9 Mistakes Everyone Makes With Toasters

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People have been toasting bread since Roman times, albeit on an open fire rather than in an electric toaster. In fact, it is from these olden times that the concept of making a toast comes from, as in raising a glass, when pieces of toast were dropped into wine. So, you'd think that by now everyone would be taking a bite of a crisp, evenly browned slice of toast and be experts. However, there's more to perfecting toasting than it may seem, whether you want a simple toast with butter for breakfast or as a teatime meal with a topping of beans or perhaps toast with sardines. There are endless possibilities and some fabulous toast recipes out there, such as avocado which is great in the morning. Toast is so versatile, and you can include croissants, bagels, and even buns in any list of terrific toasting treats. 

The history of the electric toaster dates back over a century. While the electric toaster was first manufactured in Scotland in the late 19th century, it was in the early 20th century that Frank Shailor patented his version in the U.S. These handy household appliances have advanced somewhat since this early model which only toasted one side. If your toast is not something that you'd boast about, then you can be forgiven as there are plenty of mistakes everyone makes with toasters that lead to burnt toast, bread that's unevenly toasted, or problems with your toaster itself.

1. You're using the same toaster setting

Have you ever thought about what the settings mean on a toaster? If it's your own, and you're used to using your toaster day-in-day-out, then you may have gotten used to the dial on the front through trial and error. A few burnt pieces of toast means turn it down, because a toaster's highest settings are not necessarily for bread, but for other toasted goodies such as bagels.  A pale, floppy slice means turn it up next time, while tweaks can be made to account for a thicker or thinner piece of bread too. What this equates to is guesswork, and you aren't alone if you generally set the dial to the middle, watch and wait, quickly canceling the toasting if the bread starts to look too dark.

It may come as a surprise to know that this main setting is not the same for all toasters. In some models, this dial denotes time, such as minutes, so if the choice is between zero and four, as an example, then two would signify a couple of minutes, not a medium heat. In other styles, quite often the less expensive on the market, the dial is actually an indication of heat. These capacitor toasters heat until a certain voltage whereby a circuit cuts out and this leads to the toast popping up.

2. You're cooking what in there!?

It's a mistake to think that all you can actually cook in a toaster is a piece of toast. If you have a toaster bag then you can make grilled sandwiches, including gooey cheese or even egg. These act like pockets that are placed into the slot, ensuring the contents are cooked without all the ingredients spilling out onto the elements. They don't stick and are reusable too, and you can even use them to reheat a slice of leftover pizza. Of course, a great way to make a grilled cheese sandwich is to put cheese between two slices of toast and let it melt by wrapping the sandwich in foil and putting it in the oven for a few minutes.

Lovers of grilled foods may experiment by making cheese on toast by placing a toaster on its side which is not a good idea. This can make a toaster break, however. There are plenty of quirky toasted meal recipes to choose from, including burgers, sweet potatoes, and even taco shells. You could also make garlic bread or toast a garlic naan bread. This can be a mistake though if strong flavors permeate the grill or bits of food get stuck in the wires and possibly burn. As well as a toaster breaking there is also the risk of fire too. After all, a toaster is not the same as a toaster oven.

3. You're using a fork or knife to pry toast out of the toaster

It can be tempting when a tricky piece of crumbly toast gets jammed down into a toaster's slot and doesn't pop up to resort to silverware tools. The short piece of advice on this is don't sticks knives and forks into your toaster. Not only can this damage the toaster, but it can also actually lead to an electric shock. Tipping a toaster upside down and shaking it is not the answer either, and sometimes it is best to wait until the toast has cooled and definitely disconnect it from the power supply before you attempt to get it out.

A good tip with stuck toast that you can't quite get out is to pull the lever up beyond its resting position. Most toaster levers allow for a slight lift of the toasting cage which can often be enough to grab the slice. If this isn't enough, then trying to put down the lever again and letting it spring back may just jolt the bread out of its position. Failing this, there are specially designed toaster tongs that are not made from metal which can help. If this happens a lot, then perhaps it's time to think about the merits of a side-loading toaster instead.

4. Your slice is not right

Sometimes it's not the toaster or the way it's being used that is the issue, but the fact that the bread is the wrong size and doesn't fit in the basket. A standard shop-bought sliced bread probably fits best, after all this is what most of the simpler types of appliances are made for. There are toasters that have wider slots and cages or baskets, which are ideal for a thicker slice too. If sliced bread is not being used, then a sharp knife is a must to ensure that the bread's surface is not crumbly and/or uneven and that the width of the bread is as consistent as possible.

Slicing bread well so it's toaster-ready is a good way to make great toast. For example, a baguette can be cut in many different ways, and just as important as making sure it fits the toasting slots width-ways, it also needs to be the right length too. If not, then this can lead to some of the bread getting toasted, and some not. As well as making sure the bread is not too long, the baguette should be cut in half so that each side of the loaf can be lowered down in the slots. There are some great toasted baguette recipes making any toasting efforts worthwhile.

5. You don't understand your toaster's various functions

It has to be said, toasters are not usually particularly complex appliances and are pretty straightforward to use if you know how. In other words, you put bread in the slots, press down the lever, and wait for what is hopefully a nicely toasted slice to pop up. Not all toasters are the same, however, with some having only two baskets and one lever, and some offering more slots and levers. Since toasters each have their own settings, it's a good idea to know what these are.

For example, some toasters have a button that is designed to toast frozen bread, so you can take slices straight from the freezer. This is super convenient as you don't need to store this in a bread-bin and it stays fresher for longer. Some come with a reheat button, while some appliances come with a wire part that sticks up above the slots. This is designed as a warming rack and is perfect for keeping buns warm or heating croissants which can often be tricky to toast, although toasting croissants is possible, and of course creates a different texture. There may be a bagel button on some models as well.

6. You're settling for burnt toast

How you like your bread toasted is a personal preference. Some like a soft slice that is barely browned whereas others prefer it as dark as can be. Of course, rushing around in the morning before leaving the house, the likelihood is that burnt toast is more about not using your toaster in the right way. One solution is an unusual one, which is to salvage burnt food by putting it in the freezer so that the charred bits come off (via Tip Hero). "Good  Morning America" featured a funny burnt toast food hack with the burnt bits being removed with an electric sander. Maybe just get a new piece of bread before breaking out the power tools. 

The biggest mistake you could be making with burnt toast is not that you are burning the bread in the toaster, but that you're not throwing it in the bin afterward and starting again. There are lots of suggestions about burnt toast recipes from shakes to sorbet and soups. However, there are also certain health issues to think about before biting into some blackened bread. Burnt foods contain acrylamide, and while there is no clear evidence that this causes cancer, the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) does classify acrylamide as, "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." The FDA recommends cutting down on acrylamide in the diet by toasting to a light-brown color and not a darker one. This is certainly food for thought and inspiration enough to use your toaster in the right way. 

7. Expecting too much from your toaster

There are some great toasters out there, however, even with a watchful eye some appliances are never going to produce the best toast. Kitchen Infinity offers reviews of see-through glass designs, which are a clear way to see if your toast is browning nicely or not. Beyond this, it is indeed worthwhile considering adding to your kitchen appliances with some other equipment instead of trying to make your toaster do it all.

Sandwich makers are ideal for making grilled toasties, and the fillings are literally endless from cheese and ham to tuna, banana, and even chocolate. Other hot bread machines include a panini grill to get that real grilled Italian sandwich taste. A toaster oven can offer more choice, as can a broiler separate or built into a conventional oven. If you put bread in the oven you can also get a crispy result, and this is how you make melba toast which is perfect for canapes and with patés. Fried bread in a pan with no oil or minimal grease is another way to crisp up bread.

8. Not toasting the right bread for even browning

The ultimate quest for toasting success is to achieve an even brown slice and while the quality of your toaster may have something to do with this, so too does your bread. It's common knowledge that bread that is not as fresh can often toast better, while a light loaf is going to brown quicker than a more hearty, denser bread. This heavier choice may produce a crisp yet soft-centered result because it can take more heat, whereas a thinner, fluffier choice, such as brioche, cannot take the heat and certain bread may transform into a brittle bite that is less flexible or more breakable. As The New York Times suggests, the key is to try toasting different types of bread and experiment.

You may like the taste and texture of a certain bread, for example, only to find it doesn't toast as well. The reverse can be the case also, and with this in mind, it could be that the mistake that you're making is by only choosing one loaf for all types of bread dishes. Perhaps you make your own bread and therefore can create the perfect toasting loaf. It is sometimes worth trying out not only different toaster settings, but toasting a variety of loaves. There's a whole bakery's worth of bread worth trying from white bloomers, to dark ryes, spelt cobs, and multigrain, as well as fruit loaf and artisan variations.

9. A toaster doesn't clean itself

While cleaning a wok may entail oiling instead of scrubbing, so that it cooks better dishes, the same cannot be said of a toaster. In the checklist of kitchen chores, cleaning a toaster may not be top of the list, but it's important to keep this appliance clear of crumbs and any other food that may be staining or clogging up the appliance. There are some good tips on what to do to clean the inside of a toast that involve dishwashing liquid, while the golden rule before any of this type of activity is to make sure it is not connected to the power.

At the very least it is a good idea to keep the crumb tray clean and in most models, this simply slides out. An article in LoveToKnow offers a step-by-step guide, to keep a well-used appliance in good working order. As well as washing the crumb tray, the feature suggests turning the toaster upside down and gently shaking out any crumbs still remaining. Meanwhile, a paintbrush or pastry brush can help get rid of bits of toast too, and a toothbrush could be used to clean the wires of the basket. 

Perhaps the way to toast is to look after your toaster and be a little more mindful of how you use it and what you put into it. if in doubt, keep close to your toaster and watch over as bread is transformed into grilled comfort food favorites.