Duff Goldman's Nut Rule Will Save Your Thanksgiving Treats

Oftentimes, many of us follow recipes to a T, without ever questioning why certain ingredients are included versus others. Well, except for Illinois-based food writer Debi Lewis. While making a quickbread with roasted pecans, she began to wonder why toasting the nuts isn't always a step in her other go-to pecan recipes, such as coffee pecan pie. She directed her question with a tweet toward celebrity chef and baker Duff Goldman: "Do nuts get toasted ALWAYS or is there a pie-based loophole? You are the only one I trust with this answer."

Goldman, as the star of "Ace of Cakes" and "Buddy vs. Duff," clearly has a lot of baking knowledge, which he is evidently generous in sharing with others. The pro responded, "My rule of thumb is that if the nuts are exposed to the air in the oven then I don't roast. If they are inside something then I do" (via Twitter). Applying this rule to Lewis' example, then, since the pecans used in her quickbread are on the inside of the dish, they should be roasted first. The pecans on her coffee pie are likely scattered on top, on the other hand, and therefore don't need to be roasted in advance.

There is solid reasoning behind Goldman's nut rule

There is a very scientific explanation for Goldman's nut-roasting rule of thumb. When certain foods are heated at high temperatures, a process called the Maillard reaction occurs, whereby the heat interacts with the proteins and sugars to create different flavors, smells, and colors, according to Serious Eats. When nuts are roasted, their flavors become nuttier and more complex, per The Kitchn.

However, there is a limit to how much you can roast nuts before they burn. If you pre-roast nuts that then cook further on the outside of a dish, they will continue to roast and most likely burn as they are exposed to more hot air in oven. On the other hand, if the nuts stay inside a cake or pie, or anywhere there is a lot of moisture to slow down the Maillard reaction, they can be pre-roasted since they won't get hot enough to burn (via Food Crumbles). As you start planning your Thanksgiving menu, which may very well include a pecan pie for dessert, keep Goldman's rule of thumb in mind to decide whether or not you need to roast the nuts first. (In the case of pecan pie, you don't.)