The modern toaster can have a multitude of snazzy features, but that’s no use if it can’t make good toast. Is it time for toaster manufacturers to go back to the basics of browning bread?
We’ve just released our online reviews for the latest toasters we’ve tested. A quick scan over all our toaster reviews reveals that, while the majority of toasters we test now have plenty of bells and whistles to sing about, two key areas aren’t really improving.
1. How good the toaster is at its raison d’être of browning bread.
2. How versatile it is when it comes to fitting different types of bread.
As toasters are now disposable items for many people, manufacturers have concentrated on creating stylish toasters with fancy features. But have innovative features now reached their peak? And if so, isn’t it time for manufacturers to start concentrating on the basics?
Tons of toaster features
Of the dozens of toasters we’ve tested over the past couple of years, almost all now have cancel and high-lift functions to help you retrieve items quickly and easily. And the majority also have settings for toasting frozen bread and for reheating toast – reflecting what consumers have come to expect from their toasters.
Many have settings for toasting bagels on one side only, and for warming buns or croissants on top of the toaster. A small minority also now have digital controls, countdown timers and ‘pause and check’ features. I find the latter feature particularly useful, as it naturally reflects my behaviour when making toast (in other words, I’m impatient).
Toast through the years
Some of these innovations might seem superfluous, but it pays to remember how much toasters have improved since their invention. A Which? report from 1967 stated:
‘Today nearly all toasters are of the automatic “pop-up” type… With the older, non-automatic type, you had to turn the bread over to toast the second side and judge yourself when to take the toast out.’
As well as being very basic machines, they were also often unsafe and irritating to use. Of one of the 1967 toasters, we wrote:
‘When the crumb tray was open, bare terminals were exposed, which were live.’ For another we reported: ‘We frequently had to depress the loading lever several times before it would latch down and, even when it did, the heating elements often did not then switch on.’
Back to basics toasters
So, there was clearly room for improvement in the field of toaster design, and many innovations have been welcome. But I can’t think of too many new things that you’d now want or need from a toaster. And yet, we still hear plenty of complaints about them not toasting evenly, or about them not fitting rustic-style breads. I’m still on a quest to find an affordable and decent toaster that will fit a whole pitta bread – surely a basic requirement that more manufacturers could respond to?
In our last toaster conversation, Dieseltaylor commented that ‘as a general rule, the more capabilities claimed [by a toaster], the less well the primary task is done’.
Have toasters become too complicated? Which modern features are the most useful, and are there any others you’d like to see added?
How do you rate your toaster?
Good - I'm only occasionally disappointed (37%, 370 Votes)
OK - the toast's edible I guess (32%, 327 Votes)
Brilliant - it toasts evenly on different types of bread (19%, 190 Votes)
Terrible - I need a new one! (12%, 123 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,010