Toasting nuts feels like it should be one of those no-brainer kitchen tasks that can be pulled off without a hitch. And yet, I’ve messed this up more times than I can count. Not only does burning nuts amount to a not-insignificant amount of money being wasted, but it’s also particularly frustrating, as the burnt, acrid smell leaves behind a lingering reminder of your misstep. Thankfully, through some trial and error, I’ve devised a near-foolproof method.

1. Roast at a low temperature. Instead of toasting nuts at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, like many recipes suggest, I now toast them at a much lower temperature, usually somewhere in the 250-300 degrees Fahrenheit range. Yes, it takes a few minutes longer, but it dramatically increases the window of ideal roasty-toasty doneness, and makes it easier to let your nose determine when they’re ready.

2. Keep the nuts whole. Instead of first chopping and then toasting nuts, I prefer to keep them in whole halves. Larger pieces are harder to burn and cook more evenly than a roughly chopped assortment of small and large pieces.

3. Set the timer! Lastly, if I know my attention is likely to be drawn elsewhere, I set a timer to remind myself to check on the nuts somewhere around the 7-8 minute mark. They probably won’t be done toasting at that point, but it keeps the task top of mind.

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(Photo via Nicole Perry / Brit + Co)