Gently toasting nuts does wonderful things, deepening and adding complexity to their innate flavor. The effect is especially noticeable with pine nuts, which are otherwise so low key when they're raw. Toasting them lends a much richer flavor that complements a wide range of salads, sauces, vegetables and meats. The simplest way to toast pine nuts is in a skillet, but they heat unevenly and are prone to scorching. The oven gives a more consistent result.

Place a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. If the oven tends to run hot, or if you've noticed that it heats unevenly, heat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit instead. The nuts take longer to toast, but a lower temperature reduces the risk of scorching.

Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the pine nuts on it in a single layer.

Slide the sheet pan into the oven, positioning it in the middle of the rack so hot air can circulate around it evenly on all sides.

Toast the nuts for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your oven's heat, stirring them with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon every 2 to 3 minutes. (Stir at the shorter interval if your oven is prone to overheating or uneven heating.)

Remove the nuts from the oven when they reach a consistent golden-brown color and smell richly aromatic. If you're using the lower oven temperature for safety's sake, this might require a few extra minutes.

Tip

Heavy, commercial-grade aluminum sheet pans take longer to heat and might require an extra minute or two. They also retain heat longer, so you might opt to slide the parchment sheet, along with the toasted nuts, from the pan to eliminate the risk of the nuts burning on the bottom after they come out of the oven.

For small quantities of pine nuts, you can use your toaster oven in a similar way. Set the toaster oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit if it's large, or 325 degrees Fahrenheit if it's small. In the latter, the heating elements are closer to the food and more likely to scorch the nuts at higher temperatures. You should also stir the nuts more often in a smaller oven, ideally every 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

About the Author

Fred Decker

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.