Break Out The Skillet For Flavorful Homemade Croutons

Homemade croutons are a delicious and simple way to liven up a plain salad or soup, plus, they are a great solution to avoid wasting bread that might've gone stale. Surprisingly, one of the best ways to prepare these crunchy morsels at home is not your oven but a skillet. Frying your homemade croutons gives them a more flavorful crunch because when you pan-fry the bread it develops a slight char on the outside. 

This char brings in a smoky, slightly bitter flavor to play off the bread and any other seasonings you may use, making them the perfect addition to a grilled chicken Caesar salad or on top of a classic potato leek soup. Another benefit to preparing croutons on the stovetop is you can closely monitor the cooking process and ensure each piece gets toasted to your liking. A skillet lets you make extra buttery croutons as well. Your bread will soak up the butter as it cooks and develop a golden crust. This gives you a butter flavor in every bite that balances some of the burnt flavors from the sear. 

Tips for making and seasoning skillet croutons

A cast iron skillet is great for this process as it has superior heat distribution. If you don't have one, a steel or aluminum version works too but you should consider buying a cast iron skillet because of its wide range of uses in the kitchen. It's recommended to continuously flip your croutons as they sizzle away in your skillet, which ensures they cook as evenly as possible. You'll also want to avoid getting your pan too hot because it can quickly burn your butter or oil. A low temperature is best for consistent toasting. 

If you want to amp up the flavor even more, add fresh herbs to the butter as it melts. This addition gives you the subtle flavoring of whatever herbs you use without overpowering the other flavors. Herbs such as thyme, rosemary, parsley, and sage are great choices, but you can select whichever works best for you.

There's some debate on whether it's better to season before or after toasting. If you're using dried herbs or ground spices it's better to add them before toasting. When you add these kinds of seasonings to a warm pan they get toasted as well. This releases the aromatics of your seasoning and brings in an intenser flavor. You can always hit them with a little more seasoning after cooking if needed.