Kitchen Shortcut: How to Toast Nuts in the Microwave

Did you know that you can toast nuts in the microwave? Neither did we! Harold McGee mentions it in passing in the section about cooking with nuts in On Food and Cooking, and we thought we'd put it to the test:

We took a half cup of frozen walnut pieces and spread them in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Then we put them in the microwave and cooked them for one minute intervals at full power, mixing them between each interval to make sure they were cooking evenly.

At the two minute mark, we could hear sizzling and smell a nutty aroma, but they still tasted raw. At four minutes, they were starting to taste pretty good but still looked raw, so we decided to take them a little further. By eight minutes, they were definitely done and had a crisp bite, toasted flavor, and mouth-watering aroma. We didn't think they took on as much color or have the same depth of flavor as we usually get in the oven, but these were the only negatives.

We did a little more internet research and discovered that our method of toasting nuts in one minute intervals is fairly standard. The time it takes for the nuts to cook will vary depending on the type of nut, the size of the nut, and whether your nuts were frozen or at room temperature.

We think microwave-toasting is ideal for small amounts of nuts, like those going on our morning oatmeal or into a quick batch of muffins. We like that we don't have to heat up the whole oven for just a few minutes of toasting, and also that we don't need to worry about ending up with charcoal if we forget the nuts are in the oven. But for extra special desserts where flavor and presentation are really important, we'll stick to oven-roasting.

Have you ever tried toasting nuts in the microwave? What do you think?

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(Image: Emma Christensen)

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