Egg Bakes And Frittatas Are Not The Same Thing

Although egg bakes and frittatas both combine dairy, eggs, and other savory ingredients that are baked in the oven, they are not the same dish. Both are great for breakfast or any other meal, and can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature, but they differ in terms of cooking methods.

An egg bake is an American dish, also called a strata or savory bread pudding. It's a casserole that typically combines day-old bread, eggs, meat, cheese, and milk or cream. The ingredients are combined hours before baking — even up to a day in advance — to allow the stale bread to absorb the savory egg custard mixture. The egg bake puffs up like a soufflé as it cooks, making for an impressive-looking dish that can feed a lot of people.

Meanwhile, a frittata is an Italian egg dish that takes much less time to prepare, and can be far more spontaneous. Frittatas are like a cross between a French omelet and scrambled eggs. Eggs, dairy, veggies, and optional meats are mixed together and cooked on the stovetop, then finished in the oven. The final product is much like a sliceable omelet, except all the ingredients are mixed directly into the eggs, like in scrambled eggs. Notably, frittatas do not contain bread, and the two-step cooking process also differentiates them from egg bakes.

How to make an egg bake

Often using an ingredient ratio of 1 part egg to 1 part dairy to 2 parts bread, egg bakes have a more custardy mouthfeel compared to frittatas. Recipes can be veggie-loaded, like our vegetable and cheddar strata recipe, or contain meats like sausage or bacon for meat lovers. 

While the fillings can differ, the star of an egg bake is the bread. Like a sponge, stale cubes of bread soak up the egg and milk custard to become creamy and tender. The pieces that peek out over the layer of egg will toast in the oven and develop a delicious crunch laced with shredded cheese. Any hearty type of bread can be used, but bakery-style white or whole wheat loaves are the most neutrally-flavored choice. You can even store leftover bread cubes in the freezer and whip them out to assemble an egg bake any time.

Since egg bakes are cooked gently in the oven, precooking all the filling ingredients is essential. Ingredients like sausage may not cook through if added raw to the casserole. Leftover cooked meats and veggies are a great shortcut. Also, when hosting guests overnight, egg bakes are a great breakfast option. All the ingredients can be poured into a casserole dish and stored in the fridge for less fuss over breakfast first thing in the morning. Simply place the casserole in a hot oven when you wake up and enjoy a delicious, protein-packed breakfast an hour later.

How to make a frittata

To make a frittata, you start by frying filling ingredients like veggies or meat in butter or oil. Since the dish is finished in the oven, you should cook the ingredients in an oven-safe, well-seasoned skillet to make it a one-pan meal. Frittatas wind up with a firmer texture compared to egg bakes, though they're still tender. Unlike egg bakes, frittatas can also be prepared with little to no dairy. 

There is no limit to the ingredients found in a frittata. You can use everything from bacon and onions to the herbs and veggies in our rosemary and olive frittata. This dish is an excellent vehicle for leftovers. While it's similar to an omelet, frittatas are intended to serve more than one person and don't need to be flipped over, which makes feeding a crowd more manageable than with individual omelets. 

A frittata also takes about half the time to cook compared to an egg bake. They can be served with breakfast meats in the morning or a green salad at lunch or dinner. It reheats well, even in the microwave, although it's also delicious cold out of the refrigerator. Egg bakes and frittatas can both be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days after cooking, or four months in the freezer. For easier reheating, cut frittatas or egg bakes into individual servings before freezing them.