A toasting fork is a three pronged fork designed to be used to toast things over an open fireplace. Classically, a toasting fork could be stuck into a piece of bread and used to hold the bread in the fire, with a periodic rotation for even browning. For advanced players, it's possible to use a toasting fork to make toasted cheese sandwiches and other hot sandwiches.
A typical toasting fork is made of wire, and many are telescoping, allowing people to fold the fork up or slide the handle in when not in use. This makes toasting forks easier to store and transport, while allowing people to keep their hands well clear of the fire when the fork is in use. The three slender prongs can be of varying length, depending on the design; prongs which are too long will mangle the bread, while short prongs will allow the bread to slide off, so most designers try to strike a happy medium.
Before the arrival of gas and electric cookstoves, households relied on heavy duty wood and coal fired cookers, or simply open fireplaces. Such stoves required a great deal of energy and maintenance to run, so when someone wanted a quick snack, toasting something over an open fire could be much more appealing than wrestling with the cooker. Some people also undoubtedly found the experience of toasting something over an open fire to be enjoyable.
Toasting forks continue to be available in home supply stores, and they can be used exactly as they were designed. Some people use toasting forks to hold things like crumpets over the open flames of a gas stove to quickly toast them, and toasting forks can also be used over fireplaces, and on camping trips. Some ironworkers who specialize in making cast and wrought iron cooking supplies also make toasting forks, often as an interesting seasonal novelty.
Using a toasting fork is fairly straightforward. It is important to seat the object being toasted well on the prongs, and to be aware of the angle of the toasting fork, to ensure that the toast will not slide off the fork as it cooks. It is also a good idea to be aware of the fact that the toasting fork's handle can become very hot if the fork is held directly in the fire; ideally, it should hover over the flames, allowing the toast to crisp through without burning.