Too big for the toaster slot. Too hot to turn on the oven. Blackened in seconds or barely toasted. Toasting gluten-free buns to golden-brown perfection is tricky!
We want to know:
What is the best way to toast gluten-free buns to create a consistently crisp and delicious base for summer burgers and hot dogs?
- Featured products: Little Northern Bakehouse Gluten-free Millet & Chia Burger Buns and Millet & Chia Hot Dog Buns
- We set golden brown as the bar for a properly toasted gluten-free bun of either type
How We Scored Each Bun Toasting Method
To determine the best way to toast gluten-free buns, we tested four different toasting methods and rated them in three different categories:
- Texture: Are the buns too crunchy? Too soft? Or perfectly crisp on the outside and soft in the middle?
- Convenience: What is the relative speed of the toasting method? Do you have to turn on or dig out equipment just to toast the buns? How many buns can be toasted at a time?
- Taste: Does the toasting method let the flavour of the bun shine? Does it add something special to the taste? Or distract from it?
We don’t recommend walking away from any of the bun toasting methods we tested.
From barbecue to broiler, frying pan to air fryer, each tool can turn an unwatched bun from almost there to burnt in seconds! But we think golden brown gluten-free bun perfection is worth the five or six minutes of attention it takes to create the best base for your favourite veggie burgers, hot dogs, and toppings.
Watch for method-specific pros, cons, and tips in each section.
Grilled on the Barbecue
Grab your tongs and step outside! Because if the charcoal is glowing (or the gas is on) grilling your gluten-free buns on the barbecue is a simple matter of managing grill space and timing.
Barbecued buns offer more than an escape from a hot kitchen on a scorching summer day—the subtle smoky flavour of the grill can make an already good thing even tastier!
And if you and your barbecue are well acquainted, you have plenty of options for achieving buns toasted just the way you like them! Flip half-way for an evenly toasted bun that’s golden on the outside and soft in the middle.
Make good use of a cooler corner or bun rack for a lighter toast or gentle warm-up over indirect heat. Or go for grill marks and toast cut side down to add an extra layer of flavour.
We wouldn’t fire up the barbecue just to toast our buns, but if the grill is already hot and you’re up for a little challenge, this method has plenty going for it.
- Well-watched grilled buns are kissed with subtle barbecue flavour, crispy (but not too crunchy!) on the outside, and still fluffy and warm in the middle.
- Grill marks add an extra summery touch to whatever you serve on your gluten-free buns!
- If you’re barbecuing at the beach or ballpark, grill toasted buns are perfect for picnic tables—or anywhere you can set up a hibachi or portable propane grill.
- Watch out for hot spots! A fiery flare up or sizzling hot back corner can send hopes of toasted bun bragging rights up in smoke. And leave you scraping off the blackened bits if you don’t have any backup left in the bag.
- Unless you know your grill well—or you tend to your buns without setting down your tongs for a second—it can be hard to get an even toast. Prepare to embrace an uneven outcome if you plan to grill your gluten-free buns on the barbecue.
Broiled in the Oven
If you’ve got a crowd to feed—and it’s not too hot to turn on your oven—toasting your gluten-free buns under the broiler is the way to go!
Of all the methods we tested, this one produced the most even golden-brown results, both for the individual bun and across the whole batch.
And it’s the easiest method to get right, too! Flip-free, face-up toasting means you can monitor your buns for the full length of the cook through the glass of your oven door.
As long as you don’t turn your back on your buns, you’ll be able to pull them out the moment they reach the exact shade of golden brown you seek.
(Only need a few gluten-free buns? This method works equally well in a toaster oven if you have one! (It’s what we used in our photoshoot!))
- Even and consistent golden-brown toasting across the entire cut surface of each bun. Oven broiled buns are crisp on the toasted face, and soft and warm on the inside.
- Excellent option for larger quantities (toast them all in one batch!), if you’re already baking homemade burger patties, or if you don’t have your barbecue on.
- Fast! (You don’t have to preheat the broiler for toasting for as long as you need to preheat an oven for baking—five minutes is all you need to start toasting with this method). And once the buns are under the broiler, they’re quick to brown.
- Buns under a broiler must be watched. Use your eyes—and not your kitchen timer or wristwatch—to tell you when your buns are done!
As with every toasting method we tested, how long it takes to broil your buns will vary. (One oven’s top rack might be closer to the element than another model. An electric oven may broil faster or slower than a gas one (or a smaller countertop toaster oven)).
Grilled in a Non-Stick Pan with Vegan Butter
Inspired by the diner cook’s timeless trick of toasting buttered buns on a flat-top grill, this method has the power to elevate a good gluten-free bun into a base for a memorable meal.
With the buttery richness of a grilled cheese sandwich, the light layer of dairy-free spread brings a world of flavour to the table before you even get to the condiments and toppings.
Of all the methods we tested, gluten-free buns grilled in a non-stick pan with vegan butter had the most tender texture inside, and a delicate caramelized crunch to the crispy toasted parts. And the aroma brought our testers back for extra bites.
Although grilling buns in a pan isn’t the fastest method, or create the most even golden-brown results, this might just be the tastiest way to toast gluten-free buns—it’s a definite must-try!
(We didn’t test pan-toasting on cast iron, but if you’re camping where there’s a fire ban, a well-seasoned frying pan over a camp stove is your best bet for enjoying toasted gluten-free buns in the great outdoors! Adapt this method wherever summer adventure takes you!)
- Toasting in a pan with vegan butter enhances the flavour and texture of the buns and takes gluten-free burgers and hot dogs in unexpectedly delicious directions!
- Because you grill these cut-side down, it is hard to monitor each bun’s progress—it’s easy to burn or over-toast using this method.
- Even with a large frying pan, you can only grill a few buns at a time. If you’re feeding a crowd, you need to work in batches. Add the extra prep time needed to spread non-dairy butter on every bun, and this toasting method is the most time-consuming we tested.
- Buttery pan-toasted buns won’t pair well with every topping combo. If your burger or hot dog toppings are already rich—or you’re going for a fresh flavour profile with plenty of greens—a lighter-tasting toasting method might be a better choice. (This method can make the buns a little greasy).
Toasted in an Air Fryer
Few appliances do everything well, but the popularity of air fried everything inspired us to test this trend-setting gadget’s gluten-free bun toasting potential.
Sadly, the air fryer was the least successful method on our quest to toast the best golden-brown bun for our next burger or hot dog feast.
Air fried gluten-free buns placed dead last overall and on all rating criteria.
Why? Although the buns came out of the fryer with an appetizing and uniform golden-brown appearance, they made for a disappointing bite.
Instead of being crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, our air fried gluten-free buns were crunchy and dry from the outside in. That’s great if you’re making croutons, crostini, or canapés, but not so much if you’re building a burger with all fixings.
Unless you seek a sturdy, cracker-like base for spreads or a juicy bruschetta made from a bounty of summer ripe tomatoes, your air fryer can sit this one out while you find another method to toast your gluten-free buns.
- The flavour of the buns came through nicely.
- If you need a sturdy, extra crunchy gluten-free bun for something other than a burger or hot dog, the air fryer delivers.
- Air fried buns were hard and crunchy on the outside, and dry (almost to the point of being dehydrated) inside. No fluffy bun texture remained, and they were tough to bite into.
Overall, broiling your gluten-free buns in the oven beat every bun toasting method we tested—and it won on every measure but one. If you’re home and the thought of turning on your oven isn’t too much to bear, broiling is an excellent way to toast your burger or hot dog buns to golden-brown perfection!
But if you’d happily trade a little control for the best tasting toasted gluten-free bun, a non-stick pan and a little non-dairy butter are the way to go.
Our Gluten-free Test Kitchen tasters gave pan-fried buns an enthusiastic thumbs up for flavour! And for the crunchy, almost caramelized texture and appetizing aroma this method brought to the table.
Toasting on the barbecue has merit—especially if the grill is already going, you’re at a weekend long ball tournament, or a beachy change of scenery is on your agenda.
But unless you’re an air fryer aficionado (or that’s the only appliance allowed in your dorm room), you can safely skip the crouton-like experience of air fried buns.
Check out our other Gluten-free Test Kitchens for helpful tips on everything from the best way to reheat leftover gluten-free pizza to the best way to pack a sandwich.
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