I Burned Way Too Many Pine Nuts Before I Found This Nearly Perfect Spice Toaster

This spice toaster perfectly toasts spices and seeds and has a mesh locking lid. It’s small and easy to store, too.

A mesh-covered spice toaster surrounded by spices
Serious Eats / Meleyna Nomura

I am not a gadget person. As a stubborn and extremely skeptical individual, my gut reaction is to assume they're all just gimmicks. But I do occasionally relent when I spy a tool that looks like it just makes sense. I'm pleased to say my intuition paid off when I bought this stainless steel spice toaster, which even has a locking lid.

What Is a Spice Toaster? 

This little aluminum skillet clocks in at just over four inches in diameter and 10 inches long and fits easily in my kitchen utensil drawer. It's designed for toasting sesame seeds for recipes like goma-ae, but it works just as well with whole spices and small nuts like pine nuts—the latter of which I have never not burned before owning this pan.

What sets a spice toaster apart from a skillet is its locking mesh screen lid. It allows me to shake the spices around the pan continually, which promotes even toasting without losing anything over the edge. It’s tricky to stir small spices in a big skillet so that they toast on all sides without scorching on others. The spice toaster lid works similarly to a splatter screen, but instead of containing oil, it keeps the spices from popcorning across my stovetop as they heat up. 

A metal spice toaster being opened to show how spices can be added
The lid hinges open and latches shut.Serious Eats / Meleyna Nomura

I spied this spice toaster at a local store, Umami Mart, and immediately knew I had to have it. Being a devoted home cook means I know where there are holes in my supply closet that I need to fill. So instead of being an out-of-character impulse gadget purchase, my meeting with this spice toaster was meant to be.

It's been a great purchase, if for no other reason that I no longer incinerate pine nuts. When you consider the cost of those suckers, purchasing a spice toaster has certainly saved me money. I’ve also used it for homemade garam masala, toasting nuts, and making dukkah.  

How Do You Use a Spice Toaster?

  1. Unlock the lid from the handle and open it. Add your whole spices or seeds, close the lid, and secure the lock in place. 
  2. Place the spice toaster on a burner over low to medium-low heat. I recommend erring on the side of caution and keeping the heat low.
  3. Toast the spices, shaking the spice toaster constantly to prevent scorching. You can also control the heat by lifting it off of the burner as needed and continue toasting with just the residual heat of the pan. 
  4. Continue shaking and cooking the spices until fragrant and/or visibly toasted to the desired shade. The timing will depend on the size and shape of the seeds or spices. Immediately remove from the heat.


  • It does its intended job well, toasting seeds and spices quickly and efficiently.
  • The lightweight stainless steel conducts heat very efficiently. It’s easy to move the pan on and off the heat to react quickly to the toasting process. 
  • Its small footprint makes it easy to store.
A spice toaster full of sesame seeds on a marble countertop.
The mesh screen keeps spicesâ€and seedsâ€contained.Serious Eats / Meleyna Nomura


  • The smallest sesame seeds can escape the screen if they hit it at just the right angle. 
  • The thin aluminum lid can get bent out of shape easily if you’ve got it banging around a utensil drawer. Fortunately, you can shape it back into its proper alignment easily. 


Do I need to use oil in a spice toaster?

Oil is not necessary for toasting spices. The lid design is specifically for the constant shaking of the pan, which eliminates the need for oil. The screen keeps the spices within the pan, but the holes aren’t small enough to hold back oil splatters. You can use oil if desired, but keep the heat low to prevent splatters. 

Can you toast ground spices in a spice toaster? 

While the spice toaster can be used for ground spices, it works best for toasting whole spices.

Are spice toasters dishwasher-safe?

This spice toaster is best cleaned by hand. The wooden handle wouldn’t fare well through a trip through the dishwasher. But it’s super simple to clean because it’s typically just used for dry toasting.

Why We’re the Experts

  • Meleyna Nomura is a food writer with over a decade of experience developing recipes, testing cookware, comparing cooking techniques, ranking gear, and cross-testing recipes for cookbook authors like Nik Sharma and Sara Forte. 
  • She is extremely skeptical and hype makes her grumpy, so if she likes something, there’s probably a good reason for it.