scorecardChefs say there are only 3 reasons to ever toast a fresh bagel
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Chefs say there are only 3 reasons to ever toast a fresh bagel

Taylor Tobin   

Chefs say there are only 3 reasons to ever toast a fresh bagel
LifeThelife3 min read
Sometimes toasting a bagel can enhance its flavors.    Shutterstock
  • Insider spoke to chefs who said a fresh bagel should almost never be toasted because doing so can mess with its flavor and texture.
  • If you're planning to eat a bagel that's not fresh, toasting can improve its taste and provide you with both a crunchy crust and a soft interior.
  • If you plan on loading your bagel with toppings, you'll want to toast it so it doesn't get soggy.

Many people enjoy doughy, delicious bagels - but not everyone agrees on how they should be eaten.

New Yorkers and breakfast lovers alike have long-debated whether or not bagels should be toasted or served as they are.

And although it comes down to personal preference, deciding whether or not to toast a bagel can make a major impact on the flavor and texture of your breakfast.

Here's how to decide if you should toast a bagel or not, according to chefs:

Simply put, fresh bagels should almost never be toasted

The chefs Insider spoke to all agreed that toasting a freshly baked bagel is both unnecessary and possibly harmful to the food's overall flavor and texture.

"If you are buying fresh-that-day bagels that still retain their moist interior and pleasantly chewy-yet-crisp crust, I would definitely caution against toasting," said Chef Dan Souza, editor-in-chief of America's Test Kitchen's Cook's Illustrated magazine.

He said a "bagel is a special thing" that should be enjoyed as-is when it's fresh and still in its prime.

Chef Melissa Weller, head baker at High Street on Hudson in New York City, agreed, noting that toasting is really only helpful when a bagel isn't at its absolute freshest point.

"When it's a well-made bagel, you should toast only once it begins to [get] stale, which is usually two to three hours after it comes out of the oven," Weller told Insider. "Once it is stale, you should always toast a bagel."

But if your bagel isn't as fresh as you'd like, toasting can help revive it

bagels cream cheese breakfast food everything seasoning editorial
If your bagel isn't super fresh, a toaster can save it.      Crystal Cox/Business Insider

Weller said somewhat stale bagels and mass-produced ones can always benefit from a quick visit to the toaster.

Jayda Atkinson, chef at Fork and Boot in New Orleans, Louisiana, agreed that toasting a bagel can boost its texture and flavor quality, telling Insider that "something about the crispy edges and chewy insides makes a perfect bagel."

Toasting can also highlight the flavors of certain types of bagels

Freshness aside, certain flavors and styles of bagels reap greater gains from toasting than others.

According to Kaley Laird, executive pastry chef of Rhubarb, The Rhu, and Benne on Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina, bagels that have a sourdough base could benefit from a trip to the toaster, as the heat can help enhance their flavors.

And if you're using your bagel as an element of a larger dish, toasting is usually the way to go

new york bagel
Toppings can make a bagel soggy if you don't toast it.      Cabeca de Marmore/Shutterstock

Bagels aren't just for cream cheese and butter - if you've got big plans for this doughy carb, you may want to take out your toaster.

If you are making a pizza bagel, which swaps out a typical crust for a bagel, or a sandwich with a bagel as the base, toasting is essential, said Chef Lauren Shockey, a food writer and cookbook author.

"If you don't toast the bagel first, the bagel will become soggy and not be able to hold all of the toppings," she told Insider.

By toasting a bagel that you plan to top with sauce, cold cuts, lettuce, or other somewhat moist toppings, you can ensure that your base stays firm and crisp.

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