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Toasting walnuts and pecans


jgm
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Okay, I'm going to throw in the towel and ask for help.

If I put them under the broiler, it's hard to tell what color they are. I usually rely on the way they smell... if I don't forget them until they smell burned.

If I put them in the oven, I never seem to time it right. Burned nuts again: start over and do nothing but watch them until they're done.

Last weekend I tried the saute pan method. Obviously, the heat was too high, because they ended up with little burned black spots, before they started to smell like toasted nuts.

Anybody have any stroke-of-genius methods for getting this right? The most recent issue of Cook's Illustrated, in the tips section, suggests putting them in an air-type popcorn popper. Which I finaly put into a garage sale last summer and sold for 50 cents.

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I put them in a saute pan over medium-low heat, shake the pan OFTEN (to prevent the little black spots), and watch them like a hawk. If I want to be less attentive because I'm doing other stuff, I use lower heat, but they still require some attention. I have never found a "set it and forget it" kind of method that works. And, I have never put them in the oven without burning them.

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It's also good to have a room temp or cool metal pan on hand to quickly turn the nuts out on to when they are finished. This helps to cool the nuts down and stop the cooking.

Also, I've learned the hard way not to leave the oven area and I try not to multitask (too much) until they are done. I usually stand right there, open the door to shake the pan periodically and to smell if they're done.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I cook with walnuts and pecans alot. Its on of my favorite little snacks too.

On the top of the stove I place them in a heavy skillet and turn the heat to medium high and shake the pan till I can just barely smell them. then I add butter and tosss to coat, there is a nice sizzle from the butter melting. And turn the heat to high and continue to tosstill the butter is gone and they get to the brown I like. Then remove from heat and add salt. But thats just so I can snack on them.

No butter or salt if you need them for som recipe. But start medium high tp warm them up then finish on high shaking to get even coverage/toasting.

In the oven I lay them in one coat/layer on a cookie sheet and preheat the oven to 400.

place the sheet in and then check ever 3 minutes when I open it and hear a sizzle I know its done. Usually less than 4 checks (12 minutes) Normally about 10 minutes actually.

They are different nuts so they have different oil contents and that oil is what I hear sizzling when I open the oven. For me, I like them a little darker, just when I think its too dark I taste them and they have a really good smokey flavor.

Hope this helps.

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Okay, I'm going to throw in the towel and ask for help. 

If I put them under the broiler, it's hard to tell what color they are.  I usually rely on the way they smell... if I don't forget them until they smell burned.

If I put them in the oven, I never seem to time it right.  Burned nuts again: start over and do nothing but watch them until they're done.

Last weekend I tried the saute pan method.  Obviously, the heat was too high, because they ended up with little burned black spots, before they started to smell like toasted nuts.

Anybody have any stroke-of-genius methods for getting this right?  The most recent issue of Cook's Illustrated, in the tips section, suggests putting them in an air-type popcorn popper.  Which I finaly put into a garage sale last summer and sold for 50 cents.

My experience is that on the stove they burn faster because the heat source is right there. In an oven you have more time to do other things because they roast slower. <It's easy to see with pine nuts.>

The pecans and walnuts roast the same, it's just harder to see. So i put all nuts under the broiler, but place the cookie sheet low.

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I toast them in my micro/convection on the convection setting at 350º. I keep nuts in the freezer so they go into a small sheet pan frozen. Oven is set for 5 minutes. I put them into the oven during the pre-heat cycle, then finish when it has reached the temperature. Sometimes walnuts take a bit longer than pecans or pinenuts.

I realize that this wouldn't work for everyone but I do think a timer is essential. They are too easy to forget if you get distracted.

If toasting them in a regular oven I would start checking at 5 minutes.

Using a broiler will almost guarantee burnt nuts. Not a good plan.

The only ones that I do on top of the stove are pine nuts.

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Hm. I use a method I've used for years and recently saw Alton Brown doing the same thing. He says, If you can smell them, they're over cooked. For me, it's just when I can start to smell them roasting that they're done to my liking.

Heat the oven to about 425 or thereabouts. Spread nuts on a cookie sheet. Place sheet on middle rack of oven and set your timer for about 8 minutes. Or thereabouts.

I've never burned them. I use roasted nuts routinely. In breads, pies, cookies, cakes, salads. They're a staple in my refrigerator. I've tried them on the stove in a pan too, but the oven method is just so much easier and yields the most consistent results.

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Based on this thread, I will try to to toast in the oven with a timer the next time I want a batch of toasted nuts. My main problem with the oven is that I am so careless, I forget about them. I always hear the point that the stovepot is worse because of the direct heat, but at least I remember that they're there, because I can see them. However, the timer probably does make a difference.

Anyhoo -- thanks to jgm for starting this thread. I toast nuts almost daily for various things, and love to hear the opinions of egulleters!

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