My Easiest Brunch Ever Article -
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My Easiest Brunch Ever

When I plan brunch for a crowd, strata is one of the first dishes on my list.

I'm not alone in loving this easy breakfast casserole. Why?

Stratas are economical. A dish doesn't get much cheaper, more basic or more appropriate for a late-morning gathering than this combo of eggs, milk, bread and cheese.

Stratas can be made ahead. In fact, most recipes for it recommend an overnight rest in the fridge. They hold up well. Unlike a souffle that immediately puffs and collapses, or scrambled eggs that turn rubbery and cold in seconds, strata is slow to deteriorate, even during a long stint on a buffet table.

Leftovers reheat beautifully in the microwave. I recently set out to find a strata that tasted top-notch. Which kind of bread, milk and cheese, and what quantity of eggs, would make the best possible strata?

Top Tips for Brunch Stratas:

  • Basic white bread is best. Unlike higher-quality loaves (such as a good Italian bread), which remained chewy and distinct, soft white bread easily absorbed the milk-egg mixture. There was an added benefit from this unified trio: The resulting custard didn't curdle during baking.
  • Leave the slices whole. Some strata recipes tell you to cut the bread into cubes; others recommend using whole slices. Not only did cubing the bread add a step to the recipe, but the casserole tended to puff unevenly during baking, then deflate. Fitting whole bread slices snugly in a 9-by-13-inch pan kept the strata from looking like a lumpy mattress.
  • Half-and-half proved better than plain milk, delivering a custard that wasn't overly rich or watery. Whole eggs--three for every cup of half-and-half--resulted in a custard that was supple yet firm. I also liked the neat-and-tidy formula that was starting to develop: 1 quart of half-and-half to 1 dozen eggs.
  • Extra-sharp cheese and scallions perked up the flavor. Teaming milk, white bread and eggs with anything less than extra-sharp cheddar would have resulted in a bland, uninteresting casserole. Scallions improved the strata's looks and gave it a fresh, pleasant bite.

It was simple to change the look and flavor of the strata once I learned that 1 pound each of two flavoring ingredients offered the perfect ratio of filling to bread and custard--a pound each of bell peppers and spinach, for example, or a pound each of mushrooms and sausage. So enjoy creating your own combinations using ingredients that are in season or on hand, and be prepared for compliments.

Must-See Strata and Casserole Recipe Videos:

See our Top 20 Strata Recipes.

Copyright 2004 USA Weekend and columnist Pam Anderson. All rights reserved.

Donna V. 
Aug. 23, 2009 5:04 pm
Thank you for your research, Pam! I have a New Years Morning Lady's Brunch every year and this is a VERY helpful article. Thanks again!
Sep. 9, 2009 4:47 pm
Thanks. I've never made strata before and it helps to hae someone do the research ahead of time on how to make it best.
Nov. 15, 2009 7:55 am
This was very helpful. Thanks for sharing and making it seem easy.
Dec. 8, 2009 7:37 pm
So easy and, so delicious! I used apple sausage and everyone wanted the recipe.
Dec. 9, 2009 5:40 am
Pam, I am soooo glad I stumbled across your comments. I cook alot and can appreciate the science you have incorporated here. I will use your comments for my Christmas morning strata. Thanks again!
Boyce D 
Dec. 9, 2009 6:46 am
Thank-you for this basic recipe. I have always wanted a really good base that I could turn into my own flavor creation, now I have it! And you have done all the trial and error for me. I can't wait to try this on Christmas morning!
Dec. 9, 2009 9:46 am
I have been making brunch strata for years, and very much appreciate your article. I now know about using plain white bread and just leave it sliced, not cubed, and I will definitely use the half-and-half instead of milk. My husband and his co-workers will love this tomorrow...something warm to eat before they hit the road! :)
Dec. 9, 2009 10:17 am
Thanks for the comments. I make this every year also but I will try the slices verses the cubes and the half and half instead of milk. Sounds good.
Dec. 9, 2009 11:21 am
Thanks for the information and details, very helpful to know.
Dec. 9, 2009 12:53 pm
i always wanted to trya strata. Your description is so detailed, I'm "gonnagetherdone" Thank you. mjl
Dec. 9, 2009 2:45 pm
I've actually found that using a good quality bread that has been completly dried, either overnight or in the oven, seems to work the best. It ends up blending into the dish very well and absorbing all of the flavor.
Dec. 10, 2009 12:01 pm
Finally, specific information and rule of thumb instructions with easy to remember measurements! Thank You!
Dec. 10, 2009 5:45 pm
Great tips! Thank you so much. You must be an amazing cook!
Dec. 24, 2009 5:31 am
Great tips! Thank you!
Dec. 25, 2009 7:09 am
OK, dumb question here... how much bread is used when using the referened ratio of 1 qt milk, 1 doz eggs and 1 pound each of two fillings? TIA
Jan. 2, 2010 8:38 am
Pam,could u please tell me how much bread is used?
Jan. 2, 2010 11:13 am
Hi those wanting quantity, click on the Related Links at top of receipe on right hand side and it'll take you to list of ingredients. Cheers
Jan. 25, 2010 7:10 pm
I wonder if it could be made in a crock pot; has anyone done that?
May 5, 2010 3:32 pm
thanks a lot
Jun. 7, 2010 12:51 pm
A wonderful combination in a strata is spinach, ham (diced) and gruyere cheese...delicious!
Jul. 8, 2010 9:12 am
A quart of half and half to a dozen eggs!!! As a cardiac nurse, I cannot bring myself to make this, though I don't deny fat tastes good. I need a lower fat alteration!
Jul. 19, 2010 10:14 am
Rose Ann wrote on 1/25 asking about crock pot recipe....I have not tried it BUT my "Fix it snd Forget it Cookbook" has a recipe for Egg and Cheese Bake which is about the same 3 cups toasted bread cubes, 1.5 cups shredded cheese, whatever meat you desire such as crumbled bacon or ham chunks combined in greased slow cooker...Then beat 6 eggs, 3 cups milk, and s&p to taste pour this over bread mixture...Cook on low 4-6 hrs Anyone wants to try it give it a go and let us know....
Aug. 26, 2010 9:00 am
I use 9 pieces of bread, 9 eggs, 2 3/4 cup milk, 2 cups cheese, a pinch of dry mustard, 1 tbsp dehydrated onions, several splashes of hot suace...whatever else i have on hand ham, sausage, mushrooms, etc. top with a stick of melted butter...cook for 1 hour at 350. I prefer to cube my bread and make it that morning as it is fluffier. Lower fat version take out six of the egg yolks, use skim milk, low fat/no fat cheese, spray the top with butter flavored know what you need to do to make something low fat and heart healthy... I also like to top it with diced tomatoes and green onions right before serving.
Sep. 14, 2010 4:02 am
I'm just now learning how to cook, so could someone tell me the actual steps to make this? Me and my husband would greatly appreciate it.
Sep. 26, 2010 5:57 am
french The recipe sounds good but can't find the recipe.
Sep. 29, 2010 10:11 am
Thank you so much for these tips! I cook a lot but have never made strata. I had a recipe but I was not sure about it. After reading your tips I created my own strata recipe and it turned out perfectly! Everyone was asking for my recipe.
Oct. 3, 2010 9:23 am
This 'strata' is also known as Wifesaver Casserole and I've made it every Christmas Eve for Christmas breakfast for 40 years. It was great to have while the kids, now in their 30's, opened presents. I make ham and cheese (any kind you like... I use medium cheddar), place in a buttered dish and cover with milk/egg mixture. Leave in fridge overnight and bake in a.m.
Dec. 2, 2010 7:46 pm
A wonderful recipe for large gatherings. Served with fresh fruit and a hot drink makes it a good meal for a work party.
Dec. 29, 2010 7:10 pm
I also serve mine with a a big bowl of fresh fruit and an assortment of muffins--and if Iam real ambitious- a pot of homemade baked beans. Which is a New England tradition,
Jan. 14, 2011 8:06 am
Our children are renting a large house on the beach at Destin to celebrate our 50th anniversary this summer. (Mom and Dad are always the chefs at family gatherings) and I'm going to make this for the 12 of us the first morning, with fruit and muffins. Thanks!
Feb. 7, 2011 6:53 pm
The information was very helpful when trying to cut down the recipe. I'm going to use a loaf of Texas toast next time it's pretty fluffy. My family seems to like cheddar cheese and sausage. thanks.
Feb. 21, 2011 3:11 pm
To MGGIRL (7-28-10) - there is such a thing as fat-free half-and-half. I've not used it for cooking, but I love it on oatmeal. And I imagine you can replace the eggs with Egg Beaters or some such. (But note: latest news is that eggs aren't as bad for your heart as originally thought.)
Feb. 25, 2011 10:36 pm
One of my favorite stratas to make is spinach and gruyere.
Apr. 2, 2011 8:15 am
This was WONDERFUL information. The calculation ratios were so good to know and saved me lots of trial and error. What a well done article, thank you!
Apr. 9, 2011 9:52 pm
I live in Africa and have no idea what half and half is - could someone please tell me. Thank you.
Apr. 15, 2011 8:31 pm
I am wondering about half and half, now that you ask. Half whipping cream, half coffee cream? I'm not sure. Probably has to do with fat content. Will get back to you if no one else answers.
Apr. 15, 2011 8:37 pm
Half & Half A dairy product that consists of equal parts cream and whole milk. It is usually 10 to 12 percent milk fat. In some cases it can be used as a cream substitute, however it can not be whipped.
Apr. 16, 2011 10:52 am
well i sure would enjoy a good brunch recipe ----but where is it did I miss it ??? I love this site and it is great to see things tested first I have tried so many and they were so good I need not have stuck my 2 cents in but I will from now on
Jul. 18, 2011 1:42 pm
Yesterday I served the Spinach-Artichoke Strata recipe that is in the new Christmas with Southern Living 2011, and it was fabulous. Huge hit for my soccer-loving friends.
Dec. 15, 2011 7:18 am
Sounds awesome! If only i could save this page to my saved recipes, I would be sure to remember it.
Jan. 16, 2012 4:25 pm
I have been making this strata every year for Christmas brunch - so easy to prepare the night before. I also serve a frozen fruit thawed with a little of 7-up or Sprite to make it slushy. Strawberies, bananas, pineaple and mandarin oranges, a little sugar and orange juice. So good! My family and friends love this and I love that you can make it ahead.
Southern Girl 
Feb. 18, 2012 6:26 pm
Can this be fen before cooking?
Southern Girl 
Feb. 18, 2012 6:27 pm
Can this be frozen ahead before cooking?
Feb. 19, 2012 7:42 pm
We have eaten a version of this for years! It came to be called "Tom and Teresa breakfast" in our family. My son, who was about 3, named it that when we had our grown-up friends by that name spend the night and I served it for breakfast. "Tom and Teresa" breakfast it remains, even though he is now 29! Almost always make this on Christmas eve to serve on Christmas morning.
Feb. 19, 2012 7:44 pm
Regarding freezing the strata--I would definitely NOT freeze it with raw eggs. And have never tried freezing leftover strata, as there rarely are leftovers! I think it would get soggy upon reheating.
Apr. 1, 2012 12:06 pm
I would love to be able to save these tips to my recipe box for future reference. :-( Everyone's separate ideas and tips are always such a nice surprise to read! :-)
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