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Robb Recommends: The $330 Japanese Toaster That Works Even Better Than It Looks

Balmuda uses steam to outdo any previous toaster you've had.

Balmuda the toaster Photo: courtesy Balmuda
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It didn’t seem like toast (or as my two-year-old son calls it, “hot bread”) needed to be rethought. Sometimes it’s good to be proven wrong.

In 2003, Gen Terao created the design firm Balmuda in Tokyo. They’d come to create elegant little household appliances like speakers, lanterns, fans and kettles. Until recently, these smartly designed gadgets could be found in Japan, but not the US. However, Balmuda has recently started offering their little electric kettle and their toaster oven Stateside. So I thought I’d give their $330 “The Toaster” a try.

Usually my hot bread is crisped by two dueling heating elements inside a aluminum box and I call it good. It’s all I’ve known for [age redacted] years and I was fine with it. What Balmuda’s does that’s different is it first steams the bread and then toasts it. I started by throwing a couple slices inside the oven and adding a little bit of water to the steam chamber then watched the window fog up and then dissipate before the temperature jumps up and finishes the job. That little bit of steam at the beginning works wonders though. Even some cheap supermarket bread I put in there ended up having an even crispy exterior while maintaining a soft inside, providing a textural contrast that my previous toasters never came close to achieving.

There are a lot of fancy settings and instructions with the toaster, showing how it can reheat your pizza or help you with a tuna melt, and while those settings do work, it does point to one drawback to the oven: Its size. I wish it was a little bigger so it could be used more as an oven, or to heat up more than one slice of pizza at a time or be able to fit four slices of bread at a time like my more conventional toaster oven can do. But I’m willing to put up with it, because the toast is just better out of the Balmuda.

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