From Brooklyn delis to Bethnal Green eateries in North London to biergartens all over Berlin, bagels are beloved the world over. Whether you enjoy it with lox, butter, or jam, or with cheese, raisins, or sesame seeds baked right into the crust, a well-toasted bagel is the perfect breakfast food and café treat.
Of course, first you have to toast it. This is easy enough if you have a toaster, but what if you don’t, or your toaster is on the fritz?
If so, never fear – here are four ways to toast your bagel without a toaster, as well as which methods for toasting’s worth boasting about and how to get the most from your toasted bagels.
1 – Toast on the Stove Top
This is by far the most obvious answer – don’t have a toaster? Then simply turn on the stove and take your bagel-toasting efforts to the stove top.
There are a lot of reasons to recommend this popular method. For one, all you need for this method is a nonstick pan and a stove that can accommodate it. For another, the steps for toasting a bagel this way are pretty easy to follow.
To start, you’ll want to take out a pan you think could work for this purpose and place it on the stove. Once you have done this, you’ll want to preheat it. When doing this, you need to be extremely careful, since you don’t want to go from zero to searing hot in a matter of seconds.
Instead, you need to let your pan warm up for at least a minute. When heating up your stove top, you’ll want to take into account how hot it runs. For example, if it starts off on the hotter side, you’ll want to set your heat level on Low and crank it up from there.
While you’re doing this, take the opportunity to slice your bagel in half, and if you prefer to butter your bagel before you toast it, now’s the time to do it.
Now comes the classic question – butter side up or down?
Those advocating for the butter side up might claim it gives you more time to add toppings. That said, most people tend to prefer placing the bagel butter side down so as to allow the butter to spread out, seep into the bread more evenly, and make it that much easier to scoop it up once finished.
Let the bread sit for two minutes. If you have a lid for the pan and want to get extra fancy, you can apply it so as to better trap the heat and allow the bagel to toast faster and more thoroughly.
By this point, your bread should start to be getting a bit crispy, so before it starts to burn, flip it over and toast the other side for two minutes.
Your bagel should be sufficiently toasted by now. If it isn’t, go ahead and keep flipping it over on either side until you reach the right texture and temperature for your liking.
2 – Broil in an Oven
If you have never toasted a bagel this way, you might be shocked at this idea.
A bagel? In the oven? Impossible!
Au contraire – while it may seem at first like way too much heat in too enclosed of an area to yield anything more than a charred husk of what was once a perfectly-good bagel, this can actually be one of the fastest and most effective ways to toast them in the absence of a toaster.
That isn’t to say this method is easy, of course. There are a lot more moving parts and temperature settings you need to take into consideration with this method as opposed to the stove top-via-pan method mentioned above. As such, if your primary concern when looking to toast your bagel is convenience, you’ll want to check out the other options on this list.
On the other hand, if you are looking for something that will toast your bagel as quickly as possible and feel comfortable enough around an oven to handle the setting adjustments and light touch this requires, this method is probably the fastest.
If you’re going to go ahead with broiling your bagel, the first thing you need to do is make sure that the broiler’s grill is ready for the task. Put your bagel on the grill of the rack closest to the top of the oven. This is necessary for making sure that the heat is dissipated as evenly as possible so as to avoid your bagel getting too hot too fast and winding up a blackened pile of dust.
Once you have made sure that the grill is ready to receive your bagel, it’s time to preheat the oven for at least 5 to 10 minutes and, after that, pop it in for toasting.
Now, while you might be able to get away with plopping the bagel down on the grill, you might also reasonably think that’s too high a risk, in which case you’ll want to place it on a baking sheet as if you were baking cookies. Contrary to cookie baking, however, you don’t want to grease the pan beforehand. Doing so can interfere with the taste. A temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit should be sufficient.
Now you sit and watch – and make no mistake, you’d better watch the oven closely. Don’t step away “for just a few minutes,” as the instant your bagel is done, you want to take it out and let it cool, lest you wind up with a burnt heap of blackened former bread.
At that temperature, it should only take between one to two minutes to toast your bread sufficiently.
3 – Slow Roast in Oven
Maybe you’re not satisfied with the above method but still think that toasting your bagel in your oven sounds like a viable solution. If so, you’re in luck. Slow roasting your bagel is another oven-centric method of toasting your bagel without a toaster.
As with the other method, you can preset your oven to 350 degrees. That said, as we’ll see, this method focuses on allowing you more time to bake your bagel, so if you want slower toasting time, presetting it to something like 180 degrees can also do the job.
In addition, you will need to make sure that you watch your oven carefully throughout this process so as to prevent your bagel burning. Set the oven to whatever presets your particular model uses for its “slow roasting” setting.
Take your bagel and place it on the middle rack in your oven. As with the previous method, you can either place it directly on the grates or on a sheet pan, though the latter is generally easier to remove for those who aren’t accustomed to cooking this way.
Now comes the big change from that aforementioned oven method. While that method was all about toasting your bagel as quickly as possible, and thoroughly toasting it within a couple minutes, this focuses on a longer cooking time. This both more closely approximates slower toasters and also relieves you from having to watch your oven constantly so you can remove them a mere minute or more after beginning the process.
If you are looking for a good way to get an even golden brown toasted bagel that is convenient not in terms of quickness but allowing you to do other things in the meantime, this may be a good option.
Another good thing about this method is that with more time comes greater control over the cooking process. This way, if you like your bagel lightly toasted, you have more time to take it out before it becomes too hard.
Anyway, back to our oven. It should take about 10 minutes for your bagel to toast, and you’ll want to flip it over about halfway through that process so both sides cook evenly.
4 – Toast it Over a Campfire
Ah, camping, adventure in the Great Outdoors! All that’s well and good, but whatever will you do without your buttered sesame seed bagel in the morning or lunchtime bagels and lox? Well, never fear – where there’s a will there’s a way, and the willpower for enjoying bagels while camping is great enough that, yes, there is a way you can toast them by the campfire whilst camping.
Needless to say, this is the most DIY option on our list. It’s hardly the kind of bagel-toasting method you can or should expect to use on a daily basis. Nevertheless, its innovative spirit is part of what makes this option so fun.
For starters, you’ll of course need to build a campfire. Selecting the right site is essential. Make sure that you have cleared away the grass and that the ground underneath can both sustain the heat and fire and won’t release anything noxious or distasteful elements that might make your bagel smell or taste funny.
If you have some with you, or happen to find some while out hiking, wood chips can be ideal for this purpose. Larger logs can also work well. If you have brought some charcoal along, that can work too, though as with any charcoal-cooked foodstuff, it will impact the taste.
Make sure that the fire is stable. The last thing you want is for a sudden flare of flame to sear your bagel and turn it into campfire dust.
To avoid such problems as well as your bagel accidentally slipping into the flames, you should place a grill over the flame if you have one on hand.
If you have a skillet, go ahead and place the bagel on that. Otherwise, feel free to place it directly on the grill. In the former case, you can go ahead and spread some butter on the skillet as though you were cooking it on your stove top as described above.
Now comes the hardest part of the whole enterprise – timing the toasting process. Obviously you don’t have a preset timer on which to rely, so you’ll need to keep time yourself with a watch, phone, or something similar.
This also means that you’ll need to flip and check your bagels more closely and regularly. Whereas in the previous methods you might flip your bagels over whilst they’re cooking every couple minutes, you’ll need to watch your bagels carefully as they roast over the campfire and flip them as soon as they seem to start getting too hot. That might mean flipping them every few seconds at some times, and that’s okay.
Campfires don’t have the same mechanisms in place as a stove or oven for making sure that it cooks evenly. Turning your bagels so often is thus essential for making sure that your bagels get thoroughly toasted this way.
Of course, you can always cheat with a camp stove toaster, too, as it’s not a “real” toaster but a specialty item just for campsite cooking.
The Importance of Proper Storage
Each of the above methods can toast your bagels in the absence of a toaster. That said, if your bagels are already hard and dry, it might all be in vain. As such, even before you toast your bagels, you need to make sure they are stored properly.
Do your best to combat dehydration and staling, which is a fancy way of saying that you need to make sure that the bread doesn’t go hard prematurely – so don’t just leave it out there on the kitchen counter! That said, a leaky ice box where it could get mushy is no good, either. A climate controlled refrigerator, cabinet, or other dark, cool place is your best bet for preserving that bagel-y goodness.
All of these methods are excellent at toasting a bagel if you don’t have a functional toaster handy. Some are faster, while others allow you a greater degree of control while cooking. No matter what, all of them can ensure that you can have your morning or lunchtime toasted bagel, made just the way you like it.