Buttered toast

Toast is sliced bread about 1/2 inch thick that has been browned by exposure to radiant heat. This browning is the result of a Maillard reaction, altering the flavour of the bread as well as making it firmer so that it is easier to spread toppings on it. Toasting is a common method of making stale bread more palatable. Bread is often toasted using a toaster, an electrical appliance with heating elements. Toaster ovens are additionally used for toasting bread.

Toast is commonly eaten with butter or margarine and sweetened toppings such as jam or jelly. Regionally, savoury spreads such as peanut butter or yeast extracts might additionally be popular. Toast is a common breakfast food. When buttered, toast might additionally be served as accompaniment to savoury dishes such as soups or stews, or topped with additional ingredients such as eggs or baked beans as a light meal. While slices of bread are a commonly toasted food, bagels and English muffins are additionally toasted. Toast might contain carcinogens caused by the browning process.

Etymology and history

The word "toast", which means "sliced bread singed by heat" comes from the Latin torrere, "to burn". The first reference to toast in print is in a recipe for Oyle Soppys (flavoured onions stewed in a gallon of stale beer and a pint of oil) that dates from 1430. In the 1400s and 1500s, toast was discarded or eaten after it was used as a flavouring for drinksIn the 1600s, toast was still thought of as something that was "put it into drinks. Shakespeare gave this line to Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1616: "Go, fetch me a quart of Sacke [sherry], put a tost in 't." By the 1700s, there were references to "toast" as a gesture that indicates sexual attraction for a person: "Ay, Madam, it has been your Life's whole Pride of late to be the Common Toast of every Publick Table."

Toast has been used as an element of American haute cuisine after at least the 1850s.

Methods

A classic two-slot electric toaster

In a modern home kitchen, the usual method of toasting bread is by the use of a toaster, an electrical appliance made for that purpose. To use a modern toaster, sliced bread is placed into the narrow slots on the top of the toaster, the toaster is tuned to the correct setting (some might have more elaborate settings than others) and a lever on the front is pushed down. The toast is ready when the lever pops up along with the toast. If the bread is insufficiently toasted, the lever can be pressed down again.

It can additionally be toasted by a conveyor toaster which are often used in hotels, restaurants and additional food service locations. These work by having one heating element on the top and one on the bottom with a metal conveyor belt in the middle which carries the toast between the two heating elements. This allows toast to be made consistently as more slices can be added at any time without waiting for previous ones to pop up.

Bread can additionally be toasted under a grill (or broiler), in an open oven, or lying on an oven rack. This "oven toast" is usually buttered before toasting. Toaster ovens are special small appliances made for toasting bread or for heating small amounts of additional foods.

Bread can additionally be toasted by holding it near but not directly over an open flame, such as a campfire or fireplace; special toasting utensils (e.g. toasting forks) are made for this purpose. Before the invention of modern cooking appliances such as toasters and grills, this was the only available method of producing toast.

Toast is usually made using slices of bread. Many brands of ready sliced bread are available, a few specifically marketing their suitability for toasting.

Consumption

A plain dry slice of toast on a plate

Toast is most commonly eaten with butter or margarine spread over it, and might be served with preserves, spreads, or additional toppings in addition to or instead of butter. Toast with jam or marmalade is popular. A few additional condiments that can be enjoyed with toast are chocolate spread, cream cheese, and peanut butter. Yeast extracts such as Marmite in the UK, New Zealand and South Africa, and Vegemite in Australia are national traditions. Some sandwiches, such as the BLT, call for toast to be used rather than bread.

Toast is an important component of a large number of breakfasts, and is additionally important in a few traditional bland specialty diets for people with gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea.

In the United Kingdom, a dish popular with children is a soft-boiled egg eaten with toast soldiers at breakfast. Strips of toast (the soldiers) are dipped into the runny yolk of a boiled egg through a hole made in the top of the eggshell, and eaten.

In southern Sri Lanka it is common for toast to be paired with a curry soup and mint tea.

By 2013 "artisanal toast" had become a significant food trend in upscale American cities like San Francisco, where a few commentators decried the increasing number of restaurants and bakeries selling freshly made toast at what was perceived to be an unreasonably high price.

Health concerns

Toasted bread slices might contain Benzo[a]pyrene and high levels of acrylamide, a carcinogen generated throughout the browning process. High acrylamide levels can additionally be found in additional heated carbohydrate-rich foods. The darker the surface colour of the toast, the higher its concentration of acrylamide. That is why, according to the recommendations made by the British Food Standards Agency, bread should be toasted to the lightest colour acceptable.