Making toast is easy when you’ve got a toaster. That’s what they’re for: Pop in some plain bread, wait a few minutes, and toast pops out. But what if you don’t have a toaster? What if you need to make toast for a horde of people all at once, for a family brunch or a holiday breakfast when everyone’s staying over? In those cases, making bread in your oven might be the best bet.
Toasting Bread in Your Oven
The easiest way to toast bread in your oven is simply to lay it out on a parchment-lined sheet pan, grouping the slices of bread loosely toward the middle of the sheet. Pieces of bread around the outer edges aren’t going to brown as evenly or as quickly as the slices in the middle. If you’re going to need more toast than you can fit onto one pan, choose a second one that can fit on the same rack as the first. Two sheet pans on the same rack will toast more evenly than if they’re on different racks.
Position your rack in the top third of the oven, and heat the oven to any temperature between 350 degrees and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the temperature, the longer your toast will take to brown and the less risk there is of burning it while you get the rest of your breakfast or brunch ready. On the other hand, toasting at a higher temperature leaves your toast softer in the middle when the outside is browned.
At the high temperature, it’ll feel more like “toaster toast,” while lower-temperature toast has a distinctive crispness you can only get in the oven. Neither’s better or worse, only different. Your toast will take about 10 minutes at the lower temperature, or as little as 5 or 6 minutes at the higher temperature. Either way, it’ll need to be turned halfway through your toasting time.
Toasting Under Your Broiler
If you want your toast in a hurry, use your broiler element instead. Bread will brown much more quickly under the broiler, which means you probably shouldn’t try to cook anything else while your toast is happening. If you don’t keep a sharp eye on it, the bread can go from not-ready to burnt in a heartbeat.
Line your pan with foil rather than parchment because parchment will burn under the broiler, or just leave the pan unlined. Set the rack a few inches below the broiler element and preheat the broiler. Once it’s ready, slide your pan of bread under the broiler element. Give it about 2 minutes per side to broil.
Toast Bread Vertically
Turning out a big batch is one of the main reasons to toast bread in the oven, but what happens if you need more toast than you can fit in one layer? A second rack of toast won’t brown as well as the one at the top, so you’d have to shuffle the pans between racks as well as flip the toast. You might even have to rotate the racks as well. It’s a big increase in the work involved and a big decrease in convenience.
The quick fix is to toast your bread vertically, the same way your toaster does. To use this trick, arrange the two racks in your oven so one’s just a few inches below the other. Place your one or two parchment-lined sheet pans on the lower rack; then stand up your slices of bread so they’re supported by the upper rack. If the bars of your oven rack are especially wide, you might need to use a wire cooling rack to narrow the slots enough to hold the toast upright.
With the bread in a vertical position, you won’t need to turn it. Just toast it at 350F to 450F for the same length of time you would if it were lying flat on the pan.
Broiler Microwave or Countertop Oven
If your goal is to eliminate an appliance from your countertop, rather than produce toast for a crowd, you can use a countertop oven or broiler/convection microwave to make perfectly acceptable toast. Modern, large, convection-style countertop ovens are more sophisticated and elaborate than the small toaster ovens of bygone years, but they’re still capable of toasting.
High-end microwaves now often include convection heating and broiling capabilities to make them more versatile, and the broiler oven function makes toast just as well as your regular broiler. For either type of countertop oven, check your manual for the correct method and suggested toasting times. If you’re choosing an appliance, read reviews online and in consumer magazines. Some are much better at toasting than others, so if that’s one of your main uses, it’s something to research before you make your purchase.
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.