Don't scrape. There's a better way.
Is there anything easier than making toast in the morning? As it turns out—from a very casual survey of friends and family—there are many things easier than making a perfectly golden piece of toasted bread. In fact, one woman even proffered she can poach eggs more easily than she can prepare a piece of toast without burning it.
She may—OK, definitely—be acting dramatic, but the truth of the matter is that it's quite easy to burn toast. It takes just seconds to turn from crisp to charred, and once it's burned, there's no going back. But that doesn't mean there's nothing left to do if you've left your bread in a toaster oven for too long. Here's what you can do.
Step 1: Smell something? Do something.
You'll often smell the signs of burning toast before you see them. So if an unpleasant odor wafts from your toaster to your nose, turn off the oven and take out the toast. "Not too many people know this, but almost-burned food can be saved by placing it in the freezer," says Silvia Baldini, Chopped champion and chef. "If your toast starts smelling nutty and looks deep brown, immediately remove it from the toaster and put it in the freezer. It's like shocking vegetables in iced water. It stops the cooking."
Step 2: Assess the damage.
So you stepped out sniffing range and by the time you made it back into the kitchen, your toast is blackened, almost beyond recognition. Quickly assess the damage: does the char go beyond the surface of the bread? If so, skip to step number four. But if the burn is only skin deep, so to speak, your toast could still be saved in step three.
Step 3: Don't scrape—grate.
Your toast has a layer of black, but beneath it, you're convinced you'll find a perfect shade of golden brown. So grab a four-sided cheese grater, says Baldini, and a bowl.
In a gentle, circular motion, rub the blackened side of the toast across the grater and let the burned pieces fall into a bowl. "I like to use the coarse cheese grate first and then the fine cheese grate," says Baldini, "until my toast is clean and golden again." Don't toss out those burned crumbles just yet—you can use them in the next step.
Step 4: Make lemonade from lemons, so to speak.
Whether your toast is burnt beyond repair or you've saved some burned crumbles from a now-perfectly golden piece of bread, you can still make something delicious, even if it's not something you can slather with butter. Sun Basket cofounder Justine Kelly suggests pulverizing the burnt toast, with salt and red pepper flakes, in a food processor, "for a spice seasoning to sprinkle over your morning eggs." Or, you can take those burnt crumbles and save them as a binder for meatballs, "where they'll deliver an extra layer of depth and umami," Kelly says.
Step 5: Keep future burn marks at bay.
Of course you want to save your burnt toast now—but you also don't want to burn it again in the future. Take time to learn the temperature settings of your toaster oven, which can be temperamental. It's always better to set your toaster to a lower temp, undercooking your toast, than burning it beyond repair. And make sure you're using high-quality bread, the kind meant to be toasted. It should have "a soft center and a crunchy, crispy crust," describes Baldini, who adds the best toasting bread will be 14 millimeters—or about a half an inch—thick, and kept at room temperature.