today we’re talking about how to toast pecans. nothing revolutionary, but definitely useful. i hardly ever use pecans without toasting them since they are so much more flavorful and a bit crispier/crunchier after they’ve been toasted. for convenience, i tend to toast a whole sheet pan full of pecans at a time, and then store whatever i’m not using immediately in a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator.
storing pecans (all nuts for that matter) in the refrigerator (or freezer for even longer life) is important to keep them from going rancid and giving an off flavor to whatever you add them to. nuts have a high fat content and that fat goes rancid fairly quickly when stored at room temperature. room temperature is fine for short term storage (a few weeks) but if the nuts are going to be around any longer than that, do yourself a favor and pop them in the fridge or freezer.
personally, i buy almost all of my nuts at either costco or trader joe’s, because they are cheaper, which is nice in and of itself, BUT it also means that other people buy their nuts there too, which means higher product turnover and fresher nuts. i avoid those little tiny bags of nuts in the baking aisle at the grocery store like the plague, both because of price and freshness. if i buy nuts at a regular grocery store, i get them from the bulk bins. again, likely cheaper which means likely fresher (since people like to buy the cheaper of two identical items). regardless of where i buy them, they go in the freezer once i get them home.
untoasted on the left; toasted on the right
ok, now that’s we’ve covered my nut buying and storage habits (hi, my name is kate and i’m basically a squirrel), let’s get back to how to toast pecans, shall we? because as much as i know what to do, i don’t always follow the simple steps below (whhhhyyyy not?!) and then, inevitably, i burn the nuts.
case in point: i had to go back to the grocery store at thanksgiving to get a replacement batch of pecans after i burned the first batch. if we’re being charitable, we can talk about how i was using someone else’s oven and didn’t have parchment and… whatever. i just need to remember that they cook more quickly than i think they possibly could. so really, this post is for my own benefit so that next time i go to toast pecans, i can look here and read my advice to myself and maybe even follow it.
i strongly prefer the oven method to the stovetop skillet method (read: i have burned pecans in the oven fewer times than i have burned pecans on the stove) because not only can i roast more nuts at one time (which means a stockpile of toasted nuts in the fridge and a happy squirrel kate), but also because the heat is more even and gentle, so the pecans are less likely to burn (but they still can burn so stay close by and check them frequently!).
i’ll put a “recipe” below for ease of printing but basically, it’s a 350° F oven, a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, and not more than 5 – 8 minutes minutes (maaaaybe close to 10 if your oven runs cold). i frequently read that you should toast nuts until fragrant but – maybe this just reflects my not-so-strong sense of smell but – by the time i can smell the nuts, they are often overcooked. so i stick with a timer and a visual inspection. taste tests are risky since the pecans are HOT when they come out of the oven; biting into one is not a good idea. just trust me on this one… if it sounds simple, it’s because it is. just be sure to set a timer and not trick yourself into thinking it must take longer than it does. then teach me your ways.
recipes using toasted pecans
looking to put your new pecan toasting skills to use? may i suggest one of the following:
- 1 cup or more of pecan halves (chop them after toasting, if needed)
- preheat the oven to 350° F. line a rimmed, insulated/thick bottomed baking sheet with parchment paper (this helps prevent the pecans from burning on the bottom). spread the nuts in an even layer. i usually fill the sheet pan with a single layer of pecans and store whatever i don’t need immediately to top salads, snacks, breakfast, dinners… you get the idea.
- bake the pecans for 5 minutes, remove from the oven, use a spatula to turn them over a bit and see how they are doing on the bottom (the bottom will burn before the top). if there isn’t any color change yet, put them back in the oven for 3 to a max of 5 minutes, until they are a shade or two darker all over. they will continue to darken a bit once they come out of the oven.
- once they are done, carefully lift or slide the parchment off the baking sheet, keeping the nuts on top, and transfer the parchment and nuts to the counter to cool off of the hot baking sheet (this helps prevent them from overcooking from residual heat). let cool. they are usually cool enough to handle after about 10 minutes (still be careful) but i wait at least an hour to package them up to store any leftovers.
- you’re done! now you can crumble/chop the pecans, if needed, and store any extras in an airtight container in the fridge. i like a glass jar so that they can’t absorb any weird smells (fat loves to absorb weird smells).