For the past two weeks I have had a chap in renovating the large brick shed which came with my bungalow. I do not like brick sheds and miss my pretty stained wooden one which looked more like a Wendy House than a shed, but if I have to live with this brick monstrosity then I might as well get it exactly how I want it. As the previous owners had installed electricity and a water supply I decided to section off one end and have it as a small kitchen area to save having to go in and out of the bungalow every time I feel peckish or want a drink. Even though this shed is huge, space is limited as I use it for my seedlings as well as to store all the usual garden paraphernalia so I needed to look for small basic appliances which wouldn't take up too much room. I have already installed a small microwave and kettle and decided to look at the toasters next. I went to my local electrical shop and straight away decided on the Micromark 52174 for the simple reason that it was the smallest in the shop and was basic but not utilitarian looking. It cost £14.99 which was slightly more than I was expecting to pay but I couldn't be bothered trawling the high street for a better price, it's actually more expensive online so perhaps not such a bad deal after all. The Micromark 52174 is a two slice toaster which is perfect as I live (and garden) alone, I know I will occasionally have visitors to my shed but it's more practical to have a two slicer and make more than one lot sometimes than a four slicer that will most of the time be used to toast just two pieces. If you see what I mean. It's a nice looking toaster in white with coffee coloured buttons and dials, I think this is a very practical looking toaster which I wouldn't particularly want in my all chrome kitchen but it's perfectly fine considering the other basic appliances I am installing in the shed. It is 820W so in line with most other toasters on the market. Using this toaster is very easy. The lever for pushing the toast carriage down is very smooth and gives a reassuring click when it's been fully depressed, and again when the toast pops up. The lever is shaped well so my fingers can rest on it properly and they do not slide off even when my hands are a little greasy from the hand cream I have to use after gardening. There is a small red LED light which lights up when the toaster is in use and goes off again as soon as my toast has popped up, I imagine this would be handy for people who are multi tasking but as I am perfectly capable of remembering that I've put toast in it seems rather surplus to requirements! The browning control is in the form of a basic dial where you have no less than seven different choices, I was lucky in that the first setting I tried (number 3) gave me the perfect golden brown toast I like. As a rough guide number 1 will leave your bread toasted but almost white still, while number 7 is the setting my granddaughter prefers and gives toast that is just the right side of burned. Each setting gives distinct browning results so have a play with a few slices of bread to find the perfect one for you. Of course how well your toast browns is also down to how thick it is and even the type of bread you use so be prepared to move the dial if you are straying from your usual bread buying routine. As with most toasters these days there is a clearly visible cancel button which will make your toast pop up instantly, this is useful when I'm having beans on toast because I sometimes put the bread in too early and have to cancel it when I realise I haven't even opened my beans yet. Also yesterday I was using Nimble bread which is very thin and airy and toasts seemingly in seconds sometimes, I could smell the toast starting to burn so I pressed the cancel button and it stopped the toaster in its tracks. This Micromark toaster also features an integrated bun warmer and this is activated by pushing a small button which will make the wire bun warming rack pop up from alongside the toast carriage, you can then start the toaster and the heat will warm your buns through. I have used this for croissants and also to warm a burger bun on the day I bought the toaster just to see how it worked. The buns or croissants take a while to warm through and I do not think the toaster generates enough heat to properly warm a croissant, but then who really needs warm buns and croissants are easy to heat in the microwave! The only downside I've discovered with this toaster is the lack of a removable crumb tray. It's a real nuisance having to unplug the toaster, carry it to the bin and then turn it upside down and shake it to remove the crumbs and I think the overall design of this toaster could easily have supported a small sliding crumb tray. People tend to neglect the hygiene of their toasters and I think you really need to empty the crumbs each time you use it as leaving the crumbs lying in the bottom is the same as cooking a piece of pork with the remnants of yesterdays lamb chop in the roasting dish. Well, perhaps not quite the same but who wants three week old breadcrumbs marring their lovely toast? The plastic housing of the toaster gets a bit warm while in use but not so much that it's going to burn anyone, it's a pleasant warmth actually which is quite soothing when I rest the palm of my hand on the toaster wall while waiting for my toast to pop up! Oh yes, the popping mechanism is very smooth and the toast doesn't fly out of the toaster like a surface to air missile. It gives a lovely 'POP' noise and suddenly there is the toast sitting at the top of the toaster, it's only ever got stuck once and that was when I put a piece of bread in there that was slightly torn at one corner. The crust had snagged inside the toaster and it prevented the toast popping up properly but the toaster did not carry on heating up so this was not a fire hazard at all. This toaster can handle various thicknesses of bread. In the two weeks I have owned it I have used Nimble and Weight Watchers bread which are both very thin, Warburtons Toastie bread which is the equivalent of a thick sliced loaf and also fresh bread that I cut into thick slices myself. The bread slots are a good size, although they definitely wouldn't take doorstep sized slices of bread but if you're eating fresh toast then for flavours sake you are really better off to use the gas grill. It also toasts brown bread nicely, but you may want to turn the browning dial down slightly because the brown Tesco bread I used went too dark for my taste. I bought my Micromark 52174 (catchy name, huh?) from an independent electrical shop in Ipswich but you can purchase yourself this great little toaster from 247electrical.co.uk for the price of £17.35.
Integrated bun warmer / Short name: Micromark 52174