Warm, crunchy toasted nuts like walnuts, almonds and peanuts have very versatile culinary usage. They can be added to salads and food dishes for a crunchy kick. Toasted nuts can be used as a garnish for desserts like pies, cakes, mousse, etc. They also make a tasty but convenient snack. While nuts on the whole are delicious when toasted, special mention must be made of the pecan.
Imagine crunchy, fragrant, toasted pecans on an apple pie or in a scoop of vanilla ice cream or tossed in with pasta and veggies in a salad. You can even salt pecans once toasted or you can use syrups like honey to make honey roasted pecans. The mind (and mouth) boggles with the possibilities of toasting these little bite-sized nuts. So to learn how to toast pecans for salad and snack items alike, read on...
How to Toast Pecans
Using an Oven
Oven roasting pecans is a slower but steadier toasting process as compared to stove top toasting of pecans. Another advantage is that little oil is required for the nuts to toast. Steps to follow are:
- Use a non-stick cookie sheet. If the nuts were in the fridge, keep them at room temperature for sometime.
- If you need to use chopped pecans, chop the nuts prior to toasting.
- Do not use any oil or butter on the sheet but rather the nuts in butter for a bit.
- You can even add a little salt to the pecans along with the butter.
- Distribute nuts liberally on the sheet. Bake in the oven at 350ºF.
- From time to time, stir nuts on the sheet, so all the nuts are uniformly toasted. Use a spatula or spoon to do this.
- Bake till the nuts are golden brown and a fragrant smell comes from the oven.
- Estimated baking time is between 10-15 minutes. It may vary but the real indicator is the aroma, a lovely nutty smell means the pecans are done.
- Keep an eye on the pecans as they can get burnt.
- Remove the toasted pecans from the oven and spread them out on paper towels to cool.
Using a Stove
You can toast pecans without butter or oil and they will turn dry and crisp. This method is ideal when the pecans are to be added to salads or dry dishes, so they pick up the flavor from the dish. But if you want browner, more evenly toasted pecans, then use oil or butter in the pan. Steps for stove top roasting are:
- Use a non-stick pan and heat it at high heat until the pan gets extremely hot.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the nuts. Do not put too many nuts in at the same time, if needed, toast the nuts in turns.
- Before adding the nuts, if desired, you can add a teaspoon of butter or oil.
- Toss the nuts about the pan every 1-2 minutes, so they will not stick to the pan.
- You can use a spatula or spoon to turn the nuts, just make sure the nuts do not burn in the pan. Do this for roughly 5 minutes.
- Soon the toasted nuts will start to smell all nutty and flavorful. They will also darken in color. Keep an eye on the nuts, they can get burnt very easily.
- Remove nuts from heat and leave it to cool. Do not leave nuts to cool in the pan itself.
Using a Microwave
For very quick toasting, if you are in a massive hurry to get your pecans toasty and crunchy, then the following steps should be done:
- Use a microwave-friendly plate and spread the nuts on it liberally.
- Heat the nuts with the microwave set to HIGH for 3-5 minutes.
- Do not ignore the pecans in the microwave, they can burn. Rotate the plate after 2 minutes of toasting.
- Watch the toasting nuts, take them out when they aren't very dark brown in color. They will darken even outside the microwave.
Now that you are savvy with the various pecan toasting methods, here are a few toasting tips to keep in mind:
- Choose nuts that are uniform in shape and color. Try purchasing pecans in their shell, if you are not using them immediately.
- Use fresh pecan nuts for toasting. Older nuts can taste rancid and oily, even if toasted.
- The best time to get the freshest pecans is three weeks after a pecan harvest.
- Store your pecans in a fridge prior to use. Pecans, when exposed to air, can get spoiled and will pick up odors.
- Store leftover nuts in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can even freeze pecans in plastic freezer bags.
- When toasting pecans for salads, do not use oil or butter as such materials take away the flavoring of the pecans. For a neutral but crunchy taste, toast pecans dry.