How to Make the Best English Muffins You’ve Ever Had

How to Make the Best English Muffins You’ve Ever Had

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My best piece of advice if you’re wondering how to make English muffins at home is this: First, consider a different path. I don’t want to lie to you. Making English muffins is kind of a hassle, even if homemade versions are worlds better than almost anything you can buy at the store .
What I suggest instead is making a very nice English-muffin-inspired breakfast loaf . It’s a yeast bread that’s mixed by hand or machine, scraped into a cornmeal-dusted pan, given one single rise, and baked. It’s so, so easy—and relatively quick—and results in an open-textured bread that toasts like a dream and works wonders on an egg sandwich .
If I haven’t swayed you to take the easy route, you’re in for a bit of a project that may involve moving dough in and out of the fridge at just the right time, waiting three days or longer for your first bite of muffin, and/or sweeping cornmeal off the counter again. But you do have options. I griddled my way through a multitude of muffins and dug up a couple of really superior English muffin recipes—ones that shed a lot of that unnecessary fuss (no, you do not need muffin rings ). These are not difficult recipes, but they are particular. One of them is pretty classic; the second, a little extra. But before we get into those recipes, let’s talk about what classic even means when it comes to an English muffin.
Are you ready to search every nook and cranny?
Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Pearl Jones
In America the term English muffin refers to an individually sized yeast-risen bread that’s usually griddled on both sides. It’s most famous for the interior texture, which resembles the holey crumb of a crumpet or pikelet (two other English entries into the griddle bread canon, often erroneously cited as antecedents to English muffins—stay tuned for further details). Those in the know call this texture “the nooks and crannies.”
It’s likely that I will now use the phrase “nooks and crannies” so many times that the words will lose all meaning to you. Please allow me then to provide the definitions here for your reference:
Nook: noun, an interior angle formed by two meeting walls
Cranny: noun, a small break or slit
How these two words came to be associated with bread is anyone’s guess . They refer to the pattern of air pockets formed throughout the dough while the muffins rise and while they cook. Cut the muffins through the equator—but NEVER with a knife, more on that down below—and you’ll reveal a bread-y landscape of peaks and valleys, a.k.a. nooks and crannies. These pockets form the ideal holding cells for a melting pat of butter or a schmear of jam. Or, if you want to go savory, a swipe of mayo. Or watch them from the sidelines of a toaster as a bubbling slice of cheese collapses into every crater.
A brief history of the English muffin
There’s a general misconception whispered around certain brunch tables that English muffins were invented in America—a sliver of misinformation not shared by Brits. The unfounded theory goes like this: Samuel Bath Thomas, an Englishman, came to America and, finding no breakfast breads suitable for his lifestyle, made a bastardized crumpet and sold it to unknowing Americans as an “English muffin.”
This much is true: Samuel Bath Thomas, founder of Thomas’ English Muffins , was a real person, and he did immigrate to America from England in 1874. Four years later he made and sold a certain breakfast bread—one that would soon inspire great fervor and devotion—from the comforts of his own New York City bakery. Whether or not he did it because he took one bite of a waffle or pancake and thought he could do better is apocryphal at best, and at worst, made up entirely by me at this very moment.
So much cornmeal.
Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Pearl Jones
To dig a little deeper into the origin of English muffins, I reached out to Annie Gray , a British food historian and television personality. “God, no, what a terrible piece of mythmaking,” she quickly uttered, clearly gobsmacked by the suggestion that muffins (the English kind) were invented in America. English muffin recipes—known in England simply as muffin recipes whereas American-style muffins there are often branded as such— first appeared in print around 1747 . That’s 130 years before Thomas made his journey across the pond and means muffins may even predate both crumpets and pikelets.
Gray does concede one point though: an American English muffin might be superior to a British muffin. In England “a muffin is griddle-cooked, yeast-risen, and basically a bit of a crap bread roll,” Gray says. I made a version of these from a British cookbook and she’s not wrong. On the outside they looked like double-size versions of the English muffins many Americans would recognize, with a griddled top and bottom and ballooning matte sides. The interior wasn’t bad, but I’d liken it more to a homemade hamburger bun or cottony dinner roll than what I consider an English muffin to be.
Where you will find that hallmark nooks-and-crannies texture is in English crumpets and pikelets. Where those breads differ is in their cooking methods. If you’re a betting person, you may wager that Thomas figured out a way to combine crumpet texture with muffin method and an all new form was born. But that’s hearsay and it doesn’t really matter anyway because one other major thing I learned on my way to making perfect “American” English muffins at home is this: no two recipes are alike.
One last chance to consider this bread before moving on.
Photo by Joseph De Leo, Food Styling by Pearl Jones
A tale of two muffins
I made countless English muffin recipes while reporting this story. Beyond ingredient ratios—and even beyond the ingredients themselves—every one seemed to have a different method for mixing, or for forming the muffins, or for cooking them. Some resulted in batters thin enough to scoop and pour onto the griddle. Others turned out dough so firm the rolls were easily formed by hand.
The best English muffins came from dough that worked up somewhere in between. Make no mistake, English muffin dough is not a particularly easy dough to handle. And that’s one reason recipes vary so wildly: Writers have come up with all kinds of ways to deal with the sticky, wet dough.
Epi contributor and cookbook author Claire Saffitz has developed more than one English muffin recipe. She created her first English muffin when she was an editor at Bon Appétit. The second one appears in her 2020 cookbook, Dessert Person . For me, that second version ticked all the boxes for a classic American-style English muffin: airy interior with a slightly chewy crumb, and crisp surface dusted with crunchy granules of cornmeal.
Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz

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