Shhh: Chef Secrets for a Four-Star Breakfast at Home

Crisp bacon, light pancakes, goofproof omelets: Find out what restaurant chefs know to get top results at home.

Bacon

istock/Renphoto

To avoid splatter, and for even cooking, cook bacon in the microwave.
Place one or two slices of bacon on a folded paper towel and
lay it in the microwave. Cook on high for two to three minutes, or until the
bacon is crisp and sizzling. For more than two slices of bacon, lay the
paper towel on a plate and increase the cooking time as needed. Get fancy with the fun bacon 'n' egg bundles pictured here with this simple recipe.

Pancakes

istock/eurobanks

The best and lightest pancakes are made from buttermilk and baking soda,
which together create air bubbles that are trapped by the gluten in the
flour. This simple chemical reaction happens and subsides quickly, so
don’t wait around. Mix the pancake batter quickly (and minimally—overbeating makes them tough and flat) and cook them immediately.
Discard any leftover batter.

Omelet

istock/cookedphotos

Want a perfect omelet? Getting the egg out of the pan is the challenge. Here are some helpful hints chefs already know:

  • Heat the pan hot! When you pour in the egg, it should sizzle and bubble. The pan should be hot enough to cook in just moments, without browning.
  • Use a heavyweight nonstick pan, and make sure it is spotlessly clean.
  • Use a heatproof rubber scraper. These flexible tools, once used merely to scrape batter out of pans, have become major cooking tools with the advent of heatproof silicone blades.

Frittata

istock/jaker5000

For an extra crispy, perfectly browned frittata top, drizzle with a
light splash of extra-virgin olive oil before popping into the oven.

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Scrambled Eggs

istock/Anna Pustynnikova

The secret to scrambled eggs is in the cream cheese. When cream cheese
melts, it doesn’t melt into a liquid; it melts down to the consistency
of sour cream, which adds a velvety smoothness to this delicious dish.

French Toast

istock/JB325

Ever wonder how restaurants get their French toast so brown and sweet
without overcooking the middle? Here’s the trick: When you melt the
butter, add a pinch of brown sugar, a pinch of ground cinnamon, and a
pinch of salt to the pan at the same time. When the butter begins to
foam, put the bread in the pan, but do not move it around until it’s
time to flip!

Oatmeal

istock/JacobVanHouten

The key to perfect oatmeal every time is to not add milk until the end;
otherwise, it will curdle and throw off the texture of the cereal (not
to mention its flavor).

Hash Browns

istock/Lauri Patterson

Boil the potatoes in advance and—this is the key—refrigerate them
overnight before grating them, resulting in picture-perfect hash browns
that are golden-edged and crisp. That’s because cooking and chilling
will crystallize the potato starch, allowing them to cook up dry and
crisp, not gooey.

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Muffins

istock/zeleno

If your muffins emerge from the oven flat instead of puffed into a dome,
you’re probably overbeating the batter. Resist the impulse to beat it
smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet all at once and turn the
batter over from the bottom with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, not a
whisk. Several brisk stirs should do the trick. When you can still see a
few streaks of unincorporated flour, that’s the time to spoon the
batter into the prepared muffin pans.

Granola

istock/funduck

Most granolas involve masses of raisins, which can get old and stodgy
after a while. The secret to the delicious tang that gives granola such
bright flavor are crisp and tart dried cranberries and dried cherries.

Cornbread

istock/Imagesbybarbara

The real secret to the best cornbread isn’t in the batter; it’s in the
process. The hotter the cast-iron pan is before you pour in the batter,
the crispier the crust will be. (Just be careful removing it from the
oven!)

Muffins and Scones

istock/knape

Are your breakfast baked goods a little tough? Here’s a secret weapon
that just might help: sugar. Stir a few tablespoons of sugar in when
combining the dry ingredients. Sugar helps weaken the gluten in the
flour so it can’t form such tough bonds. When it comes to baking, sugar
is a natural tenderizer.

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Breakfast Stratas

istock/poonpipat2506

Everyone loves the crunchy bits on baked dishes like stratas and even
lasagnas. The ingredient that’s bound to make crunch-lovers happy is
cornflakes! Sprinkle them on just before baking.

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