into the custard before laying it in the pan.
Soggy French Toast Mistake 3: The Frying
Once you have your gorgeous custard-infused bread, it’s time for frying. A couple of things can cause sogginess at this stage, namely heat of the pan, overcooking or undercooking your French toast, especially if you’re not using the right fat for frying.
Cooked Too Hot
The first mistake in cooking French toast is using too hot of a pan.
Because the bread is moist, it needs to be cooked at medium heat to ensure that the center cooks through. If you cook French toast too hot, you will scorch the crust, especially if you have sugar in your custard, which caramelizes and burns quickly. Then you’ll want to whip the toast out of the pan – only to find a soggy middle.
Fried With Butter
Apart from cooking the French toast at too high a temperature, you can also end up with the overcooked outside/undercooked inside scenario if you use the wrong fat for frying.
Most French toast recipes recommend that you use butter for frying, and there’s a good reason for this. Butter creates that scrumptious golden color and rich flavor you associate with French toast.
However, because of all the butterfat, butter has a low burn point, so it can brown and smoke pretty fast, leaving your French toast charred yet underdone.
To retain that buttery goodness, use a combination of butter and neutral cooking oil (like canola, rapeseed, or clarified coconut oil) for frying. Ghee, or clarified butter, is an excellent option because you get the buttery flavor without the bitterness of burnt butter.
Too Much Oil
Deciding to replace some of your butter with oil is a good idea when frying French toast. However, using too much fat for frying will cause greasy, soggy French toast.
Frying French toast doesn’t require a thick layer of fat and oil – this is bread, not donuts. If you use a non-stick pan, you’ll need only the tiniest bit of fat for flavor.
After each round of toast, wipe the pan clean of oil and butter, and start with fresh fats to avoid unpleasant browning.
Essentially, all soggy French toast is undercooked – the sogginess means the custard hasn’t set adequately.
Frying your French toast on too high a heat often leads to undercooked French toast. However, using too low of a heat can also lead to undercooked French toast.
Ideally, you should cook French toast over medium to medium-high heat, frying each side for three to four minutes.
Didn’t Use the Oven
A French toast secret that avoids sogginess from poor cooking techniques is baking your French toast in the oven.
This method works particularly well if you’re making French toast for a large group. Here’s how you do it:
- Preheat your oven to 375⁰F.
- Prepare baking sheets with non-stick baking mats or baking paper.
- Make your French toast as usual, but arrange the soaked slices on the baking sheets.
- Bake the French toast in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes until the centers are firm.
- Increase the oven’s heat to broil for two to three minutes, which will sear the outsides of the French toast, leaving it crispy and golden.
- Serve hot, with sugar or syrup.
French toast usually turns out soggy because it’s made with thin slices of generic white bread, overly soaked in a milky mixture, and fried in butter on too high a heat.
To make the best French toast at home, use thick slices of a densely crumbed loaf, soak in an egg-rich custard, and fry in butter and oil or bake at medium heat.
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.