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Chris Amirault

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

86 posts in this topic

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?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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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.


If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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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


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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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.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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

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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.

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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.delonghiusa.com/index.php?product&nid=74

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 (log)

"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

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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.

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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 (log)

"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

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I third the Breville. Expensive but really works well.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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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,,,,

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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?

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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.

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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 (log)

Dwight

If at first you succeed, try not to act surprised.

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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

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