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Friday, December 31, 2010

Waring Pro WT400 Professional Toaster

Readers of this blog know of my ongoing frustration with finding the perfect toaster. Well quite by accident we came across the Waring Pro WT400 on sale at Zellers (of all places) for less than $50 Canadian.

Usually the first thing I do when I find an interesting model is to check the wattage, and I was quite surprised to see the Waring rated at a full 1800W (at 120 volts)! Normally 4 slice toasters are underpowered especially when compared to more powerful 2 slice models that can go as high as 1100W. So when you are in need of power and don't have a 220V service for your $1200 Hobart generally 2 slice is the way to go. Just the same we really liked the look, so we decided to pick one up and try it out. So far we are quite pleased.

First this toaster is a beaut, but it is big! Compared to our outgoing Cuisinart 4 slice it is a bit wider but a lot taller. It is as big or a bit bigger than the Gordon Ramsay, a toaster we liked but despite its size did not toast the tops of the bread slices. The slots are almost ridiculously wide, and can practically accommodate an unsliced bagel. And no problem with oversize sourdough slices are completely swallowed up. The stainless steel finish is top quality and the large embossed WARING logo on the front makes it look like it belongs in a commercial kitchen.

Controls are simple. There are the ubiquitous toast levers, a defrost and bagel button, and a rheostatic toast control that oddly enough combines a switch to cancel the toast. It feels like an old time radio volume control that doubled as the power switch...turn it all the way counterclockwise and it clicks to cancel. I can't say I am very fond of this feature as you have to remember your previous toast setting when you turn the toaster back on. Crumb trays are removable from the front, which is quite handy.

Performance is quite good. As expected, moister unsweetened breads like English muffins and of course my sourdough loaves are barely done even at the maximum setting. However regular breads toast perfectly at the medium setting with a slight bias towards one side (the side that works with reduced power for the bagel setting). The toaster doesn't need to be preheated, and repeated cycling produces consistent results.

Obviously Waring has learned a thing or two about toasters, having 3 lines of commercial food service models. Can't say if this consumer model will be durable, and only time will tell. So far we are very happy that we finally found a decent toaster, and at a more than reasonable price. We won't be too upset if it doesn't last, and we might even go for a Waring commercial down the line.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gordon Ramsay Professional 2 slice toaster (Sensio Bella Professional)

I have been having an on-going frustration with toasters ever since my parent's trusty old Sunbeam Automatic bit the dust after nearly 20 years of faithful service back in 1976. I must have been through more than 2 dozen toasters since then, and each one of them has had either a serious design flaw or were just not durable (even a replacement Sunbeam automatic made lousy toast and died after a year).

My current Cuisinart 4-slice is not an exception. We are on our second one after our first one died after 14 months, and now the warranty replacement unit Cuisinart sent to us is starting to toast only on one side. This was a great toaster when new, but like everything else these days, just doesn't last.

While wandering aimlessly in The Bay, the Gordon Ramsay Professional 2 slice toaster caught my eye. What a beauty! Huge, overbuilt, quality stainless enclosure, and interestingly not very expensive at $70 Canadian.

Since most toasters are underpowered, I immediately flipped over the unit and saw it was rated 1200 watts, wow! Probably the most powerful 2 slice on the market. Next, hidden elements! The box claimed a novel "mica board" heating system for even toasting.  I had never seen this before and thought it was an interesting idea. Finally the toaster had the option of turning off one of the slots for toasting a single slice, which demonstrated that energy efficiency was a design priority. Since I am a bit of a fan of Gordon Ramsay's TV shows, and given his reputation as a stickler for quality, he would probably not lend his name to a poorly-performing appliance. All around this was a compelling package at an attractive price, and I bought one.

Getting the toaster unpacked and the controls figured out was straightforward and did not require the supplied instructions. I ran the toaster through a couple of cycles to break it in, then popped in a slice of bread. I bake all of our bread, and sliced off a fairly thick slab to see if the "extra wide" slots would accommodate it. Not a problem. Normally my bread is quite slow to toast with the Cuisinart on maximum dark, but the Gordon Ramsay had my toast ready in a tad shy of 3 minutes.

Except there was a problem. The top of the bread wasn't toasted. I chopped off another slab and dropped it in...noticing now that the mechanism didn't lower the bread completely into the slot. Considering the huge vertical size of the toaster and the available room inside, I thought this was kind of dumb. Our Cuisinart 4-slice being quite a bit more compact than the Gordon Ramsay would toast oversize bread, even the "Texas BBQ" style that you often find at the supermarket.

So this now meant putting the toaster on a slightly lower toast setting, waiting it to pop up, and turning the bread over to toast the top. While the "mica board" system gave even toast, I would say that it was too even, resulting in a rather bland toast. Since bread flavor changes depending on done-ness, a nice variation (grill lines) will always result in much more flavor complexity. And not only that, the hidden, indirect heating seemed to take just as much time as our lower-powered Cuisinart, which to me seemed to result in dry toast.

Needless to say I was quite disappointed in what was a shockingly poor design from a functional point of view. And I really wonder how much value Mr. Ramsay is adding to the products that are bearing his name. So now this means perhaps Mr. Gordon Ramsay is all about the show? Shame on him for selling out.

The toaster went back today, and the quest continues. I'm wondering if and when Dyson will decide to come out with a toaster...

This toaster is identical to the Bella Professional 90001 by Sensio.  The Gordon Ramsay version is primarily a U.K. product, with the Hudson Bay Company in Canada having an exclusive.