Whether or not brunch is Good or Bad is something that millennials will likely debate into our graves. The arguments can get so heated it can be hard to remember that 1. We’re arguing about breakfast food and 2. It is possible to love brunch but also want to make it yourself. Or at least, that is the middle ground I recently found myself on when I discovered that I’d much rather stay in than go out for the hallowed weekend meal. And it’s not because I’m too proud to wait an hour for eggs, or because I’m too cheap to pay for avocado toast. (I will do that gladly. I won’t even think about it.)
No, it’s because I’ve discovered I’m actually really good at making it on my own. Not to brag, I find I prefer my sausage gravy and biscuits to almost any I’ve had at a restaurant. And while there are some things I will never attempt on my own (Hollandaise sauce), now, most weekends, I opt to remain bra-less a little longer and cook my favorites at home. The best part: We generally stick to easy recipes that require very little time or technical know-how. Here are the tools I use to get it done:
Cast iron is a very old cooking technology that is both very trendy right now and very feared. I’ve read advice online that says you shouldn’t even let your cast iron look at soap or water. But I also had the pleasure of interviewing the head of P.R. at Lodge, who gave me this wonderful quote: “This is cookware, not a Stephen King novel. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” I follow a few basic rules on cleaning my cast iron (water and scrubbing when it needs it, rub it down with oil afterward) and it truly has become more non-stick over time. It has also become an excellent way to fry eggs, cook breakfast sausage, bake up a breakfast casserole or shakshuka, and so much more. (This makes it pretty clear I’m a savory breakfast person, but of course these are great for French toast, pancakes, et al.) They’re also insanely affordable for how durable and long-lasting they are: you can get an 8-inch skillet that, with a little care, you can give to your great-great grandchildren.
I like to make my own biscuits (more on that below), but perhaps the most important role baking sheets play in the breakfast-making process is for bacon. I have cooked bacon in the skillet, in the microwave, and, once at Girl Scout camp, over the fire, but the oven provides the best results. In the skillet, it can be hard to get the fat and meat to heat up evenly, which can lead to burning. The microwave, on the other hand, can get messy and, in my opinion, lose some of its delicious flavor. Baking the bacon at around 400 for around 5 minutes (seriously, no reason to get precious here) gives you evenly-cooked bacon with just the right amount of crispy crunch with fat that still melts in your mouth. You’ve also just way expanded the amount of bacon you can cook at one time, making it good for groups.
Biscuits are better in the South, and it’s really just for one reason: self-rising flour. I grew up knowing about Martha White self-rising flour because of their famous Grand Ole Opry theme song performed by Flatt and Scruggs. (Even if you don’t listen to bluegrass you likely know their most famous song, the Beverly Hillbillies theme.) But I started stocking up on White Lily flour in earnest after reading Amanda Mull’s biscuit article for The Atlantic. Made from soft wheat, White Lily makes some of the most tender biscuits I’ve ever had. And while Mull’s piece was about not being able to find a good biscuit up north, I live in Nashville, and my homemade biscuits are still better than what I’ve bought at restaurants in town. To keep things really simple because it’s Saturday and I’m tired, I adapted Smitten Kitchen’s cream biscuit recipe to avoid having to mess with cutting fat into the flour like in most recipes. And by “adapt,” I mean I just omit the baking powder. The biscuits can be mixed up in minutes and taste good with jam or with eggs and bacon. White Lily can be located at nearly every grocery store in the South, but only in the South. If you live elsewhere, you’ll have to buy it online. Do it. Trust me, it’s worth it.
It is possible to make biscuits using the top of a cup, but, having done it both ways, I much, much prefer a biscuit cutter. The thin edges of this cutter, as well as the handles, make cutting biscuits into quick work. Makeshift cutters, like cups, can also compress the dough and give you a less fluffy biscuit.
Most spatulas, in my estimation, are too big. Which is why, if I could only have one, I’d go with OXO’s cookie spatula. It’s small and flexible for gently lifting baked goods, but I find I prefer that dexterity and control it gives you in cooking tasks where you’d use a turner. That includes flipping fried eggs or scrambling or omelet-ing them, as well as making breakfast sausage, sausage gravy, or flipping pancakes. The smaller size is also good for serving.
I aim to have some kind of fruit or vegetable at every meal, and I’ve found just tossing berries into a colander, rinsing them, and just putting then on the table for communal snacking. No more prep needed.
What is brunch without coffee? There really isn’t any wrong way to consume it, but I find for weekends are the perfect excuse to brew coffee in a Chemex. It feels indulgent and elegant and really doesn’t take that much effort. I have a beautiful, embarrassingly expensive gooseneck kettle, but if you just use a regular kettle and gently pour hot water over the coffee, you’ll be fine.
OK, this isn’t a weekend thing, this is an everyday thing, but if you really want great coffee, I do stand by fresh-grinding good beans from a local roastery. You can get a decent blade grinder for cheap, but I like the convenience and consistency of OXO’s tabletop grinder. The conical burr makes your coffee grind a uniform size tailor-made to your brewing method and preference.
Eating in a robe is the real reason to make your brunch at home. You just can’t do it at a restaurant; they frown upon it.
And finally, the real reward for making breakfast at home: wearing a robe. There is something about eating in robe that feels more indulgent than pajamas, louche even. My choice is flannel because it’s soft, light, and more cuddly than cotton.