* Prices may differ from that shown
I received this Russell Hobbs toaster as a gift a few months ago. I'd been wanting a four-slice toaster for a while, and this one has plenty of features to recommend it.
I like the fact that this toaster has two sets of controls, so you can use just one side of the toaster, or make lighter and darker toast at the same time - you get the idea. Each set of controls also includes a bagel option, which I haven't used yet - apparently this allows you to toast one side only of the bagel. The controls on the toaster are intuitive and easy to operate and get the toast exactly as you want it.
This Russell Hobbs toaster comes in cream and metallic red versions. Mine is the metallic red. It's a very nice looking toaster with a chunky design, and it looks both contemporary and built-to-last.
The toaster slots are fairly large and wide, which is ideal in my house as we make our own bread and it's not always cut to the same width. If you're a fan of doorstop-style slices of bread, this toaster will handle them.
The toaster retails around £40-50. I think this is a reasonable price; it takes the toaster out of the 'so cheap you don't expect it to last six months' bracket, yet it isn't too expensive either.
I've been happy with this toaster so far, apart from one thing which happened when I'd just got it. I tend to store my toaster in a cupboard when it's not being used. With my old toaster, I would lift it by putting my fingers just inside the toaster slots, and lifting it using the chrome trim. However, as I discovered, the inside of the trim on this toaster has extremely sharp edges. The first time I lifted it, I ended up with blood everywhere! I've learned my lesson and now lift it by putting my hands flat against the outsides of the toaster, but one improvement to the design would be an indent or something to make it a little easier to lift.
Every Saturday (with the caveat that it can occasionally be changed to a Sunday) Vicki (Allan's cousin) comes round to the house before she and Allan go off to visit their Gran. Most mornings we try to be vaguely sensible and have something to eat before they leave. Not only does it feed us, it gives us a chance to sit and be social together. Being that it's usually quite early on a Saturday morning, easy comfort food is generally the order of the day which tends to mean cheese on toast. Now, when you are making cheese on toast it's always best to toast the bread before adding the cheese. You can imagine that toasting 6 slices of bread (and sometimes more depending on how hungry we were) took a bit of a while in a two slice toaster. That meant someone would have to be in our ice-box kitchen by themselves for a lot longer than was really acceptable on a Saturday morning. Throw in that Allan had just bought a shiny new kettle and that pretty much sealed the deal; we'd be looking for a 4 slice toaster to match. A couple of weeks after deciding this and scouring the shops for a good deal we finally spotted a Russell Hobbs toaster in Asda that was on sale.
===Who is Russell?===
Russell Hobbs is (as far as I'm concerned) a very well known household name. If you are talking about toasters and kettles, it's their name that instantly comes to mind (along with Morphy Richards) as a good quality brand. Unfortunately they are also usually bloody expensive. Russell Hobbs was formed in 1952. Peter Hobbs was in the Royal Engineers as a Major in World War 2. Afterwards he began work with Morphy Richards till he had a falling out with the Richards half of Morphy Richards (Charles Richards). Bill Russell had an incredibly similar story. He had been in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as a Major during World War 2. He went on to work with Morphy Richards and then had a falling out with one of the Morphy half of Morphy Richards (Donal Morphy). At that point the two of them got together to form Russell Hobbs.
Since then the company has changed hands more times than a girl changes clothes, doing both hot and cold appliances, saying both yes and no to the stock market. After a period of all go, the founders themselves stopped. Russell died in 2006 followed soon after by Hobbs in 2008. The company, however, lives on and is currently owned by Spectrum Brands who manufacture Remington and George Foreman products to name but a few and also dabbles quite heavily in pet products. The Russell Hobbs brand is still producing top quality household goods.
The website for Russell Hobbs is www.russellhobbs.co.uk and has a contact form on it if you are desperate to say something to them. If you prefer you can call them on 0845 658 9700. This line is open from 8am to 5pm Monday to Thursday and till 4pm on a Friday. If calling them is not good enough then they also have an address you can write to as follows:
Spectrum Brands (U.K.) Ltd.
Customer Service Department
This four slice toaster is almost the same size as two normal toasters sat side by side. That's because that's essentially what it is. The sides of the toaster are mostly a lovely deep metallic red colour that shimmers in a very seductive way, rippling from a bright fire-truck red in the light to an almost black-red in the shadows. It really is a sexy toaster. Yes, sexy. Deal with it. Even better, the colour matches perfectly with the Kettle that we bought from a completely different range in BHS so you can rest easy knowing that if you want to fully accessorise your kitchen then you don't NEED to stick with Russell Hobbs branding to do it. The top of the toaster is silver with a black edge round the outside which makes it look very clean cut and stylish. It has four slots for bread as you would expect from a four slice toaster. The silver and black colouring is continued on the sections that have the buttons and levers. Two silver plates sit in the front of the machine housing a black lever and four black circular buttons, two on each side of the lever. In the centre at the bottom of each plate is a little black dial that controls what colour your bread will come out. It's a very well designed toaster and it does look great sitting on my kitchen work top.
===Setting your toaster up===
Obviously the size of this toaster is something to consider. It really is just two toasters side by side and looking a bit pretty. It is roughly 30cm x 31cm x 21cm (L x W x D) so it is a little on the larger side. It still looks good though so I can forgive that. It has a 90cm power cord which doesn't leave a lot of cord hanging about but means you'll have to have it fairly close to a plug socket.
The instructions state that before you use it you need to "Cure" the elements by turning the browning level up to the highest it can go and turning it on with nothing in it. This basically strengthens the metals in the elements and in theory would make it last longer. I didn't do this. Oops. Apparently if you DO do this then you'll need to make sure you're in a ventilated room and you might get a little bit of smoke coming from the elements which is, so they say, perfectly normal.
===Two by two===
As you may have realised, each side of the toaster can be controlled independently of the other. This means a few things. Firstly, you don't need to waste electricity by having both sides on when you only wanted to toast a couple of slices of bread. You can't, however, control each slot individually so if you want to be awkward and have only one slice of toast you'll still have a slot that goes on with nothing in it. I've seen toasters with individual slot control (ooft!) and they do look a bit messy. I'll settle for two slices of toast.
It has other implications too. If, for example, you are living in happy couple-dom and you both love toast but you both love your toast different shades of burnt, this could cause a bit of a kerfuffle when trying to get your toast right. Personally I've never been in that situation, but I'd imagine it can be annoying if someone kept changing your perfectly honed toast settings. With this toaster you could easily set up one side each and promise never to touch your other half's twiddly bits for as long as ye both shall live. Huzzah! Instant toast shaped bliss! Unless you have kids and then your settings will never be left alone but that's your own fault really.
===Give me a Lever and a place to stand...===
The main buttons you should know about are the lever and the "browning level selector". Everything else is just gravy. Coincidentally (according to an unsubstantiated Wikipedia entry) Russell liked to test product safety by pouring a pint of boiling gravy on it. What that would achieve I'm not sure. Amazing the stories that are out there! Back to the point! The first thing you will want to do is figure out how well done you like your toast. I like mines just passed golden. Quite lightly toasted but not on the side closer to raw. I would imagine it's how most people like their toast. The knob at the bottom has a little white dot on it and is surrounded by the numbers 1 to 6 on the silver back-plate; 1 is hardly cooked at all, 6 is practically burnt. Our toaster sits between 3 and 4 about three quarters of the way towards four. You may wish yours to sit somewhere else.
Once you have set your brown levels (tee-hee) you should pop your bread into the slots on the corresponding sides and then push the black plastic lever down to the bottom. If your toaster is not plugged in and turned on the lever will just pop right back up at you. Assuming it is turned on, the lever will lock at the bottom and you'll notice that one of the buttons lights up. Your bread has now begun toasting and will pop up when it is ready.
When the bread pops, if it is still a little short of being clear of the toaster, you can lift the lever to give the toast an extra leg up making it easier to get the toast out. How handy! The Lever itself is made of black moulded plastic and fits perfectly with the machine and gives you plenty to hold onto while you are operating it. It doesn't feel flimsy at any point which is always good.
===Give me a button and a finger to push it ===
If you are anything like me, then god save you. It probably means, however, that you like having a range of buttons to push. This toaster does not disappoint, coming in with 4 buttons on each side that may, at some point, serve a purpose! The buttons are situated at the bottom of where the lever slides down to with two buttons on either side of each lever. The buttons are circular and black and all of them have a little red LED in the centre of them. They all have a little symbol above them on the silver back-plate in black. I find the symbols are sometimes a little difficult to see as small bits of black don't really stand out fantastically on a silver background. Instead I have loosely acquainted myself with their positions. By which I mean I know where the buttons are and I just push them all till it does what I want, which usually, is to eject the toast.
The Eject button is the top left button and has an eject symbol above it; a triangle with a line underneath. It took me a while to recall what that button means since I don't have a DVD player and my computer doesn't have the symbol on it. It made me feel incredibly silly when I had to look it up. This is the button that will light up when you push the lever down so if you do want to stop your toast toasting mid cycle, simply push the button that is lit up and the toast will jump out for you. This only really comes in handy if you haven't set your browning selector correctly.
===Right hand man===
The top right button is the button that has a little snowflake on it. Sometimes called a defrost button, it actually just tells your toaster that the bread you have used is frozen. Russell Hobbs calls it a frozen button. This button allows you to leave your brownage setting as it is but makes the bread toast for longer to get it to the same level of brown that you usually have. You simply pop your toast in and then push the button after pulling the lever down and the light in the middle of the button will come on to let you know it's working its magic.
===Touch my bottom===
The bottom left button has a picture of a bagel. I was always curious what this button did so I looked it up. If you fancy toasting a bagel then you should slice it in half and pop it in the toaster with the cut sides facing each other. I shall demonstrate with lines and brackets thusly: |( | | )| Just imagine those brackets are your bagel cut in half and the lines are the toaster slots.
If you managed to figure that out then good on you. So, you've popped your sliced bagel in, pushed the lever down and pushed the button. You've seen the light come on in the centre of the button and rest happy in the knowledge that your bagel is being toasted. But what is happening inside the machine? Basically, the bagel button turns the inside elements on to toast the inside of your bagel while the outside elements come on but on a much lower setting so as to simply warm the outside of the bagel. This, in theory, should result in a nice warm toasted bagel. Again there should be no need to change the browning setting to achieve your perfect toasted bagel. This button is also a good indication that the machine has wide slots so you can fit more stuff in your toaster. Personally I like to shove as much as I can in my toaster. Occasionally Allan puts some cheese and bread in a toaster bag and pops that in and it accepts it perfectly.
===More bottom buttons===
The last button on the bottom right is a reheat button. The symbol above it is a little slice of bread with some wavy lines coming out of the top of it to indicate heat. This is for those annoying occasions when you've started making toast and the door goes or your partner asks you to do something or you get a sudden but overwhelming urge to sing the entire first half of Wicked the musical with dance moves before you do anything else. Nothing worse than cold toast. Well, at least on the scale of first world toast related issues it's quite high; just below burning the house down. This button basically allows you to pop your toast back in for a short blast of heat, enough to warm your toast but not to toast it any further. Till now I had just popped it back in for about 30 seconds and then frantically hit all the buttons till the toast popped. Lesson here is that reading instructions comes in handy not just when writing the review!
===Keep to yourself!===
As the toaster is essentially two separate toasters in one, you will also find that it has two separate crumb trays, one for each side. To remove these you need to go to the back of the toaster at the very bottom. In the black rim you will be able to clearly see where the trays are. The end of them is black plastic to match the rim but you can see where the breaks in the plastic are. Simply slide a finger under the toaster and give a gentle pull out the way and the crumb tray will happily slide out. It's generally a good idea to empty the crumb tray often so that you don't start toasting your crumbs as this can cause a bit of a fire hazard. I also found that the crumb tray in the toaster is a favourite place for bugs when your flat becomes inexplicably infested and your toast eating idiot of a flatmate doesn't clean the toaster. Thankfully that was an old flat and I never really had toast so I didn't feel too sick when I discovered that. It really takes two seconds to remove the crumb trays so try not to forget!
The instruction manuals give a few tips on toasting and a warning or two that I thought I would pass on. Tip number one is that apparently old bread makes crispier toast due to it having less moisture. I quite like crispy toast, but I still like the inside to be light and fluffy. It also states that older bread cooks faster for the same reasons so to use a lighter setting for older bread. It also suggests a lighter setting for sweet bread products as they brown quicker than ordinary bread.
Possibly the most glaring thing they have mentioned, however, is that you really shouldn't use your toaster in the bathroom or put it in / use it near water. I am upset. I regularly shower with my toaster. This might be why I've had soggy toast and big hair all these months! Please, allow your common sense to take over. Also in the warnings is not to shove sharp objects (like knifes) into the toaster to un-jam it in the event it sticks. This goes double if it's a metal handled knife unless you too want to have giant/ no hair left.
This is my only slight niggle about this toaster. The retail price of this as suggested by Russell Hobbs is £49.00. For a toaster, that is crazy. Asda, however, also thought that was a bit crazy and we managed to get it for £30 which is much more reasonable. That was on sale and it may be a bit difficult to find it at that price all year round. Online they are all showing at around the £39 mark which is still touching unreasonable. You really should look around and see if you can't find it on sale somewhere before throwing your money away.
This toaster certainly looks fantastic. I really love the colour and the simple stylish look of it. It goes perfectly with our kettle from the BHS range and allows us to get through our Saturday morning cooking a lot quicker than before. The extra buttons come in really for things other than just plain toast and the fact that it's got wider slots means we can use our toaster bags in it too. Assuming it doesn't break down, the sale price is acceptable, though the actual retail price is a little bit of an eye popper. Either way, the toaster works brilliantly so I can't really complain meaning that I'll be giving it five stars out of five!
4 slices / Wide slots / Independent slot operation / 6 toast settings / Bagel function / warm one side and toast the other / Cancel function / Defrost function / Reheat function / Variable browning / LED indicator lights / Removable crumb tray / Auto shut-off / Non-slip feet / Cord storage / Manufacturer's 2 year guarantee / EAN/MPN/UPC/ISBN: 4008496729562 / High-lift function for easy removal of smaller slices of bread / Electronic and illuminated controls / By Russell Hobbs / Short name: Russell Hobbs 19160