"You guys still eat baked beans on toast, man. Because World War II ended, what, a week ago?"
- Greg Proops

Along with the ever-popular fish and chips, baked beans on toast still ranks among the finest examples of British cuisine.

It's simple enough to prepare: Get some bread, get some beans, cook the beans, toast the bread, put on plate and serve. Garnish, if desired, with Worcestershire Sauce or even, if you have enough time on your hands, a layer of cheese on the toast. Quick and easy without having to waste time worrying about flavour, texture or presentation.

This heavenly marriage of bread and beans is part of our culture and heritage and is, perhaps thankfully, slowly dying-out since we adopted the curry as our national dish - with great thanks to India - even going so far as to invent our own dishes based on Indian cooking principles, namely Chicken Tikka Masala and the Balti.

Note: It has been said that the worth of a man can be measured by whether he sees beans on toast as a light snack or a main evening meal. A light snack is the correct answer here, people.

Quoth Oolong: re baked beans on toast: but what about baked bean curry (which I will probably node some time) on toast? I feel this may save beans on toast yet...

Before we start, I will make the assumption that you have access to the following fairly standard items needed to make beans on toast in its most simple form:

Which type of bread to use

Before diving in there all guns blazing, you need to ask yourself, "what do I want to get out of this beans on toast experience?". Essentially, the bread that can feasibly be used with beans on toast falls into two categories: white and brown (or wholemeal as you may call it). The general rules of thumb to observe are:

  • White bread is for adding a certain sponginess to the meal. This is really bread to mix in with the beans.
  • Brown bread is good for the kind of beans on toast where you eat the bread with the beans actually on top, pop tart style.

Toaster calibration

As with any meal that requires the use of a toaster, the power level used is very important and should again reflect the eating style of the person who will be consuming the dish. After many years of experimenting with all manners of settings from 'warm bread' to 'charcoal', I have settled on 'medium brown'. This setting is the best in my opinion for the way I eat beans on toast, which I will come back to shortly.

Cooking

Now we have all the theory covered, let's get down to some good practical cooking, which mostly is about timing. If either the beans or the toast takes much longer to cook than the other, the entire meal could be ruined. Personally I cook the beans on full power in the microwave for three minutes, and put the toast into the toaster about half a minute into this. Anyway, I digress, here are the basic steps to take:

  • Empty a tin of beans into a ceramic bowl. Cover it with clingfilm, put a couple of holes in the top and stick it in the microwave for about three minutes on full power. (and PLEASE don't leave the spoon or fork in the bowl!)
  • Put the bread into the toaster, wait for it to toast.
  • When the beans are done, take out of the microwave, remove the clingfilm and stir well. Be careful though, the bowl may be red hot, so consider using some oven gloves.
  • Serve.

Serving

The manner in which the beans on toast is served is a matter of taste. Here are a few styles that I recommend:
The 'Star'

Cut the toast diagonally, making four large triangles, and arrange around the edge of the plate, making a four-pointed star with an empty rectangle in the middle, for the beans to be put into. A similar style is 'The Box', which is the same but with two rectangles being made from each slice. Both of these styles are best done with brown bread.

The 'Pop Tart'

This style, also known as 'Cowboy', involves just taking a slice of toast, putting it in the middle of the plate and sticking the beans right on top. Very good with sturdier, darker, nuttier breads, as they allow the consumer to pick the bread right up with the beans on top and eat straight away.

'Crazy Paving'

Cut the toast into four squares per slice and put all eight into the middle of the plate in a random arrangement. Put the beans straight on top and eat with a knife and fork.

Eating your beans on toast

There are two main styles of eating your beans on toast, which divide themselves up pretty well with the type of bread used:

  • With a knife and fork, mixing the toast with the beans, good for white bread.
  • Like a cracker or Pop Tart (hence the name of the serving style), good for brown bread.

There are several sub-styles, such as eating as a sandwich (sub-style of 'Pop Tart') and actually shredding the toast and mixing with the beans. (sub-style of 'knife and fork')

Not exciting enough for you?

Whilst beans on toast is a meal of epic proportions, you might want to take one of the following measures to add a bit of variation from time to time:

  • Adding whisky to the beans
  • Adding cheese to the beans
  • Melting cheese/tomatoes to the toast.
My favourite style of beans on toast goes something like this :-

Lightly toast the bread, ie. make sure it is turning brown but not yet quite done and cut up into 4 quarters. The beans should be slightly dry otherwise the gravy will make the toast pretty soggy. Spread a thick layer on the now-cooled slightly-done toast and drown it in cheese coupled with a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper. The type of cheese is largely a matter of personal preference.

Pop this into a pre-heated oven and keep watch over the toast. A moment too long and the toast and beans will be reduced to an awful charcoal black with the taste to match. As soon as the cheese starts bubbling take it out of the oven and offload the entire slice onto a serving plate. If possible garnish it with deep-fried thinly sliced onions (should be brown and crispy) and serve immediately for some calorie-laden magic.

Baked beans on toast never tasted so good..

Note : the level of salt and pepper are largely dependent on the type of cheese used. If cooked for too long in the oven, the beans tend to get dry and burnt on the outside.

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