The Best Way to Make Cinnamon Toast

published May 20, 2023
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Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

In the context of classic breakfast dishes, few deliver in both simplicity and flavor quite like classic cinnamon toast. Mention of the traditional morning treat instantly sparks feelings of nostalgia and is a reminder that sometimes the tastiest of dishes can also come with the shortest list of grocery items. As long as you have sliced bread, ground cinnamon, granulated sugar, softened butter, and just a few minutes to spare, you’re golden.

But even a simple dish like cinnamon toast can be tough to perfect. With that in mind, we set out to determine the best possible method. In other words, what combination of toasting, flipping, dusting, buttering, and spreading elicits the optimal square of perfection?

For this showdown, we researched different methods used in highly rated recipes from well-known sites like New York Times Cooking, The Pioneer Woman, and All Recipes. And we also referenced methods used in recipes from smaller sites that used more modern gadgets, such as the air fryer.

So, What Is the Best Method for Making Cinnamon Toast?

While the majority of the methods tested below delivered tasty results (it’s difficult to go wrong with the combo of cinnamon and sugar), many of them varied in their levels of toastiness and “golden-brownness.” That said, the best method for making cinnamon toast requires using a hot buttered skillet, flipping the bread, and dusting with cinnamon sugar. Read on to learn about how we tested and ranked each method.

A Few Notes on Methodology

The recipe: Cinnamon toast is such a straightforward dish, most people likely do not need to follow a recipe word for word in order to make it. That said, there are some components that are open to interpretation. In my case, I went with what I believed to be the most basic forms of everything, and was judicious when deciding the ratio of cinnamon to sugar. I used standard white sandwich bread, unsalted butter (softened at room temperature), and a cinnamon-sugar mixture made with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

The tests: The methods explained below call for different cooking tools and appliances and/or a different combination of steps for prepping the cinnamon toast. In other words, some methods required making a cinnamon sugar butter and spreading it on the toast, while others called for sprinkling a mixture of cinnamon and sugar on top of an already buttered piece of toast. 

The criteria: While everyone has their own preference for how they like to eat their toast, there are some qualities and criteria that I felt are absolute requirements when it comes to good cinnamon toast. When testing these methods, I was looking for a cinnamon toast that had a nice balanced sweetness as well as a good caramelization and browning. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Cinnamon Toast Method: Toasting in a Toaster, Buttering, and Sprinkling

  • Rating: 5/10

About this method: This method is a derivation from Allrecipes. This was one of the first methods that I tried out, as it seems to be a rather common one for a lot of people. This method involves toasting slices of bread in a standard toaster, spreading softened butter on one side of the bread, and then finishing by sprinkling the top with a mix of ground cinnamon and granulated sugar.

Results: This method wasn’t terrible, but it was nothing to write home about, either. The taste was just fine. Using a butter knife to spread the butter on the toasted bread smushed the bread a bit, which is more likely if you’re using very soft white bread as opposed to a sturdier variety.

But the main problem was that the sugar doesn’t really have any opportunity to caramelize and soak into the bread. The granules of sugar were very apparent after a couple of bites. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Cinnamon Toast Method: Toasting in a Toaster, Spreading with Cinnamon-Sugar Butter

  • Rating: 6/10

About this method: After trying the method above, I thought about testing a similar method to see if it would deliver better results. This method calls for toasting the bread in a standard toaster, mixing the cinnamon sugar with the softened butter until it’s fully incorporated, and then spreading the prepared butter on the toasted bread. If the sugar melted into the toasted bread better maybe there wouldn’t be as much of a grainy mouthfeel to the toast.

Results: My initial motivation for this method paid off just a bit — emphasis on a bit. The results of this method were slightly better than the method explained above, and the sugar didn’t feel as grainy and gritty. That said, depending on how toasted you like your bread and how hot your toaster gets, the butter might not fully melt on the bread. You end up with a piece of toast that looks a little like it has apple butter on it rather than cinnamon-sugar butter. I like the taste of this method a bit more than the one above, but not by much.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Cinnamon Toast Method: Spreading with Cinnamon Sugar Butter, Toasting in a Skillet

  • Rating: 6.5/10

About this method: This particular method is a simple derivation from a method used in a recipe from New York Times Cooking, which is explained more below. It required making a cinnamon-sugar butter, spreading it on one side of untoasted bread, and then toasting the buttered bread in a skillet, butter-side down first. Then, you simply flip the piece of toast so that the buttered side is facing up while the underside also gets a chance to toast, too.

Results: This method actually tasted pretty good. The buttered side of the bread toasted nicely in the skillet and the sugar was able to caramelize without burning. What brought this method’s rating down significantly, though, was the texture. While the toast tasted good, the bread never really toasted properly. The bread was soft and kind of drooped a bit in the center when I held it with one hand and took a few bites. While I could’ve kept the bread in the skillet longer, this would’ve risked burning.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Cinnamon Toast Method: Spread with Cinnamon-Sugar Butter, Bake, then Broil

  • Rating: 8/10

About this method: This method is derived from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for cinnamon toast. The more unique components of this method is that it uses the oven as its heat source and that the toast is prepared in large batches, with multiple slices placed on a baking sheet. The Pioneer Woman’s recipe calls for preparing the cinnamon-sugar butter and spreading it on one side of multiple slices of bread. The buttered slices are then baked in the oven at 350˚F for about 10 minutes, then broiled until golden-brown and caramelized. 

Results: This method was very good and it tasted great. In my opinion, it’s also the best option if you wanted to make toast for a crowd, but it isn’t really something I’d do if I just wanted a quick snack. The caramelizing wasn’t fantastic per se, but I think this is due to constantly watching it to make sure it didn’t burn. Since I’d prefer a slightly under-broiled toast than one that’s burnt, I took it out when I thought it was ready. This was one small aspect that didn’t get this method a perfect score.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Cinnamon Toast Method: Spread with Cinnamon-Sugar Butter, Cook in an Air Fryer

  • Rating: 8.5/10

About this method: This method was one that I sort of brainstormed myself, and then thought that there had to be someone else who also had this brilliant idea. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon a recipe for Air Fryer Perfect Cinnamon Toast from the blog This Old Gal. I decided to put this method to the test to see how it would compare to the other more conventional cooking tools. It involves spreading the cinnamon-sugar mixture on the toast and then cooking it in the air fryer at 400˚F for 5 minutes (although I took mine out between 2 and 3 minutes, as my air fryer seems to run hot).

Results: This method was honestly a surprising hit! I fully thought that the toast would end up completely burnt and ruined by the power of the air fryer, but after just a couple of minutes, it was nicely toasted and brown. Also, the sugar in the butter mixture caramelized very nicely. Overall, I really enjoyed how this version turned out in terms of taste and texture, but also because I could make one or multiple slices. The reason I didn’t give this a higher score, however, is that given the varying nature of air fryers, it can be very easy to accidentally burn the toast if you’re not paying attention. How long you air fry the toast will depend on your own air fryer. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaeffer; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Cinnamon Toast Method: Toast in Buttered Skillet, Sprinkle, and Flip

  • Rating: 9.5/10

About this method: This particular method comes from a recipe featured in New York Times Cooking from recipe developer and cookbook author Ali Slagle. The process is simple, but requires a couple of extra steps compared to some of the methods above. The recipe calls for adding butter to a hot skillet, adding the slice of bread, and allowing it to toast a bit for flipping it. After flipping it one time, you add a little more butter and then sprinkle the buttered side with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. After a couple minutes, flip the bread once more and allow the sugar to caramelize. Lastly, top the finished toast with a tad bit more cinnamon sugar. 

Results: Ali was really onto something here! I thought that this method turned out great. I was a little unsure of it at first, because the toast in the photo seemed a little dry on the top, given the dusting of cinnamon sugar. Just underneath the surface, though, was perfectly caramelized sugar, and nicely toasted, buttery bread. Plus, the bread itself held up perfectly to all of the butter and flipping, so it wasn’t too soft or droopy at all. I was slightly worried that the steps might be a little too involved for something as traditionally simple as cinnamon toast, but honestly, every step included in this method was totally worth it!