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The State of Toasters, 2011 -- or, Why Do They Suck So?


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#1 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 08:51 AM

A quick review of our toaster discussions makes it clear: buying a toaster made in the last few decades seems like a really dumb idea. I just grabbed a vintage Sunbeam Radiant Control toaster from eBay and will compare it to the Black & Decker piece of junk we've been using for years as soon as it arrives.

So, two questions. What's out there that wasn't built in the 1950s or 1960s and is decent? And why in the world are contemporary toasters, of all things, such failures?

I mean, really: toasters?
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#2 Genkinaonna

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 09:11 AM

I share the same conundrum every morning, which I thought to address by buying a KitchenAid toaster oven, with the logic being, every other piece of KitchenAid gear I own is great. But I was mistaken. Not only is the toaster oven poorly designed with a rack that slides out and dumps your breakfast on the floor, but it's two settings are non-toasted and burnt. It actually takes less time for my regular oven to get up to temp, and I frequently opt to have plain bread and butter instead of dealing with it!

Okay, rant over...if I find a toaster that doesn't suck I'll certainly let you know.
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#3 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 09:18 AM

You'd think that they were an impossible engineering challenge, like, say, a handheld computing device, one that allow for speech, video, and internet use all in one small package.... 

Oh wait. We have that. 

So, again, why can I post this to eG Forums with my Droid but not have dark toast in the morning? 

Posted from my handheld using the Tapatalk app. Want to use eG Forums on your iPhone, Android or Blackberry? Get started at http://egullet.org/tapatalk
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#4 Fat Guy

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 09:21 AM

I think this tracks the general trend toward flimsiness in all things. Toasters used to be made from serious metal. Now they're plastic. The internal components track this decline. As is common in several areas, to get a good toaster now you have to go very high-end/"professional" and get something like a Dualit.

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#5 wkl

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 09:26 AM

my delonghi two slice toaster i bought about 8 years ago works just fine. cool looking retro design with a brushed meatllic finish.

#6 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 09:31 AM

Which one?
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#7 lancastermike

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 09:31 AM

my delonghi two slice toaster i bought about 8 years ago works just fine. cool looking retro design with a brushed meatllic finish.


I will second this. Our two slice delonghi is the longest lasting toaster we have ever had. Just a standard two slicer without a lot of gadgets, but it works great and will even do a bagel.

#8 weinoo

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 09:37 AM

Interestingly enough, I have a DeLonghi toaster oven that I bought a minimum of a dozen years ago - still works fine.

Turn it over - Made in Italy. Just sayin'...
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#9 wkl

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 09:41 AM

i don't see the one i own on their website. so, maybe they don't mak eit anymore.

if this is of the same quality it may be worth a look: http://www.delonghiu...?product&nid=74

mine doesn't look anything like the linked item but the features look similiar.

#10 Meanderer

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 10:03 AM

We've been using a Cuisanart Classic Style Electronic for what seems like a long time, though I have no recollection of when we bought it. I just know it has lasted far longer than any others we have had.

#11 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 10:05 AM

Just to be clear: long-lasting isn't the only criterion; works well is high up the list.
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#12 emannths

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 10:08 AM

Maybe it would help to document exactly what the problems are. Depending on the toaster, it seems like there are a few different ones:

1) Toast comes out too light or too dark--impossible to find the "Goldilocks" setting.
2) Toast is browned unevenly.
3) Toaster is very slow.
4) Toaster browns the outside too fast or too slow relative to how it cooks the inside.

Problem 1 seems like a design issue with the timer or thermostat. Why this would have gotten worse in newer toasters, who knows? This also may be a problem due to poorly-designed wide slots that may place the bimetallic strip too far from a narrow piece of toast.

Problem 2 could be caused by a few different things. Maybe in an attempt to accommodate bagel-width items, the baskets have become so large that they do a poor job of aligning the bread with the heating elements. Maybe the design of the heating and reflecting elements has changed, and now the balance of direct and reflected heat is no longer correct. Maybe the composition or location of the heating or reflecting elements has changed, so now one is too dominant. Maybe toasters are calibrated for additive-filled grocery store breads and are simply bad at toasting water-flour-yeast-salt breads.

Problem 3 seems to be mainly associated with toaster ovens, where the heating elements are further from the bread. These probably need to preheat the reflectors/reradiatiors before they really get to work.

Problem 4 is probably just a temperature issue. The toaster goes too hot or too cool for your liking. This may be due to a calibrating the toaster to different breads or different preferences.

I'd be curious to know if preheating the toaster/toaster oven solves some of the uniformity and slowness problems. I also wonder how some of them compare in toasting Lender's Bagels, real bagels, grocery store bread (i.e., bread with additives to lengthen shelf life), and homemade bread. Maybe some toasters are better at some of these, and this will give some insight into what QC test they presumably passed in the design process.

Oh, and for those with problems with your toaster either over- or under-toasting your bread, am I correct in assuming that if you watched it like a hawk, it would be possible to pop the toast at the desired doneness? I know this isn't what one looks for in a toaster, but I just want to make sure I'm not missing something.

For the record, I just use an el-cheapo toaster oven and resign myself to watching, flipping, rotating, etc my toast as it cooks. But I only make toast a few times a month, so I just deal with it.

#13 ElsieD

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 10:47 AM

I bought a Kitchenaid toaster. It sucks. Then a bought a Krups convection oven/toaster. On the toast setting, it's even worse than the Kitchenaid in that it toasts very unevenly. Does okay toasting bread on the broil setting as long as you watch it like a hawk. Love the convection part, though. Sad thing is, many years ago a friend gave me a cheap Black & Decker toaster that he didn't need any more. The thing worked like a charm. I decided I wanted a new Kitchenaid toaster, so I gave my B & D one back to him. The worst toaster move I ever made. See the second line in this posting.

#14 andiesenji

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 11:07 AM

I still use my Sunbeam T-20 that is 60 years old for regular bread and it works a treat. The toast, once you set the desired degree of toasting, turns out perfect every time. It has had a new electric cord installed four times over the years I have owned it. I also clean it carefully and keep the crumb tray clean.

However I like breads that have the long slices and for those I have a Breville Ikon which also toasts bagels on just the cut side (as do other modern toasters).
So far it has worked quite well. It has a good control that in my unit is as accurate as I expected. Some people have had poor results if you read the reviews but I'm happy with mine and I'm pretty picky.

Before this I was using one of the "cool side" Dualit toasters with the long slots and it worked okay for 2 1/2 years then began not toasting evenly.

Prior to that I had one of the "classic" Dualit toasters for ten years - and it too began toasting unevenly and was retired and I hauled out the old Sunbeam yet again.
In my opinion the Dualit toaster was and is grossly overpriced but so many people recommended it that I bought one, then wondered why everyone was so high on it.

The only toaster oven I have is the smallish GE automatic, also an oldie but it works great but only two slices of regular bread or one long slice will fit. I use it mostly for English muffins with toppings or bagels with same (after a bit of pre-toasting).

If I need to make a lot of toast I use my Cadco oven.

Edited by andiesenji, 10 January 2011 - 11:08 AM.

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#15 Fat Guy

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 11:46 AM

emannths, I think #5 is "Unit is flimsy piece of junk, falls apart."

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#16 Chris Amirault

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 11:55 AM

Andie, what's the difference between those Sunbeam T-X models and their AT-W model?
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#17 Montecito Tom

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 12:16 PM

I second the Breville. A bit expensive but it works well every time.

#18 peterm2

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 12:45 PM

I also use the Breville after spending quite some time trying to find a decent toaster. It has worked well so far. As some reviewers warned, the top gets fairly hot, but then again I'm not sure what toaster doesn't. There were few 4-slice toasters with the two long slot configuration, and even fewer that seemed any good. The Breville has been fine so far, although on the more expensive side for consumer toasters.

#19 andiesenji

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 12:45 PM

Andie, what's the difference between those Sunbeam T-X models and their AT-W model?



Chris, if you go to my blog page about vintage toaster
and scroll down to the Sunbeam toasters,
You will see the Sunbeam T 20 B which was the first Sunbeam toaster to have the self-lowering function
The next toaster down also has the self lowering function and has linear slots instead of two parallel slots.

Here is another reference to these Sunbeams:
Automatic Beyond Belief

I have several of the T- models in my collection, including a T-20 A still in its original, unopened box, and the original T-20 my grandpa purchased in 1949.

Sunbeam T-20 timeline


I don't consider the Breville very expensive. The Dualit soft touch was almost twice as much when I bought mine and the classic Dualit was far more than that.

My reasoning has always been that if something works well and will last a long time, it works out to be less cost in the long run. I've tried the cheap way in the past and found that it just doesn't work well for me. But that is just personal preference. I have friends, who can afford just about anything and yet will buy the cheapest appliances and think nothing of discarding them after a year or less and buying another.
I try to by things that will last and I retain receipts and packaging and if something does not live up to guarantees, it goes back.
(off topic would be my "perpetual" garden hoses from Sears but it's a good story.)

Edited by andiesenji, 10 January 2011 - 12:55 PM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
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#20 Marlene

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 12:50 PM

I third the Breville. Expensive but really works well.
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#21 qrn

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 04:08 PM

Late to the discussion, but,I have a 2 slice Cusinart,Metal "classic" that I probably got at the thrift store.IT is perfect. Looked on line and the current ones seem to be
Pretty close to this one, and the two slice one, is only $49on Amazon....
Bud,,,,

#22 janeer

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 07:33 PM

to get a good toaster now you have to go very high-end/"professional" and get something like a Dualit.

I had a top-end 4-slice Dualit and hated it. It was excruciatingly slow, and uneven. I gave it away. It looked nice, though.

The basic problem with modern toasters is that they seem to steam rather than toast. The bread gets flabby rather than crisp. Is it the heating elements? Are they wimps compared to those of old?

#23 gfweb

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 08:55 PM

And what about the toasters at hotel buffets? I've had heating pads that are hotter. You'd think that a hospitality grade unit would actually freaking work.

#24 pyrguy

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 04:06 AM

My reasoning has always been that if something works well and will last a long time, it works out to be less cost in the long run. I've tried the cheap way in the past and found that it just doesn't work well for me. But that is just personal preference. I have friends, who can afford just about anything and yet will buy the cheapest appliances and think nothing of discarding them after a year or less and buying another...


I read a great quote the other day in talking about a particular "big box" retailer. The writer said he couldn't afford to shop there as he could not afford to but the same thing twice.

Some things are disposable, others need to last and work.

Edited by pyrguy, 11 January 2011 - 04:06 AM.

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#25 Luke

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 05:59 AM

I know our electrons spin backwards in the Southern Hemisphere and all that, but I can't believe I am reading praise for the Breville Ikon????

I bought one last week. Tried it for at least an hour to get an even toast. Gave up. Packed it up and got my money back. If there are people praising this model then I can only imagine:
(a) their build quality varies widely from unit to unit.
(b) they are different operational characteristics between 240v / 110v units.

Strange.

Luke

#26 Marlene

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 06:02 AM

I know our electrons spin backwards in the Southern Hemisphere and all that, but I can't believe I am reading praise for the Breville Ikon????

I bought one last week. Tried it for at least an hour to get an even toast. Gave up. Packed it up and got my money back. If there are people praising this model then I can only imagine:
(a) their build quality varies widely from unit to unit.
(b) they are different operational characteristics between 240v / 110v units.

Strange.

Luke



Not the Ikon in my case. The die cast.
breville die cast
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#27 Katie Meadow

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 10:46 PM

Finding a great toaster ( and one that's reasonably priced) is a lifetime quest. Just the idea of being without a working toaster is enough to unbalance me, but then toast is what I have eaten almost every day for breakfast for the last 40 years. My favorite toaster was the Sunbeam Radiant Control. Of course that would be the perfect toaster for Chris's mid-century kitchen. I had several models that were produced in the fifties (see Andiesenji's post above.)

In the sixties and seventies I would haunt the flea markets for them, always making sure I had at least one that operated properly. For a few dollars you could find a decent used one, polish up the chrome and expect it to work for five years and look beautiful. Those days are long gone. The toaster we use now is a Cuisinart, bought new, and it's been pretty reliable; we've had it at least 12 years, which is a very long time in toaster years. They have been redesigned of course since our model, and I wonder if they still make a decent product. Not bad looking, and not unreasonably priced.

The Dualits always look wonderful but in order to spend that kind of money on a toaster I would have to be pretty convinced that it would work perfectly every day for the rest of my life.

#28 andiesenji

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 01:04 AM

All this talk about toasters has stimulated my collecting "fever" and I think I just have to have one of the Magimix Vision toasters.

I have been waiting for the possibility that they would produce one with two slots but it doesn't look like that will be anytime soon so the single slot is it.
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#29 DanM

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 04:41 AM

I think you need to keep your eye out for an old Modern Maid in-wall toaster on eBay and flea markets. It will compliment your Mid Century Kitchen perfectly.

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#30 andiesenji

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Posted 12 January 2011 - 03:09 PM

I think you need to keep your eye out for an old Modern Maid in-wall toaster on eBay and flea markets. It will compliment your Mid Century Kitchen perfectly.

Dan


These are attractive and fun but the wiring has to be carefully checked and the toaster interior completely cleaned prior to use. A friend's (Thermador) started a fire because there was residue in the bottom that had apparently been there for years. The fire was rapidly extinguished but the repair involved completely rewiring that entire circuit from the breaker box to the kitchen and replacing all the receptacles (including a GFI so this didn't happen again).

There was a Modern Maid on ebay about a year or so ago. There was a Thermador built-in toaster on Ruby Lane a few months ago but the price was ridiculous.

Edited by andiesenji, 12 January 2011 - 03:09 PM.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett
My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening