General Question

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

Why is the quality of toasters so universally poor?

Asked by JeSuisRickSpringfield (8099points) April 27th, 2017

I’ve had cheap toasters and expensive toasters. I’ve had toasters made in China, Italy, Germany, and the United States. All of them lasted around the same amount of time before they stopped toasting evenly. Is there some sort of basic engineering problem that keeps us from designing a decent toaster?

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33 Answers

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Most of the toasters on the store shelves in the U.S. are made in China. IMO, the best are made in Germany by Braun. If I want good kitchen equipment, I shop at a professional restaurant supply store. They will sell you retail if you don’t have a tax number. Even their used equipment is high quality and nearly indestructible. .

Patty_Melt's avatar

I’ve long wondered the very same thing. Sometimes I like to make toast the same way grilled cheese is toasted, but that makes both sides greasy, but, sprinkled with powdered sugar…
yum! Makes it more worth the mess.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I’m still using the same Dualit toaster I bought in the early 90’s. It’s almost indestructible.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I’ve had a De Longhi four slice toaster for years. It wasn’t cheap, but it’s never given me a moment’s trouble (so far!). Of course, if you look up reviews, you’ll find some people love them, others hate them. I think it’s the luck of the draw really. The one I got is great.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The crow is right. The good toasters are in the restaurant supply stores where you often find working 4 slice toasters from the 50s and 60s.

johnpowell's avatar

I’m kinda curious about how toasters are bad. I actually got my current toaster from a guy here for helping him fix a computer problem.

I make a lot of toast and the one he sent me was 25 bucks. Still works great after 5 years. Sure the top is less crispy than the bottom. I have butter so I don’t care.

Are you a toastophile? It is fucking toast.

JLeslie's avatar

I bought my toaster at the supermarket over 12 years ago, and it works just fine. I think it cost less than $20. The only negative is it’s white, and my kitchens haven’t been white the last few kitchens. Some things I don’t bother to pay a lot of money for.

Toaster ovens in my experience have gone down in quality,, but still acceptable. I just bought a new one, and they feel more tinny than the old days. This one doesn’t quite cook and brown evenly, but it’s sufficient.

LuckyGuy's avatar

i guess either I’ve been fortunate or lucky but the 2 toasters I have had for decades lasted a long time. The one i have now is a Proctor Silex. It is at least 15 years old.

What goes bad on yours? The heating elements? The springs? The plug? Does the housing crack?
Do you clean yours every now and then?
About twice a year, I open the clean out at the bottom to get rid of crumbs and then turn it over and shake it to get out anything left.
I do this over newspaper so I can burn the residue and extract a little free heat for my house.

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janbb's avatar

My Ex gave me a Dualit about 20 years ago and it still works great. It’s finding bread that’s worthy of being made into toast that’s my problem.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@janbb You definitely live in the wrong country for that. ;)

janbb's avatar

^ True! Although I do have a French bakery where I get good baguettes.

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit I’ve never had a De Longhi, but I have heard good things about them. Maybe I’ll try one. Otherwise, I’m going to have to look into a restaurant supply store like @Espiritus_Corvus recommended.

@johnpowell I was mostly just curious. My wife is picky about how her bagels are toasted, though, so it’s not a completely idle question.

@LuckyGuy For me, it’s always the heating elements that go bad. And yes, I clean it out every month or two.

snowberry's avatar

Our toasters last so long because we don’t use them very much.

Jeruba's avatar

This thread popped up just as my family was giving up on our old toaster while resisting purchasing a new one that would turn out to be just another piece of junk. A lot of toast-making goes on around here every day, and so everyone was getting frustrated. One day a slice of bread required two intervals just to brown lightly, and the next day a English muffin would be incinerated in less than one interval.

I was picturing going back to spearing the bread with a long fork and holding it over a gas burner the way I saw my father do when I was a kid (and our electric toaster gave out, as they’ve always tended to do).

Toasters are simple devices. Why do they work so poorly? It seemed pointless to buy an expensive one because most of what you pay for seems to be flash. I swear that we’ve spent more time over the years shopping for toasters than we ever spent shopping for cars or computers, and I lost count of the number of computers in the house more than ten years ago.

On the strength of comments in this thread, I mentioned DeLonghi to my husband, saying it came well recommended. He didn’t hesitate. He clicked “buy now.”

So tomorrow we’ll find out if that was a good idea or not.

janbb's avatar

“The quality of toasters is not strained….”

stanleybmanly's avatar

If it isn’t too late, I strongly suggest that trip to the restaurant supply store, where upon entering the door you should ask immediately to be steered to the used equipment. It isn’t hard to build a good toaster that should last a lifetime. Andhave you ever heard a complaint from anyone working in a diner or cafe about the toaster giving out? And screw fancy brand names and elaborate stainless finishes. Those commercial toasters rarely give up. There are therefore PLENTY of them floating around.

Jeruba's avatar

@stanleybmanly, I might have tried that, but my husband jumped at the hint. So we’ll be the control group.

But why aren’t all those great, indestructible toasters still in use instead of being put out to pasture?

stanleybmanly's avatar

Restaurants close up all the time. The thing that bugs me is that lots of folks recovering restaurant equipment and fixtures will toss working toasters in the scrap heap. The things are often judged unworthy of the trouble to clean up to sell for a paltry $20 or less. As a matter of fact, I have a pretty good idea that I can probably lay my hands on as many used commercial toasters as anyone here requires. I’ll check at 8 AM this morning and get back to you.

stanleybmanly's avatar

You know in thinking about about it, I bet it never occurs to most folks in need of a toaster to seek out a used one. We only have ours now because I stumbled across it some 10 years ago at the shop of the guy I’m going to check with in the morning. He had a pile of em at the time.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It turns out that the guy has a bunch of used commercial toasters in excellent condition. He tells me that he too throws away perfectly good toasters for flaws as trivial as too many crumbs to clean up. He’s across the bridge in “the land of the oak”. I have other reasons to go to Oakland, so If anyone’s interested, I’ll swing by his place with my phone and snap some photos to post here. He still sells the things for 10–25 bucks. You know this reminds me of something I noticed 10 years ago when I picked up our toaster. I think there might even have been a question here about it. Why is it that all of the commercial toasters have such short power cords? Mine has a length of less than 2 feet.

Jeruba's avatar

@stanleybmanly, sure, let’s see ‘em. And is this a restaurant supply shop or a used-appliances shop? I’ll remember this for next time (meanwhile hoping that we’re newly acquiring a toaster that will outlive us).

I would never think of looking for a used one because by the time we’re ready to discard something, there’s nothing left to salvage. So this is a good lesson.

What else is a good, underrated bargain at that sort of shop?

My remaining toaster Q: why don’t the specs include the width of the opening? They typically say “extra-wide” when they mean depth—i.e., accommodating thicker bread, such as a bagel. But bread slices are wider than they used to be. They’re typically now proportioned more like a plasma screen TV monitor and less like the nearly square TV sets of old.

The last two toasters I bought, I was trying to find one with a slot wide enough for a big slice of bread (such as a sourdough round) without cutting it in half or toasting one end at a time. I was fooled, though, because although the actual slot opening was wide enough, the wire carrier inside wasn’t: the wide slices still wouldn’t fit.

When you eliminate the ones with narrow slots and the ones with ugly designs and too many buttons, what’s left is not a lot.

janbb's avatar

I’m happy with my Dualit as stated above but I would have to cut a sourdough round in half. I also toast my corn toastees in the oven because otherwise they crumble on egress. How about a small toaster oven?

stanleybmanly's avatar

I will bring a measuring tape, and be as detailed with photos as I can manage. I plan the show for tomorrow morning 8 AM pst.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba Are you open to trying a toaster oven? Then the size of the bread is no problem. It’s very handy for making many many dishes. Toast takes a little bit longer, but preheating for baking is much faster than heating a big oven. I use it to broil also.

Jeruba's avatar

@JLeslie, not really. We used to have one, and we used it a lot, although never for toast. (There’s always been a toaster.) We were late adopters of microwave, probably 10 years behind the popular average, and the μw took the toaster oven’s counter space, of which we haven’t any to spare. Can’t afford that much room any more for something that you can’t park things on top of.

@stanleybmanly, given your apparent expertise with respect to kitchen equipment, any advice regarding a 4-liter stovetop teakettle?

stanleybmanly's avatar

None at all. And like Trump, I talk a lot but am not an expert on anything. I have pictures and descriptions of some toasters as well as model numbers. I also had the thrill of digging through stuff in a place worthy of a 60 Minutes episode. Im now having breakfast at Buttercup’s but will give you the particulars when I’m safe at home.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Doesn’t calphalon make a combat grade monster teakettle?

Jeruba's avatar

After-action report:

We bought the DeLonghi on the strength of recommendations here. It looks nice and seems to work just fine, and the functions are much smoother and more intuitive than they were on our last one, a Hamilton Beach. I think the slots are bigger, too.

Actually, by getting a little bit snarled up in the ordering process, my husband managed to buy two of them.

He said he’d return one, but I’m for labeling it with a date and stowing it in the basement as a hedge against ever needing to shop for one again. If the one we just inaugurated outlasts us, as it rightfully ought to, we can leave the duplicate to our heirs. I don’t care if toaster technology changes in the next decade or so; this one should still work. Toasters don’t need to be one bit more complicated than they are right now.

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Jeruba's avatar

Toaster update, if anybody’s interested (or even if not):

The above post was made nearly four years ago.

At the time, we said, let’s get a good one this time, for once, and stop having to replace the darn things.

I remembered this thread and managed to search it out. Optimistic, wasn’t it?

I’m sorry to report that the DeLonghi toaster has been unsatisfactory for a long time, toasting unevenly and requiring turning between two cycles, trapping crumbs against the heating elements, and chopping off corners of my son’s cheap quasi-poptarts. It may have been subjected to some toaster abuse, but in fact it just didn’t stand up to our ordinary use.

A few months ago, the wire carrier got mangled in someone’s attempt to clear a caught bit of toaster pastry, and it’s been a rapid downhill run since then.

Yesterday I declared the toaster toast.

I recalled the stowed backup and managed to locate the unopened box in the basement, still with my note on it, which ends: “With any luck, we’ll never have to shop for a toaster again.”

Hah. May 2017. Four years, and dead. Fooey.

So last night I opened the box and installed the unused duplicate DeLonghi toaster. Dumped the old one in the trash. And put a $32 unit on order on Amazon.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I always like reading an update. Thanks for taking the time to find this Q again. I still have my $20 toaster from the supermarket. It’s a Sunbeam.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I don’t think I ever got back to @Jeruba about the toasters. I owe her an apology.

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