(Via Associated Press)
I sometimes joke and say that as a Southern cook, I use pecans like other chefs use salt and pepper. That is to say, on just about everything. I love pecans and every other nut because they add a crunchy texture and an earthy sweet — nuttier — flavor to food.
Most of the time, I lightly toast my nuts to enhance their flavor. And I’m not alone: Many recipes that call for nuts, also call for toasting the nuts because it makes such a difference in the overall flavor of the dish. Toasting or lightly roasting nuts removes all the raw green, slightly astringent flavors that you taste when they are uncooked. This is especially true with walnuts. Almonds, hazelnuts and pecans are crisp and lightly caramelized, and you can’t stop eating them when they are roasted — likewise peanuts. Even seeds are so much better with a little heat to bring out their deeper more nuanced flavors. Think sesame seeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. The volatile oils are released, and the seeds are lightly browned making them taste so much more flavorful.
I learned to toast nuts from my mother, and she learned from her mother. You toast nuts on a cookie sheet (or sheet pan) in a preheated oven set on a low heat. The low heat is crucial because nuts burn both easily and quickly. This is due to the high percentage of oil in the nuts. Pecans burn particularly fast and can go from deliciously lightly toasted to inedible and acrid in a matter of a minute.
Source: The art to toasting nuts