Toast is bread that has been browned by exposure to radiant heat. The browning is the result of a Maillard reaction, altering the flavor of the bread and 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, but toaster ovens are also used. Pre-sliced bread is most common
Toast is commonly eaten with butter or margarine, soup or sweet toppings, such as jam or jelly. Regionally, savory spreads, such as peanut butter or a yeast extract, may also be popular. Buttered toast may also accompany savory dishes, especially soups or stews, and be topped with heartier ingredients like eggs or baked beans as a light meal. Toast is a common breakfast food. Bagels and English muffins are also toasted.
The word toast comes from the Latin torrere 'to burn'. One of the first references 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) from 1430. In the 1400s and 1500s, toast was discarded or eaten after it was used as a flavoring for drinks. In the 1600s, toast was still thought of as something to be put into drinks. In his 1602 play The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare gives Falstaff the line: "Go fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in't." Toast has been used as an element of American haute cuisine since at least the 1850s.
In a modern home kitchen, toast is usually made in a special-purpose electrical appliance, a toaster. Sliced bread is placed into the slots on the top of the toaster, the desired level of toastiness is set, and a lever is pushed down. The toaster pops up the toast when it is ready.
Bread toasted in a conventional toaster can "sweat" when it is served (i.e. water collects on the surface of the cooled toast). This occurs because moisture in the bread becomes steam while being toasted due to heat and when cooled the steam condenses into water droplets on the surface of the bread.
It can also be toasted by a conveyor toaster, which device is often used in hotels, restaurants, and other food service locations. It works 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 also 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 other foods.
Bread can also 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, bread has been produced in ovens for millennia, toast can be made in the same oven.
In modern days, toast is most commonly eaten with butter or margarine spread over it, and may be served with preserves, spreads, or other toppings in addition to or instead of butter. Toast with jam or marmalade is popular. A few other 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 considered national traditions. Some sandwiches, such as the BLT, call for toast to be used rather than bread.
Toast is an important component of many breakfasts, and is also used in some traditional bland specialty diets for people with gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea. This is because toasting breaks down the starch in the bread and makes it easier to digest.[better source needed]
In the United Kingdom, toast is part of a traditional breakfast: it is often incorporated in a full breakfast or eaten with baked beans. A dish popular with children there is eggs and soldiers. Strips of toast (the soldiers) are dipped into the runny yolk of a soft-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. In Japan, people like to toast thick slices of bread. Toast became a staple dish in Japan after World War II, especially after it was introduced in school lunches throughout the country due to the shortage of rice. Thick slices of toasted bread are also eaten in regions of the US, where they are known as Texas toast. Street vendors in South Korea serve toast with a variety of toppings, usually fried eggs, vegetables and slices of meat, topped with sauces. Korean toast is to be eaten as a sandwich. In Southeast Asia, coconut jam is a popular spread for toast.
By 2013, "artisanal toast" had become a significant food trend in upscale American cities like San Francisco, where some commentators decried the increasing number of restaurants and bakeries selling freshly made toast at what was perceived to be an unreasonably high price.
Toasted bread slices may contain Benzo[a]pyrene and high levels of acrylamide, a carcinogen generated during the browning process. High acrylamide levels can also be found in other 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. As of 2019 epidemiological studies suggest it is unlikely that acrylamide consumption increases people's risk of developing cancer.
Another popular idiom associated with the word "toast" is the expression "to toast someone's health", which is typically done by one or more persons at a gathering by raising a glass in salute to the individual. This meaning is derived from the early meaning of toast, which from the 1400s to the 1600s meant warmed bread that was placed in a drink. By the 1700s, there were references to the drink in which toast was dunked being used in a gesture that indicates respect: "Ay, Madam, it has been your Life's whole Pride of late to be the Common Toast of every Public Table."[better source needed]
The slang idiom "you're toast", "I'm toast", or "we're toast" is used to express a state of being "outcast", "finished", "burned, scorched, wiped out, [or] demolished" (without even the consolation of being remembered, as with the slang term "you're history")." The first known use of "toast" as a metaphorical term for "you're dead" was in the film Ghostbusters (1984), in which Bill Murray's character Peter Venkman declares, "This chick is toast", before the Ghostbusters attempt to burn the villain with their nuclear-powered weapons. "Hey, dude. You're toast, man", which appeared in The St. Petersburg Times of Oct. 1, 1987, is the "...earliest [printed] citation the Oxford English Dictionary research staff has of this usage."
Humorous observations have been made about buttered toast. It has been noted that buttered toast has a perceived tendency, when dropped, to land with the buttered side to the floor, the least desirable outcome. Although the concept of "dropped buttered toast" was originally a pessimistic joke, a 2001 study of the buttered toast phenomenon found that when dropped from a table, a buttered slice of toast landed butter-side down at least 62% of the time. The phenomenon is widely believed to be attributable to the combination of the size of the toast and the height of the typical dining table, which means that the toast will not rotate far enough to right itself before encountering the floor. A joke that plays on this tendency is the buttered cat paradox; if cats always land on their feet and buttered toast always lands buttered side down, it questions what happens when buttered toast is attached to a cat's back.
Cheese and marshmallows are also toasted by exposure to dry radiant heat. A toasted cheese sandwich features toasted cheese and toasted bread. Bagels, English muffins, Pop Tart pastries and crumpets are foods that can be toasted, too.