How To Toast Pecans

090510-163034_Lg

This technique works for most types of raw nuts: pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc. It intensifies the flavor of the nuts and makes them a bit crunchier. Perfect for salad toppings and baking into breads. This is just one method, I’ll describe a few others below.

Directions

I start with shelled nuts. I don’t mind sitting there with a nut cracker snacking while watching TV, but when I need a bunch I go for the convenience.

090510-162346_Lg

If you’re going to chop the nuts, do it before toasting. The more surface area you have, the more “toastiness” you’ll end up with.

090510-162632_Lg

There are several options for toasting: stovetop or in the oven; dry or with oil, butter or cooking spray. You can find people who swear by each method. The only one I’ll never use is cooking spray, because that’s not food. So of the methods I would choose from, here are the pros and cons:

Stovetop vs. oven: Stovetop is faster and it’s easier to keep an eye on the nuts to make sure they don’t burn. But the finish is less even — you’ll have dark spots where the nuts touched the pan — and you have to keep the pan moving the whole time.

Oil or butter vs. dry: Any kind of fat will make the finish more even, especially on the stovetop. The fat will potentially add some flavor, and the finished nuts will have more of an oily finish. This could be good, as it will help salt and other seasonings stick. And more butter flavor is rarely a bad thing for any food.

This batch was going to go in a salad, so I wanted crunchy and dry but without adding a lot of other flavors, so I went with dry on the stovetop. Heat a non-stick pan over high heat until extremely hot, then turn the heat down to medium. The quick blast of heat when you first add the nuts will extract some oil from the nuts, just enough to keep them from sticking or scorching.

SAFETY NOTE: Nonstick cooking surfaces are not rated for extremely high heat. If you leave the pan on high with nothing in it for as little as five minutes it can reach a dangerously high temperature, both damaging the cooking surface and possibly releasing toxic fumes. Don’t walk away while preheating, and don’t cook in it if you notice any odor at all before adding the nuts.

090510-163034_Lg

Keep the pan moving, tossing the nuts so they don’t keep sitting the same way down or you’ll burn the bottom.

If you thought you saw some nuts flying out of the pan, it was just static in the video. Really, I promise. If you’re not confident with tossing the nuts, turn them over with a spatula or wooden spoon several times while cooking.

As soon as they start looking darker and you can smell the toastiness, get the pan off the heat and dump the nuts out. Nuts can go from finished to burned pretty quickly, and will even keep cooking for bit after removing them from the pan.

090510-163438_Lg

And that’s it.

Other methods

To use butter or oil on the stovetop, toss the nuts in the oil or melted butter before putting them in the pan. Also, don’t heat the pan up so much before adding the nuts. Just start at medium heat and keep it there.

In the oven, use a non-stick cookie sheet if you have one. Otherwise you should probably oil or butter the nuts before putting them on your baking sheet. Cook at 400° for 5-10 minutes, turning the nuts over with a spatula once halfway through. Stay close, and check them every minute or so after turning them over. Just like the stovetop method, they’re done when you see the color get darker and you can smell the toastiness.

PS: I used the word “toastiness” three times in this post and my spellchecker keeps saying it’s not a word. If I say it and you know what I mean, then it’s a word. So there.

Comments

  1. Thanks for prompting me to check this out. What I found online — and if the internet says it, it must be true — is that all the documented cases of illness from nonstick coatings were in the 60s and 70s. At that time, coatings were rated for no higher than 500° before they started to give off toxic fumes.

    Since then the federal government has cracked down on toxic chemicals. Modern nonstick cookware is much improved, going up to 900° in recent tests before giving off fumes. This article has all the numbers I’ve cited, though I saw the same figures at multiple sources.

    I’m going to go back and add a note to that step. Thanks again for bringing this up.

  2. katklaw777 says:

    Drew, I am worried about your post. I have seen on TV and reread my directions that say never, never heat a non-stick pan on high with nothing in it. It’s bad for the coating. They even say not to cook with them on high, medium high is the highest recommended heat level.
    I really enjoy reading your posts and love when you “Cook like my Grams.”

  3. onlinepastrychef says:

    Toastiness is essential, regardless of what your spellchecker is telling you. Making up words is your prerogative, Drew! 😀 And I never use nuts in cooking or baking w/o toasting them first. It’s all about the toastiness.

  4. It’s myyy prerogative!

    Great, now I’ve got that song stuck in my head. Thanks.

  5. Mmmm, toasted nuts. Gotta love em. I usually do the pan method too, mostly because I like stirring/flipping. Heh.

  6. Christian R. Conrad says:

    Toasted nuts?

    Naah. OK, the weather is getting a bit warmer — but a pair of good airy trousers will help.

  7. Best way is to use a small, seasoned cast iron skillet, a tiny bit of oil/butter and a wooden spatula and keep the nuts moving. When the smell hits your nose, you're done!

  8. I use an iron skillet for 90% of my cooking. I started doing this when Imoved into my turn of the century home..seemed appropriate. the pecans were the toastiest for my struedal topping. Thank you!

  9. Topaz and arthurina, you either have smaller pans than I do, or stronger wrists. Trying to toss nuts with any kind of control in my 10-inch cast iron would be a real workout.

  10. Hey Drew – the cast iron pan I use is small, just barely covers the small burner on my electric stove top. It still is heavy, so I don't pick it up and actually toss the pecans, just stir them well. LOL

  11. Regarding the non-stick pan, don't heat with nothing in it and never overheat even with food. The main concern for me (not old-time toxic fume issue) is that with a glass-flat cooktop, overheating warps the bottoms of the pan and then they will not lie flat on the glass. Completely ruins the pot's or pan's cooking ability and then they need to be replaced.

  12. You're absolutely right about warping the pan. Though my father-in-law did it on a 1960s vintage electric coil top. So that's not unique to glass flat tops, it's about cheap, thin pans.

  13. Tavie Allan says:

    This was an amazingly helpful, thorough, and easy to follow article. I just needed to know something simple – how to toast pecans for my spinach salad tonight – and you did it perfectly! Thanks!

  14. If I buy your cookbook (which I’ll probably do) it will be because you have a sense of humor and one that I “get”. Thanks for that!
    Just needed advice on how to toast nuts and got way more than I bargained for. Thx for that, too.

Trackbacks

  1. […] comprehensive post on roasting or toasting pecans also covers other nuts with lots of pictures and instructions and a […]

Tip Jar

Like what you see? Buy me a drink.