Pan-fried egg + cheese sandwich when there’s no toaster

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Whether your toaster is broken or you’re out camping with no toaster in sight, you can make crispy buttery sandwiches. All you need is a fry pan, butter, bread, and a tasty filling to prepare this satisfying hot sandwich, for breakfast, brunch, or dinner. 

Alex's hand holding a pan-fried egg and cheese sandwichPin

Since moving to Colorado, we’ve stopped living with roommates. This marked the end of hot and crispy bread (especially garlic bread) on demand. 

We’ve not bothered to replace the toaster that our roommate took with her (I’d rather have an electric kettle take up that countertop spot).

But I still love toasted bread, bagels, and baguettes. Is there a solution to toasting bread when you don’t have a toaster? 

Read on to find out how you can make a toasted sandwich without a toaster…or an oven

How to toast bread without a toaster

What is toast? It’s bread that’s blasted with radiant heat to dry it and trigger the Maillard reaction

The bread becomes crispy outside, yet retains its soft interior, and develops a golden tan. You know it’s ready when its fragrant aroma wafts over, inviting you to smear butter on it. 

There are many ways to achieve the desired color, taste, and texture you’re looking for when toasting bread. 

  • Toast bread in a toaster is the most obvious. But not always available. 
  • Toast bread in a preheated broiler turned to high for 2-3 minutes on each side. Toast until your preferred level of golden brown. 
  • Bake the bread in a preheated oven at 350 °F / 175 °C until both sides are golden, about 5-10 minutes. Flip halfway through once the underside is golden. 
  • Grill the bread using a gas or charcoal grill until both sides are golden brown.
  • Countertop electric grill
  • Panini grill 
  • Fry the bread in a thick-bottomed pan with oil or butter until golden and crispy on one side. Flip over and fry until it’s crispy and golden on the other side. 

TIP: A microwave can’t toast bread. Your microwaved bread ends up dry and rubbery without the crispy texture and fragrant taste you’re looking for. 

After we gutted our kitchen, we’ve been experimenting with making hot sandwiches. Since we have no oven, we’ve experimented on using the grill and a heavy non-stick pan to make toasted sandwiches. 

I find the pan-fried toast method much easier than grilling because it’s easier to control the heat (and avoid burnt toast). It’s also less messy because there’s zero ash or incinerated food adhering to your bread. 

The only main downside of using a pan over a grill is that you don’t get the smoky flavors that a grill can impart on your sandwich. Oh well.

Sandwich variations

My pan-fried sandwich recipe below describes how we made it last weekend. I’ve also made variations, such as pan-fried bagels and grilled cheese sandwiches

Here are the different ingredients you can substitute in your recipe to make an endless range of unique sandwiches. 


  • Bagel
  • Sandwich bread
  • Sliced sour dough
  • Naan (garlic naan)
  • Hamburger bun
  • Brioche
  • English muffin

TIP: You can use frozen bread, as I did in my recipe. Check that the bread isn’t freezer burnt, or you may end up with a stiff and dry sandwich. Frozen bread may need an extra 1-2 minutes in the pan.

Savory fillings

  • Cheese alone (grilled cheese sandwich)
  • Turkey or chicken breast
  • Grilled chicken thigh
  • Ham or bacon
  • Meatloaf
  • Steak
  • Pan-fried tofu
  • Fried fish (sticks) or pan-fried shrimp

Sweet fillings

  • Chocolate
  • Peanut butter 
  • Jam / jelly
  • Sliced and pan-fried banana, pears, or peaches
  • Nutella
  • Cinnamon sugar
  • Lemon juice and sugar
  • Honey

Tips for success

  • The key to toast in a pan is to add plenty of butter: The browned butter adds flavor, prevents the bread from sticking to or burning in the pan, and makes the bread crispy. 
  • Is nonstick necessary? I used a nonstick pan because I wanted to fry eggs to make a one-pan egg sandwich. If you don’t have a nonstick pan, you can still make a pan-fried sandwich. Make sure to add enough oil or butter to prevent your fillings from sticking to the pan. 
  • How to scale: Add as much bread as you can without overlapping bread. Avoid overcrowding the pan because the bread won’t toast evenly. Cook in batches if you have a big party to serve. 
  • Cook the filling first: This ensures the filling is ready to stuff into the bread. Toast the bread just before you’re ready to eat. It’s easy to reheat the filling in the pan for 30 seconds if it cools too much. 
  • Alternative cooking methods: Although this recipe focuses on pan frying the egg sandwich, you can use any of these methods for toasting the bread and making the sandwich (some methods like grilling may require you to fry the eggs separately on a skillet).

One-pan fried egg sandwich with garlic naan bread

Print Recipe Pin Recipe Rate Recipe
This easy egg sandwich delivers a satisfying breakfast in 5 minutes with minimal cooking. Use whatever bread and cheese you have on hand. Avoid crowding the pan, so make 1-2 sandwiches at a time if necessary.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Course: Breakfast, Brunch, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: 10 ingredients or less, 5-minute recipe, carbs, comfort, family-friendly, vegetarian
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 643kcal
Author: Anna Rider
Cost: $3


  • Frying Pan


  • 2-4 slices Bread, I used 2 slices of garlic naan
  • 4 medium Eggs
  • 2 tablespoon (60 g) butter, salted butter, if unsalted butter add salt
  • 6 slices cheese, I used sliced gruyère
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt, season to taste
  • 2 grinds Black pepper, freshly ground


  • Gather the ingredients.
    Ingredients for a pan-fried one-pan egg sandwichPin
  • Heat the pan over medium-high heat. Melt half the butter in the pan.
  • Once the butter has melted, crack the eggs into the hot pan. Discard the eggshells.
  • Fry the eggs until the egg whites have turned opaque white and are no longer translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Flip each egg over.
  • Allow the eggs to cook for about 1 minute until the egg whites on the undersides are set. I like my egg yolks runny so we remove the eggs before the yolks are hard.
  • Move the eggs to a plate.
  • Add the remaining butter to the pan.
  • Add the bread to the pan.
  • Fry the bread on each side until golden brown.
  • Add the cheese to allow it to melt on the hot bread. Remove from the bread from the pan when the bread reaches your preferred level of toasted brown.
  • Add 2 eggs to each slice of bread. Close the sandwich with the remaining bread if you fried 4 slices of bread.
  • Enjoy your one-pan egg sandwiches!
    A collage of 12 images showing how to make a pan-fried egg and cheese sandwichPin


Calories: 643kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 28g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 446mg | Sodium: 1183mg | Potassium: 271mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1673IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 702mg | Iron: 3mg
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Can you make this in advance?

While you could fry your toasted sandwich ahead of time, the bread tastes the best hot and crispy, fresh off the skillet. 

The answer is yes, but I recommend you cook the sandwich just before you’re ready to eat it. 

How to store leftovers

If you end up with leftovers (how would that happen?!), you can wrap it in foil and store it in the fridge. 

Eat the leftover sandwich by the next day. (The FDA says cooked egg lasts 3-4 days in terms of food safety. But the sandwich dries out. The sooner you finish it, the better.) 

How to reheat leftovers

If you want the sandwich to be crispy, you can reheat the fried egg and sandwich on a buttered pan, the same way you prepared the sandwich. 

If you don’t mind a soggy texture, you can reheat the sandwich in the microwave.

Can you freeze it?

No, I don’t recommend it. Freezing and defrosting the fried egg and bread will likely dry it out and turn the texture funky. 

It’s best to eat this sandwich fresh off the griddle. 

What to eat with egg sandwiches

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About Anna Rider

Hi! I'm Anna, a food writer who documents kitchen experiments on with the help of my physicist and taste-testing husband, Alex. I have an insatiable appetite for noodles 🍜 and believe in "improv cooking".

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