* Prices may differ from that shown
When we moved house last year, Mr Lools and I were keen on updating our small appliances to match our new kitchen and decided to change from stainless steel to black appliances. This included our toaster and we purchased the Breville VTT321 2 Slice Toaster to match our black Breville Kettle. ***Breville VTT321 2 Slice Toaster*** The Breville VTT321 Toaster is a black two slice toaster. This is a rectangular shaped toaster with rounded edges at the top of the toaster. The outer casing of the toaster is a shiny black plastic with shiny stainless steel edging and detailing (including handles and switches). The front of the toaster has a sliding heat setting from 1-5 (5 being the longest setting). There are three buttons on the front of the toaster; a cancel button, a defrost button and reheat button. The two slices in the toaster are wide and you can fit sliced teacakes in the slots and thicker cut fresh bread. The toaster has a variety of functions including defrost so you can toast bread from frozen. You also have the option to reheat which simply warms your toast without going through the toasting cycle. The toaster also has a removable crumb tray which catches any crumbs that have fallen into the toaster. The toaster is available from Amazon and also Argos. The toaster costs £24.99 however Argos were offering a deal where by if you purchased the matching Breville kettle you could get the toaster for half price. As we were purchasing the kettle we thought £12.99 for a stylish looking toaster appeared good value. ***My Experience*** We started using the toaster in September 2010 once we had moved into our new home. I did notice when toasting any bread the toaster gave off quite a strange smell as soon as it was turned on almost as if it was burning but we placed this down to it "being new". The toaster is very easy to use you simply place the bread inside the slots, slide along the heat setting to what level you require (5 being the highest) and press the handle on the side down to toast. Once the toasting cycle is complete the bread simply pops up as it would in any other toaster. I did notice some flaws when toasting for example when toasting bread I could not have the heat setting higher than a 3 even for thick bread or the toast would be black and totally inedible. I only ever once had the toaster set to a 4 and that was for a very thick crumpet. If you were toasting lower calorie bread such Weight Watchers or Nimble bread you could not set over the 1 setting without burning. I did however like that the setting was on a scale therefore you could set in between the figures (i.e a 1 and a half). However it took a lot of practice to get the toaster setting right resulting in many mornings of burnt toast. My main concern was that the cancel button did not often work when you wanted to stop toasting mid cycle. There were occasions when I could smell burning or could see my toast burning (because it had been put on too high of a heat setting) and I would have to press the button several times before the toast would be released. On some occasion's minor smoke turned into quite a lot of smoke because it took around 30 seconds for the toast to release. This was something that really concerned me. I did use the defrost button on a number of occasions and this was effective with thinner bread but with thick slices bread I found the middle would simply not defrost and it was more effective (and quicker) to use the defrost function in the microwave. I only used the reheat function on two occasions to warm my toast back up (so I could have melted butter on my toast rather than butter cold toast). On these occasions the reheat function worked and after 1 minute I had warm toast however I did feel the crusts were a little too crispy and hard. Over the 4 months that the toaster was in the kitchen I wasn't particular happy with its performance it but because it matched the kettle and looked good it stayed. My main gripe with the aesthetics of the toaster was that although it looked very modern the shiny black appearance did not stay black. Like most other black appliances it required a lot of polishing to remove visible smears and fingers prints. The crumb tray was quite handy and caught crumbs which I would empty out every morning. However due to the amount of crumbs in there you could probably do this once a week. You may have noticed that I mentioned that this toaster was only in my kitchen 4 months which seems a very short time to own a toaster. The reason for this is that the toaster set itself on fire and almost caused quite a serious incident. As usual I was making breakfast for my twin boys (who were 11 months at the time). I gave them milk in their highchairs at one side of the kitchen and then popped my bread in the toaster. I turned my back to walk back over to the boys in the highchairs and I smelt burning. As I turned around my toaster (with two slices of toast in) was on fire, flames shooting out of it and black smoke billowing everywhere. This was only within 30 seconds of turning it on. Panic stricken my concern was the boys because of the amount of smoke who I grabbed and ran through my living room (child under each arm) dumping them in the hallway at the front of the house and ran back to the kitchen at the back of the house. I opened the back door and literally threw the smoking toaster into the garden which by this point had filled the kitchen and dining room next door with black smoke. The electricity in the house had cut out luckily so the flames had died down but the amount of smoke was unbelievable. So much so I couldn't go back downstairs boys and had to put them in their cots upstairs whilst I opened every window and door downstairs. A week later after this drama Mr Lools would walk in from work and could comment he could still smell smoke. After writing a letter to Breville and sending the toaster back to them for "investigation" I was told the toaster had no faults and the incident was due to "user error" and was due to the "toaster being left unattended". I was quite annoyed by this as I never left the room when I was using the toaster and had my back turned on it for less than 30 seconds. I was also quite concerned as a family member who I told about the incident had also commented that her Breville toaster (of the same model) smelt like it was burning and often would not release which I had made Breville aware of. As a matter of goodwill I did receive a replacement toaster of the same model, however I certainly will not be using it. ***Overall*** On the surface of it £24.99 for a stylish black looking toaster appears good value. However once switched on a host of problems were encountered after only a month of use and by 4 months the product was no longer usable and could have caused quite a serious accident. I understand that sometimes products malfunction however it concerns me that when mentioned to another family member who has the same toaster they were also encountering issues with the toast release button and could smell burning when the toaster was in use (even if the toaster was not burning). What concerns me more is when this was reported to Breville (Pulse Home Products Ltd ) they blamed this issue on "user error" and blamed my fire and smoke filled house on the fact I "should have been constantly supervising the toaster" even though I was in the same room and the issue occurred within 30 seconds of the toast being switched on when I turned my back on the toaster . Therefore this is only a toaster for those who stand watching their toast and do not take their eyes off the toaster. A product that does not even deserve one star, and from a brand I will not be purchasing again.
Short name: Breville VTT321