There is French toast, and there is French toast. Here's how to make the latter.

Do you use a recipe when making French toast? For most people, it’s a dish that’s thrown together on the fly, like scrambled eggs. Beat some eggs, add some milk, soak the bread, fry it up, then grab a plate and fork. Breakfast is served.

While this method will produce a plate of French toast—even really good French toast—you can do better. Here are three easy ways to elevate your run-of-the-mill recipe, or, if we’re being honest, that set of steps you perform at the stovetop when you’re still half asleep.

Start with a custard

Whether you’re making it by the slice, or in an oven-baked casserole, French toast is pan-fried bread that’s been soaked in a mixture of eggs and dairy. That mixture is actually a custard, and it tastes best when you use full-fat dairy (whole milk, half-and-half, or equal parts milk and heavy cream). Ideally you want equal parts egg and dairy, so aim for ¼ cup dairy for each whole egg. Whisk them together thoroughly until the mixture is completely blended, with no bits of egg white or yolk visible. Then whisk in a pinch of salt and about a half-teaspoon of sugar per egg. Granulated white sugar is fine, but it won’t dissolve as easily as powdered sugar, honey, or maple syrup.

Add extra flavor

In addition to a little sweetness and salt, stir in a few extra ingredients to enhance the flavor and aroma of the custard. Ground spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom (or try a blend like apple or pumpkin pie spice), extracts like vanilla or almond, fresh lemon or orange zest, or a splash of spirits (like bourbon or rum) are all wonderful options. Soak the bread completely, so that it is entirely saturated.

Fry in butter and oil

Once the bread is soaked through, you’ll need some fat and a hot pan to turn it into French toast. A neutral cooking oil like canola has a high smoke point, but no flavor. Butter has plenty of flavor but burns at lower temperatures. So combine the two—I like using half oil and half butter—for the best of both worlds: golden, crispy-edged French toast with plenty of richness.