There are lots of recipes that call for pecans, from muffins to ice cream to pie, and just about every single one of those recipes will be better if you make it with toasted pecans instead of untoasted ones. Toasted nuts have a firmer texture than untoasted nuts and have a richer, more complex flavor that lacks the vegetal notes you sometimes find in raw nuts. I still like raw nuts, but I generally like toasted ones more, whether I’m eating them out of hand or stirring them into a batter. You can find toasted pecans at many grocery stores, but untoasted nuts are still more common and are sometimes slightly less expensive than the pre-toasted nuts, so I often opt to toast mine myself. Fortunately, toasting nuts is an easy process that will only take you a few minutes in the oven.
To toast pecans in the oven: Preheat your oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange raw pecans (halves or pieces) in a single layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until nuts are evenly toasted. You can check by cutting a nut in half to see that the color inside is uniform. The nuts will seem slightly soft when hot, but will firm up as they cool. Store cooled nuts in an airtight container.
Oven vs skillet? You can toast pecans in a skillet, but I prefer to use the oven. The oven produces a more even toast. Even over a low flame, the surface of a skillet will be much hotter than the surface of a sheet pan in the oven. That hot surface can cause the nut to burn. It can also allow the outside of the nut to toast while leaving the inside raw, defeating the purpose of toasting even though it seems like it saves you a few minutes over toasting the nuts in the oven.
Once your nuts have toasted and cooled, you can store them for weeks in an airtight container a cool, dry place. This means that you don’t necessarily have to preheat your oven just to toast some pecans. Instead, you can simply place a pan of raw pecans into the oven after you’ve finished with other baking projects, leaving you well-stocked with toasted pecans for future baking and snacking.