Grab everything you need and put it out so they’re ready to go. I’ve grabbed a few extra things here (cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla extract) to spice up the nuts a bit. The main things you need are nuts and butter.
When you’re ready, let’s go!
Preheat oven to 350˚ F / 175˚ C.
Preheating just means bringing your oven up to a specific temperature, so that it’s ready to cook your food. This can take anywhere from 3-15 minutes, depending on your oven and target temperature. But the more you use your oven, the more you’ll know how fast it preheats.
The oven is kind of like a mysterious black box. Actually, it is a mysterious black box. You can’t really touch whatever is in there while it’s cooking. The only way you can affect it is through temperature and time.
Preheating allows you to control for the temperature variable so you only have to worry about the time variable. If you don’t preheat your oven, then you really have no idea how hot your oven is once you put your food in. That can mess up your cooking time, and ultimately make you a lot more stressed out in the kitchen. So save yourself from the baking crazies. Preheat your oven.
Next (and this is optional), put aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Cookie sheets (also known as baking sheets) can be a pain to clean if you have baked-on bits. Save yourself the hassle and cover it with some foil if you have it.
If you have a microwave, put 2 tablespoons of butter in a ceramic or glass bowl and and zap it for 20 seconds. If it’s still solid, zap it for another 10. Stir to make sure it’s evenly liquefied.
If you don’t have a microwave, then put butter in a very dry skillet or pot over very low heat. Gently melt it down into a liquid. Don’t use too much heat or the butter could burn. Did I mention the skillet needs to be dry? If it has water in it, the butter will fizzle, pop and explode. Fireworks in the sky are good fun, but exploding butter in your face less so.
Here’s where you can get creative—by adding flavors to the butter! You also just use the butter as-is, but why not raid your spice rack and try out some new flavors?
If you’re making sweet roasted nuts, start off with a tablespoon of sugar (white or brown). Then add some nice things like:
If you’re making salty nuts, start off with a teaspoon of salt. Then add:
You can even go crazy (Notice how I heroically resisted the urge to say “go nuts”) and combine elements of sweet and salty. For instance, create a complex, savory spiced nut mix with curry powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cumin, sugar, and salt. Sounds crazy, but tastes really good.
Pour the flavored butter over the nuts and mix thoroughly.
Make sure it’s all carefully spread out in a single layer. The pieces that are touching the baking sheet will brown the fastest, and we want each individual piece to get a bit of this toasty goodness.
Then put it all in your perfectly preheated oven. (If your oven’s not ready yet, you know what to do—be patient and wait. Feel free to eat an un-roasted, buttered nut.)
Don’t forget to set a timer (use your microwave, phone, or a dedicated timer) for 10 minutes.
When the timer beeps, take out the baking tray (if you don’t have oven mitts, use a thick fluffy towel folded over a few times).
Then toss the nuts. This randomizes them a bit so that the pieces that were cooking faster will hopefully swap places with the pieces that was cooking slower. Believe it or not, ovens aren’t equally hot throughout the interior, so the edges of a baking sheet tends to cook faster than the center. Tossing helps even things out a bit.
Then spread them flat again and put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Remember your timer! Timing is everything—you don’t want these guys to burn, especially when they’re starting to smell so good.
Now’s the time to use your senses to determine if your nuts are done.
You’re looking for a beautiful, lacquered medium-brown color. Not pale beige, nor dark brown bordering on black. Feel free to taste a few (blow on it—it’s hot!). If they’re richly toasty and, well, freaking delicious, then they are done.
If not, return them to the oven for another 3 minutes. But no more—you don’t want to risk burning them!
Finally, allow the nuts to cool before digging in. Baked or roasted foods almost always taste better if you give them some time to cool off and “settle.”” In the case of nuts, they will actually crisp up more if you wait. Plus, you don’t want to burn yourself.
When they’re cool, put them on a bowl and enjoy!