“ Brand: Dualit „
~ Let me eat tea cake ~
Although our old Russell Hobbs toaster had lasted barely 3 years, one perk of buying a new toaster was that I could now choose one that toasts teacakes too. Although we usually opt for cereal for breakfast during the week, the weekend usually starts with toasted tea cakes.
~ Starting with the finish ~
Given that the design of a toaster hasn't really changed since they were invented, the range of toaster styles and finishes to pick from now is huge. Perhaps its partly the expectation that small electrical goods like this aren't built to last longer than 4 or 5 years but manufacturers are bringing out new designs all the time.
Our last toaster was stainless steel with black trim which looked very modern. This time we chose a 50s style one in red which would add a splash of colour to our black worktop and tiles.
This toaster is made exclusively for John Lewis which has the same model in black and cream. The cream looked far too kitsch even for my tastes, and the black might look better on a paler worktop than ours.
~ Where size is an issue ~
Aside from looks, another consideration we had was it that it had to be dainty. We have a smallish kitchen so need one that will fit snugly at the back of our worktop.
This is a two-slice toaster which is fine for us, we rarely cook breakfast for more people. A bonus is that this is actually more compact than our old two-slice toaster and yet despite the smaller footprint it does more.
~ Elementary, dear reader ~
Whether the toaster in question costs £5 or £150, it will still brown any bread the same way. If you look in your toaster you'll see the heating elements - those wires attached to insulating boards. Basically, the closer the elements get to the bread the quicker it will char. Or toast.
I got a shock when I first unwrapped our Dualit and peeked at the elements (no, it wasn't switched on at the time). Two of the insulating boards looked fine. A third had some of the wires bowing out from the insulating board. The fourth side looks like it has been attached at a drunken angle, it's not even straight! Not a good start.
Despite that (had I not intended to write a review of the toaster I'm sure I wouldn't have even noticed), the wires do all seem to go from the bottom to the top so all the bread gets evenly toasted and there are no pale crusts to contend with. Perhaps I'm just not very good at cutting bread evenly, but whenever I bought an uncut loaf and tried to manipulate the doorstops into our old Russell Hobbs it got too brown too quickly.
~ The slot machine ~
We tend to buy thick sliced bread which this Dualit can accommodate as easily as more delicate slices. It is advertised as taking bread up to 3.8 cms in thickness and the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference multi seed bread we're currently using might not be quite that thick but it accommodates it well.
Aside from teacakes, this also has to be able to accommodate the occasional short crumpet. And it does so, easily.
While the slots are nearly 4 cms wide, whatever we've placed inside the two cages get automatically held in the centre of the slot once the lever goes down so the food is equidistant from the two elements. Advantageous for those who use thinner slices which could lean to one side.
~ The taste test ~
Arguably, the best toast of all is crunchy on the outside yet still soft in the middle and this Dualit doesn't let me down. It manages to toast everything we've thrown in it evenly (perhaps if we chose to have it on a lower setting, the issue of the off kilter element would be noticeable but not by settings 3 or 4). Not only that but it's also very rapid. The little booklet that came with it states it has a high wattage but doesn't elaborate, so I can only assume that is responsible for the speed. Neither does the outside of the toaster get too hot while it's in use.
~ It gets brown-ee points for: ~
.. being easy to use. The toaster itself is very light and easy to lift. The buttons and the up/down lever are also well designed and simple to use. There are 8 browning settings- we usually stick on number 3, but they're all clearly marked. The slots come up high enough to remove teacakes without burning my fingers. The crumb tray on the opposite side to the buttons simply slides out and slots back in again with little effort.
.. the 'peek and pop' function. One of the newest features on the toasting block, you simply lift the lever on the side to raise the bread (or teacake or crumpet) and see how brown it is without cancelling the toasting cycle. If it needs more time, simply let the lever drop down and the cycle will resume where it left off, not back at the beginning. It might be only a small thing but it means no more excuses for burnt offerings so I like it.
.. it can defrost its contents. You simply drop the bread in, switch it to your browning setting of choice and then press the little defrost button. The button incidentally has a pretty snowflake on it, so even the bleary eyed shouldn't get confused. The only downside to defrosting is that this adds extra time to the toasting cycle by defrosting first then browning, but at least you don't have to alter the browning setting. It takes away any guesswork and leaves me with toast perfectly browned.
.. for versatility. This also has a bagel setting, which leaves me feeling vaguely parochial. Now I don't like bagels, but this toaster has the option of just browning one side (ie the cut side of a bagel) by only using two of the four elements. Lets hope it isn't the drunken elements I would rely on for that. Not content with seizing the bagel eating market, it can warm croissants too. There's a dinky little tray that attaches to the top of the toaster. You simply switch it on as normal - and within 2 and a half minutes the croissants are good to go. Far less trouble and probably cheaper than heating the croissants in the oven.
.. it is easy to keep clean. I tend to empty out the crumb tray weekly, mainly to avoid an accumulation of stale burnt currants. The bright red finish doesn't lend this Dualit to any streaky marks or fingerprints but a brisk wipe down with a damp cloth and the outside looks shiny and new again too.
~ Recommended? ~
Yes, although some might balk at the steep price tag. Although retailing at £60 it seems to be one of the cheapest models made by Dualit. Having been making toasters since the 40s arguably they're doing something right. It has a nice appearance and is a really good and functional toaster. It comes with a one year warranty although as with most small electrical items, I imagine if it breaks within that time John Lewis would sooner replace it than try to get it fixed.
As good as this is, I'm knocking off one star for the one element which works despite it being fixed at an odd angle.
You'll enjoy the appealing presence of this toaster as much as your perfectly cooked toast with the Dualit 2-slice toaster / Fed up with burnt toast? Thanks to the nifty 'peek and pop' feature with this toaster you can raise your slice for inspection without interrupting the toasting process / And with the Dualit 26281 2-slice toaster you get a free warming rack for larger items such as croissants, exclusively with John Lewis! This metallic red toaster is tough too and will always work hard at breakfast time to provide enough toast for everybody / The 36mm extra wide slots allow you to accommodate bread of various thicknesses, and in conjunction with a bagel and bun feature you'll enjoy perfect results / toasted one side while warmed on the other / If you've just discovered that emergency loaf of bread in the freezer you'll appreciate the defrost option and with a cancel button onboard you shouldn't be hearing the sound of your smoke detector too often / There is also a high rise mechanism for smaller items so nothing should ever get trapped inside / The delectable red main body and stainless steel panel are easy to clean ensuring the toaster will always look in great condition / The concealed crumb tray will also prevent any debris from spilling out onto your worktop / Short name: Dualit 26281