Sometimes there’s nothing better than an indulgent breakfast. Monday to Friday I tend to eat fruit for breakfast because easy prep means extra shut-eye in the morning. But come Saturday, I’m looking to kickstart the weekend fun with a tasty treat - and for me, that means French Toast.
There’s nothing better than soft, fluffy bread soaked in a sweet, eggy liquid - or if I’m feeling super special, an egg custard made with heavy cream - fried until it's crisp, and served with a lashing of maple syrup. However, when frying the bread in a pan on the stove, you have to monitor it like a hawk.
The temperature of the pan gets harder to regulate over time, which means that the first side of the bread cooks evenly to an appetizing, golden brown, while the second side burns, leaving a bitter flavor on my indulgent sweet treat.
Air fryers are great for evenly browning and crisping foods because they have a smaller cavity, which allows hot air to circulate quickly during the cooking process. So I wondered, could an air fryer be the key to perfectly golden French Toast?
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Read on to discover what happened when we made French Toast in an air fryer - or, if you’ve already decided you want to invest in this handy kitchen appliance, check out the best prices right now:
Let's get cooking
As we already mentioned, French Toast only requires a handful of ingredients: thick-sliced, fluffy white bread (although whole wheat or multigrain will give you a nuttier flavor), eggs, a splash of milk, a pinch of cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla extract.
I have tried a number of French Toast recipes over the years, but have settled on this Jamie Oliver version for most occasions. On very special occasions, I make this BBC Good Food recipe that’s more indulgent since it uses heavy cream and brioche for a sweeter, richer dish.
While I felt confident in my knowledge of how to generally make French Toast - like what ingredients to use - I wasn't sure how to use the air fryer to cook the toast, what timing and temperature, which you need to know for something like the Instant Vortex Plus, the machine at the top of our air fryer list.
So I did some research on air fryer French Toast recipes, and coupled with my previous experience cooking with the appliance - for example, when I made fried chicken to rival KFC in an air fryer or when I discovered that cooking cinnamon rolls in an air fryer is better than my usual method - I settled on a cooking temperature of 385 F / 196 C degrees and a duration of eight minutes.
The only thing left to do was to start preparing the French Toast. I cracked the eggs into a large dish, added the milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, and whisked the liquid together. I then placed slices of thick white bloomer loaf into the dish for two minutes, before flipping each over to ensure all the eggy liquid was soaked up.
In order to compare the air fryer to my usual method, I created another batch of French Toast using the same recipe, but reserved for cooking in a fry pan on the stove. I used a ½ tablespoon of oil and a knob of butter - as I usually would - and fried the bread for three minutes on each side, with the stove set to a medium heat.
I set the air fryer to preheat while I heated the frying pan, then with the stove-cooked batch underway, I placed a slice of prepped French Toast on the crisper plate in the frying basket of the air fryer, and started cooking. However, halfway through cooking, I ran into my first problem when I went to flip the bread in the air fryer over to ensure each side crisped evenly.
The crisper plate was so hot that the eggy liquid had stuck to it, making it nearly impossible to turn without losing some of the crispy finish on the French Toast.
Once I got to the end of the cooking time, I opened the air fryer drawer and was extremely impressed. The air fryer had worked great, creating crunchy, evenly browned French Toast that was pillowy soft inside. It was also appetizingly golden brown, unlike the batch I fried on the stove, which burned (as usual!) on one side after the pan became too hot.
However, the crisper plate of the air fryer was left with a sticky mess that was burned onto it. Luckily, it’s dishwasher safe, so I popped it straight into the machine on a short cycle to ensure the remnants would be removed right away, while I pondered what I could do to prevent this issue in the future.
I had the same issue when I cooked cinnamon rolls in the air fryer, so I now use a round cake tin when cooking cinnamon rolls because this prevents the buttery sugary filling from seeping out of the rolls and making a mess of the crisper plate. But that 8-inch cake tin can only hold one slice of French Toast at a time, which will slow down my cooking process considerably.
So I decided to use baking parchment paper, which I cut into a strip just 2mm bigger than the slice of toast - so the hot air could still circulate around the bread; then I placed the paper on the crisper plate before laying the bread on top. This time, when it came to flipping the French Toast partway through cooking, I had no issues and there were no remnants stuck to the crisper plate.
Spurred on by the great results with my usual French Toast recipe, I decided to give the more indulgent version that uses heavy cream a go. After whisking together the ingredients to create the egg custard, and soaking the bread in the liquid for two minutes on each side, I pre-heated the air fryer using the same cooking temperature and duration as before and again, placed the French Toast on baking parchment paper so it wouldn't stick to the crisper plate.
Halfway through cooking, I went to flip the French Toast, and while the side facing up was evenly browned and starting to crisp, the side that had been face down on the baking parchment looked less appealing than I’d hoped.
I continued to let the French Toast cook, but when I eventually opened the frying basket at the end of the cooking duration, the toast wasn’t as golden brown or crisp as I had hoped. This, I figured, is due in part to the consistency of the heavy cream, meaning that the toast required more time to fully cook and crisp. I added an additional three minutes to the cooking time, and this change resulted in crisp, crunchy French Toast that was soft and fully cooked inside.
Using an air fryer really did improve the quality of my French Toast, ensuring it was evenly browned and crisp all over, while remaining soft and fluffy inside. It’s far easier than having to watch French Toast like a hawk as it cooks in a frying pan on the stove.
I’ll certainly be using an air fryer from now on when I make French Toast. But, I‘ll always use baking parchment paper to ensure the crisper plate doesn’t end up a charred, eggy mess. If French Toast is your go-to breakfast treat, I urge you to give the air fryer method a go.
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Carrie-Ann Skinner was formerly Homes Editor at TechRadar, and has more than two decades of experience in both online and print journalism, with 13 years of that spent covering all-things tech. Carrie specializes in smart home devices such as smart plugs and smart lights, as well as large and small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, stand mixers, and coffee machines. Carrie is now a copy editor at PWC.