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Monday, 23 November 2015


OK, you reviewed a toaster you recently purchased and didn't provide a photo taken of the actual toaster, you captured the image from their website. Saturday Tuck reviewed a camera and although he provided several great photos captured by said camera, he did not provide a photo of the camera. Competent writers both, but both write PHOTO blogs and both review cameras (and now toasters), but maybe, as they say in the NFL, you should stay with what got you here. Interestingly though the toaster photo was extremely well lit.....if you like studio style lighting.

Hey Mike, I think you would enjoy or perhaps already have
Sam Shepard's "True West" in which toasters play a pivitol role.
One of the brothers is hellbent to reveal his bravery and stupidity
at once by robbing the neighbors of their toasters. Both sad and
hilarious as most of the victims were releived of something so
banal as a toaster.

Ah yes...toasters indeed don't work worth a damn. I long for the Sunbeam ToastMaster my parents had for decades. I wonder who has that?

This review won't be complete until you post some photos of evenly toasted bread.

Make sure you set the whitebalance to, um, white bread.

I live and die by Cooks Illustrated recommendations. Knives, blender, cookie sheets, roasting pan, spatulas… it’s as if my kitchen was outfitted by the “Highly Recommended” or “Best Buy” sections of the past twelve years of the publication. I don't own one but here’s what they have to say about toasters. https://www.cooksillustrated.com/equipment_reviews/1421-two-slice-toasters

[And notice what they conclude...ONE toaster is recommended, and it's a 2-piece model that will only evenly toast one piece at a time, and it costs $250. I tell ya, there's no such thing as a perfect toaster. --Mike]

But it won't be quite the same here in the UK, or elsewhere in Europe I suppose, as we have a (nominally) 230V 50Hz supply at our regular outlets, not 110V 60Hz.

Related, but barely*: If you've ever shopped for a toaster on eBay, you may have inadvertently been exposed to "reflectoporn," which Wikipedia defines as "the act of stripping and taking a photograph using an object with a reflective surface as a mirror, then posting the image on the Internet in a public forum." More at this UK Mirror article.


*Right there is where I resisted writing "butt barely."

Oh Mike, what have you (re)started? I can't remember the last time any of my households housed a "real" toaster. "Real" as opposed to a toaster oven - the vast majority of which do neither function well. That is, they neither toast nor bake (or broil) all that well. (OK, my sample set of toaster ovens has admittedly been small, so I expect hate replies which state "You haven't tried the Breville!" "Silly man, if you buy other than Kitchen Aid you're an idiot!" Fair enough.)

But I have intermittently mused that perhaps the answer to perfect toast is to speak French, as in pain grillé. Just experiment with actually grilling the bread, as intended? It would take some time to perfect the technique, but would involve what you already have and takes up NO counter space, namely a range (hopefully gas) and an appropriate pan. I'm thinking a nice cast iron skillet, perhaps a grilling model if you want actual grill marks. And you could manually flip the bread when necessary to get the same effect as the Russel Hobbs of having one side more done so as to correctly receive butter, jam, Nutella, whatever.

See what you've started? :D

Thanks Mike. I needed the smile that this post brought to my face.

This is the longest writing about toasters that I ever read part of.

I have a toaster oven from Walmart. It is labeled with a once-well-known brand I don't recall right now. I assume the company folded and someone in China bought the name. It toasts almost anything I can stuff in it, most of it quite well.

That's all I need.

(I am mostly joking, but this one is pretty far off-topic.)

When I clicked on your site this morning, for a second, I thought you had changed your name to The Online Consumerist. I do find, as a photographer who prefers well made cameras and lenses with the right form and function, that I look for similar qualities in all my consumer goods. If you're expanding the purview of your blog, I'd love to offer my services as a guest contributor writing a column called "A Photographer's Review of ..." which from my interests and vast experience could include coffee machines and grinders, outdoor grills, early Porsche's and Volvo's, wine cabinets, and cutlery.

The only toaster that we have had over the years that lasted more than a couple of years was a wedding gift to my parents in 1942. It lasted until sometime after the turn of the century. It's power cord rotted away. I could have repaired it but decided to just toss it. Big, really big mistake.

We have had several toaster since. One lasted only three days.

The current toaster has about a year on it and still going.

I have noticed that all the toasters we have had will either be too short length wise or not tall enough height wise.

Even Wonder Bread will not fit completely into the toaster.

This message was brought to you by the Toast Marketing Board. Welcome to the Wonderful World of Toast!

I don't have any experience of so-called toaster ovens (like you, I use a slot toaster) so have found myself reacting to audio reviews of toaster ovens over the years with the same kind of awe that people must have felt when seeing National Geographic photographs of Amazonian tribes many decades ago. But I can't stop listening. I made it through the whole of this, for example. It's like listening to Martians talk about fish and chips. I will likely recall it whenever I hear someone claim that it's a small world.

Looks nice. Very old-school design with some new features.

Just a week ago, on a whim, we replaced our trusty-but-clunky toaster with this fellow in red. We love it. Kinda show-bizzy with that window but it works really well.

Toasters occupy unique places in our homes. They haven't really changed much for a century. They just dress like they have (like some old entertainment celebrities).

What ƒ stop produces toast with the most depth of field?

P.S. A toast to many more years of T.O.P.

The Toaster Axiom: There is almost no such thing as a good toaster.
For "toaster" substitute: 1)camera bag, 2)tripod.

Mike, if only you'd said something! The finest toaster in the world is the classic British Dualit two slot toaster. When the Russell Hobbs is brown bread make that your next stop.

Reminds me of how we made do with a toaster oven, until some friends who love toasted bagels came for a weekend with bagels AND a brand new (legit) toaster as a gift for us (and for them). We had a very good laugh about how my wife and I could never quite pull the trigger on a $30 item - no particular rhyme or reason. Now we have a 4 slice Cuisinart that came after some research. No regrets - it looks good and toasts ah, like it should ?

We haven't had a stand-up toaster in decades. Toaster-ovens (we've had maybe three over those years) seems to make better toast, and has other uses as well. It has a much bigger footprint, so we put it on top of the microwave oven so both devices take up one microwave unit of countertop.

Great toast post. I too have been seeking a decent toaster to no avail. I'd largely given up having come to believe that it is the bread, the amount of freshness, sugar and other unknowns that must have made the perfect toaster an illusion. Also, what is it with Bagel Settings. I can't tell any difference when I toast a bagel and both sides of the heating mechanism seem to be lit evenly. Anyway for $50.00 I'm willing to take a leap of faith and buy a Hobbs. This could still be a Merry christmas!

I'm so happy for you, and just in time for TOP's birthday!

Have you considered the possibility that toasters haven't changed, something in you has?

I suggest this because your life experience with toasters is so different from mine, lived longer, but in the same appliance-culture space.

I have indeed experienced bad toasters here and there in my peregrinations through life, but mostly in other peoples' abodes. I do agree that size, appearance and price seem unrelated to performance.

I have not personally had a separate, one function appliance dedicated to toast in my kitchen for at least a couple of decades. For ages, one small, cheap toaster oven made decent toast, in addition to its other duties, with no need to dedicate limited counter space to a one function device. More recently, its larger replacement makes excellent toast, in addition to even more useful things than the last. It also toasts bread and bread like products of any size and shape.

I have also experienced, with some envy, one of those old toasters (brand??) that slowly, elegantly and reliably raised perfect toast on its own every time. No motor; some sort of heat/timer release of the latch on the spring.

I can assure you the decline of Western Civilization started well before the advent of digital toastery, even before the halcyon days of electrics toastery. It dismays me that you would advocate for such inferior techniques for toast making. Toasting, as I'm sure you appreciate, is a craft and as such is best practiced with honest tools. When a half inch slice of whole grain bread is slowly toasted (10 minutes per side) over a hardwood fire (applewood is best) you will have toast, and all that is wrong with the modern world set right.
A. Purist

Thank you for this, Mike. I've been a through a twenty-year run of bad toasters. I'd pretty well given up hope.

As a kid in the 1950s, it seems to me that all toasters just plain worked. Now that toasters come from China, I'm wondering whether the Chinese know the first thing about toast? Perhaps someone can tell me.

We went through many toasters early in our relationship. They all broke quickly. Don't know why, they just didn't last. Now we've got a Dualit and it's lasted for quite a few years. It toasts well. It's nice to use. It doesn't have auto-popup. It stops automatically but you pop up and down manually using a simple lever. That's the best thing about it. The timer is a clockwork winding thing. That's the second best thing about it. The popup/popdown lever and the on/off/timer are not coupled to each other. That's also great. I really like it.
Also, I remember reading something in the instructions for a smoke alarm about how it had some smart feature whereby it recognised toast smoke and didn't go off.

A nice toaster sir but you must have a plan B to keep the surface spotless. It would be a major stress factor for me. I wish you many crunchy moments.

When our friends get married we generally give them a four slice toaster as a gift. There are two things in every successful marriage that should happen simultaneously the more frequent being toast.

Also on the subject of toasters there's this


Of course it is not available in stainless over in the UK. That's because they don't watch our silly USA based home renovation shows that insist on telling their audience that they simply must buy stainless steel appliances. Any other finish apparently must be un-American.

Can you tell that this year I had to replace 2 appliances in our home and that our kitchen features white appliances?

Both times required a special order because apparently better performing appliances are ALWAYS bought in stainless steel here in the good old USA.

Rant over!
thank you

Putting Amish bread into an electric toaster just sounds wrong.

...well, this explains why one side of toast is toasted a bit more, who woulda thought it was a feature.

Yes, but does it forecast the weather! http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/06/04/bread_as_a_display_device/ (another British device)

Funny how much energy can be put into a choice of a tool which is completely unnecessary. For breakfast you should simply have fresh croissants, for lunch or dinner a baguette that you break with your own hands, and for these rare occasions when you want to eat real sourdough mixed flour bread ( aka "The" bread ), toasting it would only spoil the taste. You can save 50 USD. Voila', problem solved.

Great. Now all the pages I visit are encumbered with advertisements of toasters and kettles from Amazon UK. Grrrr!

You might really enjoy a part of the Accidental Tech Podcast http://atp.fm/
When Cards Against Humanity is a sponsor, rather than having them do a sponsor read, they have one of the three hosts, John Siracusa, do a toaster review. This all came from his quest several years ago for an ideal toaster oven. John settled on the Breville 800XL I believe. http://www.amazon.com/Breville-BOV800XL-1800-Watt-Convection-Toaster/dp/B001L5TVGW
Based mostly on his review, I got their 650XL model and am quite happy with it and accepting of the flaws I knew about ahead of time.
Anyway, go back through their archives and listen to some of his reviews. I bet you'll find someone whose passion you can fully appreciate.

Actually, there is a whole page dedicated to John's pursuit of a toaster.

Just go here: http://www.caseyliss.com/2015/9/10/siracusa-on-toasters

I don't know how many mornings I've tweeted "Hey Silicon Valley! Forget about apps; how about inventing a decent toaster?"

Failsworth-an unfortunate name for a bastion of British engineering. Lancaster bombers were made in Failsworh, doncha know matey!

I'm a toaster oven man myself. Slightly larger footprint, but more versatile. I am sure this could spark a toaster oven vs. toaster debate. Not unlike SLR vs. Mirror-less.

I also recently had occasion to buy a new toaster, and decided to do some extensive "research" on Amazon. What quickly became apparent was that you were practically guaranteed one "This is the worst toaster I ever bought" review for each and every model...

I have found DeLonghi toasters to be excellent and the only ones below $100 that didn't begin to malfunction around the third time I used them. This applies to toasters I have purchased in the past 35 years. The DeLonghi I currently own is about 10 years old and continues to work perfectly. But I'll keep your Russell Hobbs in mind.

Make a mark in your calendar to let us know in a year's time if it still works.
My money says it won't last that long, but maybe that's just due to all the other equipment I've seen from that brand. But I'll be happy to be proven wrong!

Designing something that works well is one thing. Making sure the design is robust enough that it keeps working can be another.

We bought our Russell Hobbs toaster in 1995 and it's still going strong. The shiny outer isn't shiny anymore though!

I'm so happy for you Mike. We gave up on toasters and use a toaster oven. All it does is shut itself off and beeps when the TIME you set expires. Calibration only requires 1/2 a loaf then the weather changes or the bread dries out and time to recalibrate. At least you can monitor progress through the window.

Now that you're in brush and leaf clearing country, please do not review wood chippers.

Happy Thanksgiving


So what you were looking for was a Toaster with Low Dynamic Range.
High Dynamic Range is all the rage now.
Thats the problem.
I hear DxO will be adding Toasters to the stuff they test.

I was in the same dilemma, and on impulse bought a $7.99 toaster from a supermarket about 12 years ago. It's still here, toasting away, ugly as hell. It works.

I think this is funny: When I managed a corporate IT department, I amused my staff by saying that I wanted software and/or hardware to be like a "toaster." By that I meant, it did one thing, it did it all of the time, and it's use was obvious. So, for me, once the bread-browning device grows knobs and dials, and has settings for bagels or waffles, and requires an instruction manual, (and costs more than $50), it is no longer a "toaster."

You know what the solution to the problem of some toasters toasting evenly and some toasters getting the time right?

You know that GraLab timer that you may still have from the darkroom? Plug the toaster that toasts evenly into it. Nothing says "I take my toasting seriously" than using a piece of lab equipment to do it.

I prefer the Dualit myself, no popup function at all but has a manual lever to elevate the toast (hit it hard and the toast flies to the ceiling much to the delight of small children) and it's build like a tank.

But now that you can make perfect toast, have you given proper consideration to cooling and storing it?


Try French toast. You can use any old pan. But it looks like work.

I've had a Breville 4 slice toaster (single slices side by side due to space issues) for going on 4 years. Makes beautiful toast. Only "drawback" is that you need a warm up toasting to get the wires fired all the way up. I set it on low, hit start with no toast. After that cycle toast away and enjoy nice evenly browned toast. Love it.

Ah, I remember this (off)topic! Toasters not made the way they were 50 years ago. Something else is not made the same way as 50 years ago - bread. I get better toast when I put the bread in the toaster top side down. My data set is limited to one toaster and one brand of bread, so please give it a try.

It's weird how much energy can be spent on the quality of toast. Stephen Fry, in his first novel, "The Liar", admits to a bit of a toast fetish among the young at Cambridge. This due to the unavailability of anything alcohol related. Toast assumes the role of a finely made cocktail. Not the primary focus of the novel by any means, but notable. The best toaster I've ever had is the one I have now. It's a prehistoric yellow 4-slice Dualit bought at a resale shop for $30. Manual lowering and raising of the strictly limited bread size. 'Normal' bread size. A timer with 3 numbers and you figure it out. Works a treat. When it goes, if I can't get it working again, I'll try the Russell Hobbs. I've had a couple of the RH electric kettles–back when they were a British concern.

toasters? Well OK. At my age I've come to a curmudgeon's point of view about toasters. No matter what one pays for the outside, the insides are all the same. They work for a short while and then generally suck. A $12 toaster probably works just as well as a $120 toaster and for just about as long.

It is not surprising that you found the perfect toaster in Britain. The British know toast. They think about it. Often. Toasters are important in British life.

You get the idea.

Personally, I've owned about 3 toasters in 35 years. They did the job. One was a wide slot toaster designed for bagels. It was not as good as the other two.

My tuppence ha'penny worth.

You will find that dryer bread toasts better. The nice thing about the toasters, before the advent of wide slots for bagels, is the narrow slots have the toasting elements closer to the bread. Toasting regular sliced bread with a wide slot toaster is a waste of time.

And a reminder, don't handle photographic prints while eating toast with butter or jam or both. Life will get really crumby.

Industrial design is great when the engineer's get it right for the end use of the product.

Have you seen the new Kitchenaid coffee siphon?

You've been out of the darkroom too long. There was no need to search so extensively for the "perfect" toaster. Almost any of them will provide optimum toast in the hands of a skilled operator who hasn't forgotten how to dodge and burn. :-)

I long gave up the quest for a decent toaster. I was in love with the aforementioned Breville until it died outside of the warranty.

Then I went on the Great Toaster Search part deux. This Cuisinart is/was the result. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005TK76DU?keywords=cuisinart%20toaster&qid=1448342433&ref_=sr_1_8&s=kitchen&sr=1-8

Again, roughly 1 year after purchase the LEDs begin to die. It still functions but I have no idea which setting it is on. That being said, the bread comes out both hot and toasted – his is not the case with many toasters – and it can fit the odd shaped slice.

Failsworth- I was born close to there in Harpurhey, both of which are close to Newton Heath and a solid part of what was, industrial Manchester.
Love toast, sometimes make my own bread, cut it into nice thick slices and toast it using our toaster that has see through sides which, in my view, is the best way to perfect the toasting. As soon as it looks perfect, you're too late so, bounce it out just before it is ready, let the butter melt in and spread marmalade in top. Just had some for breakfast- yummy in my tummy.

If 'they' can land men on the Moon and bring them back safely, or land robot explorers on Mars and comets, why can't they make a better toaster?

In England there's even a song about toast.

I remember the Great Toast Debate, Mike! I was there! I FOUGHT!

I expounded my theory that most toasters are too cool, and try to compensate by toasting too long, which makes for a sheet of dry, florist's foam-like slice, suitable only for insulation in low-grade housing.

FUN FACT: I had a high Japanese teacher called Russell Hobbs. He...he didn't like when I made the comparison.

Had many toasters, most of which did a reasonably decent job. But none of them produced toast like we used to make under the gas grill.

My first rule is to never spend more than (about) ten dollars for a toaster. It has one job and that is to heat both sides of one or more slices of bread/bagel/English muffin/frozen waffle until it is brown and warm through.

The mistake many manufacturers and most people make is to expect one device to perfectly perform its job with no human input other than loading it and pushing a lever. It hasn't happened yet and likely won't for some time.

Buy a cheap toaster and watch the bread while it is toasting. When done to your satisfaction, pop it out and eat it. Low expectations and a skilled operator are the answer.

Tip: If you keep your bread in the refrigerator, warm it in the microwave (15 seconds works for me) before toasting. While the bread is toasting, I warm the plate in the microwave. This last step may or may not work for you depending on what the plate is made of. CAUTION! Plate May Be HOT!

Wonderful writing. Very Laurence Sterne - The Toast and Opinions of Michael Johnston, Gent.

I am not sure DxO is the place to go for toaster testing. Roger Cicala would be your man; he would invent something that tests the toaster independent of the bread: The TOaster Only Test System (TOOTS, cousin of OLAF). Hence we could find out that all toasters have huge copy to copy variation.

Mike, Here's my trusty toaster X2s, fitted with a legacy Miranda 50mm 1.4. I get a fair amount of use out of it, with minimum flares and aberrations. It sits well enough on the table, too. The bokeh is a bit crusty, but the overall images have a nice amber color. I'm presently looking for an ever-ready case for it. –BG

(not quite sure how to post images for you...)



When testing for evenness, a bread with no sugar added is more revealing of problems.

Bread with no sugar added? You mean bread?

That other item is called cake. :wink:

[Wrong! Go to the supermarket and try to find a pre-packaged bread that doesn't have at least 1 gram of sugar per slice. Most have 2 to 4. I'll bet even in a large urban supermarket you won't find a single brand of bread with no sugar in it. Maybe one. --Mike]

On my first visit to the US in September this year, the culinary shocks were many & varied; the first one was discovering the bread had sugar in it (high-fructose corn syrup, no less). It may toast more easily, but that's about all you can say in it's favour. The next day, I went in search of proper bread and found a great (unsweetened) sourdough (quite easy to do in San Francisco). Good bread shouldn't have sugar or sweetner in it.

[Isn't it odd that we still make fun of British cuisine? Because of what the GI's experienced during WWII, when everything in Britain was rationed. And it's not like our cuisine is anything to brag about. --Mike]

I tossed the toaster 35 years ago and have been very happy with a good toaster oven. No contest. Works perfectly every time.

What an opportunity for western civilization to strut its stuff. I am going to apply to Kickstarter for $100000 for my new project. Instant toast. You just put a slice in and .............

BTW, the toaster with the long slot and motorized is called the Toastolator. I cannot remember the name of the manufacturer. They came on the market in the late 1930's and were made till around 1950. The demonstrator versions for stores had glass side walls so you could see the whole process of the toasting. Something akin to a glass vacuum coffee maker.

I have the same Breville you bought S. Best toaster i have ever used. I am enamoured by the "crumpet" function. Mine is red. I believe a red toaster will toast faster, no?


Toasters . . . different.

I am horrified that US bread consists largely of sugar (2 to 4 grams per slice you say?), I was even more horrified to check the labelling on my normal loaf (650g) here in Holland to discover that it still contains two grams of sugar per 100grams -- 2% sugar!!! Eeek. Bread is also available without sugar in most large supermarkets and all(?) bakeries, so I will be trying that out soon.

However, my toaster story does not concern bread directly. I worked for a large company that provided all sorts of services for customers via different sub-departments. It is usual to give a Christmas present to staff here. One year the present was a box containing a toaster - but not just any toaster, as it burned (or rather 'dodged') the head-company logo on to every piece of bread prepared in the device. By the time we got back to work in the New Year we were all comparing tips on removing the company-specific dodging-tool from inside the toaster...

Thanks to Mathew Hargreaves for the name of the Toast-o-lator.

More here ...

I love this internet thingy. The Online Photographer too.

I live in Europe, thankfully the `sugar in everything' fad hasn't penetrated that far here (although it's certainly starting). But even then I'd debate whether supermarket bread really classifies as bread anymore.

I'm here to report we tried the Breville you linked to. Worked for a spell then started having severely uneven toasting depending on the slot and then ran into the infamous blinking light problem. My 5 toasters so far quest for a decent toaster continues. Looks like I'll try your Russell Hobbs suggestion next.

It might be a great toaster but the problem is the bread, bagel or what ever else you put into it that is made from GRAIN. Maybe you don't know it yet but GRAINS are not fit for human consumption.


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