An electrical appliance designed to heat and brown or commonly referred to as "toast" a variety of foods made from dough which include: sliced bread, artesian breads, bagels, English muffins, waffles, and pastries. Built to toast by using infrared radiation, this appliance contain heating coils made from a nickel and chromium alloy that gently touch small pieces of mica, a reflective mineral substance. As the electrical current goes through the wires touching the mica, radiation is produced that results in a toasting heat being applied to the slices of bread. As the slices are warm, the sugars in the bread ingredients begin to caramelize, resulting in the golden brown coloring that occurs over the surface of the toasted bread.
Toasters are built with 2 to 4 slots into which the bread slices are placed. Within each slot, there are typically 8 to 10 equally spaced heating wires per slot to toast the bread evenly. Toasters with fewer wires will inadequately toast breads while toasters containing poorly spaced wires brown breads excessively and unevenly. All toasters will have a browning dial that enables the different levels of toasting to be adjusted from lightly browned to dark browned. Factors to consider when purchasing a new toaster include:
Browning or heating settings - how many and how well do they work? Is there a defrost setting? Will the toaster brown on higher settings as well as re-heat cold toast on lower settings without re-browning?
The placement, the even spacing and the number of heating coils for consistent browning.
The number of slots - smaller households probably only need 2 slots while families may need more.
The slot capabilities - extra wide for all types of breads and pastries or self-centering functions to adjust to wide or narrow widths of foods. With self-centering, the slots adjust automatically to hold various widths evenly in position.
Bagel settings - heat settings that adjust the temperature so the sliced side of the bagel toasts while the rounded side is only warmed.
Lift settings - adjustable depth controls to bring smaller items such as bagels or English muffins up higher for ease of removal.
Crumb trays - are they built in and removable?
Insulated casing to keep outside cool while heat stays within.
Cost - typically lower priced models have fewer features than the very high priced toasters so evaluate all the features desired and the value they offer.
Although many toasters are very similar in their operating features many are not. As an example, not all toasters brown all types of breads with consistent results. Therefore, if it is possible to receive a demonstration of the operating functions, it will assist significantly with the buying decision when a new toaster is being considered.