My family loves to travel back to Asia, especially to Japan. Given that travelling is not an option at the moment, we’ve been finding ways to recreate our favourite travel-inspired dishes at home. This includes something as simple as a thick, fluffy piece of toast (AKA shokupan) with butter – a treat we enjoyed so much at a small café we stumbled upon in the city of Fukuoka, Japan.
Since discovering shokupan, I’ve been on an odyssey to find the best fluffy loaf in Canada to recreate the experience at home, but I soon realized an essential component was the toaster. On our last trip to Japan, we noticed that a majority of our favourite cafés used the Balmuda Toaster, and I’d been toying with the idea of splurging on one ever since. After a year of the pandemic (and some research), I pulled the trigger on the purchase. For the record, this was before the Balmuda Toaster became a TikTok and Instagram sensation (in the past few months, I’ve noticed the compact little toaster popping up on my social media feeds more and more, most recently with TikTok megastar Emily Mariko unboxing one for her 9.4 million followers). So, is the $500 toaster worthy of its price tag? Read on to find out.
Balmuda Toaster, amazon.ca, $542.
What makes this Japanese-designed toaster revolutionary is that it utilizes steam technology and precise temperature control to enhance even the most basic of things: a piece of toast. With the five cc (cubic centimetres) of water that’s poured in the keyhole before every use, the oven heats up rapidly, while the steam locks in the bread’s moisture and aroma and lightly crisps the surface to give it that IG-worthy golden brown finish. With this steam method, the food’s natural flavours are retained without losing its shape and texture. Although technically the Balmuda Toaster is not distributed in Canada, it is available to buy via Amazon. Available in black or white, the compact oven measures at 32.1 x 35.7 x 20.9cm, which means it won’t take up too much of your counter space.
Easy to use
Before every use, fill the 5 cc cup of water and pour it into the keyhole (unless you’re in oven mode, but more on that later). Although it differs depending which Balmuda Toaster edition you have, there’s an icon for every mode–sandwich bread, artisan bread, pizza and pastry. Depending on what you’re toasting or reheating, choose your mode. If you’re in Oven Mode, you can choose the specific temperature you need to reheat or bake your food. Then you simply set the timer to the desired time, and press start. It doesn’t get simpler than that.
The good ol’ steam
The steam function is the game-changing feature that has everyone is so hyped about this toaster. Thanks to the steam technology, it retains the food’s original shape, holds the moisture in and preserves the natural crunch (read: no more crouton-esque toasts). Even day-old bread, croissants and pizza can taste like they’re fresh from the oven. It’s also super satisfying to watch the oven steam up.
Easy to clean
Like all nice things, you want to keep this toaster in tip-top shape, so it’s highly recommended to clean after every use. Luckily, the oven is compact and the crumb-catcher tray, toasting rack and boiler cover are removable. You just have to take them out to clean and wipe down the interior of the oven with a soft cloth–very efficient.
Available in black and white on Amazon, the simple and minimalist design can get everyone on board. It’s not clunky and doesn’t take up much counter space. It’s like the ‘90s Easy-Bake Oven, but for grown-ups. Who doesn’t love that?
The calibration isn’t perfect
Be mindful of the suggested heating times for each mode found on the top of the machine–it’s not as streamlined as one would think. For white toast, Balmuda advises to switch to the ‘sandwich mode’ and toast for 2.5 minutes to 4 minutes, but I’ve tried that for even the thickest of toasts (a 1-inch slice), and it completely burned the top. Although the recipe has proved to be a good guideline, play around with the settings to suit your food and preference.
Manually pouring water before every use
The novelty of pouring the little 5 cc cup of water into the keyhole before every use eventually wears off. It can get tedious, especially if I have to make toast for the whole family, and they each want two slices for breakfast!
No steam option for oven mode
The steam isn’t used in oven mode, which means even though you can cook lasagna or any other frozen foods, steaming your food is not an option. Adding water in this mode can cause buildup in the boiler and lead to a malfunction.
This may not affect you, and to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t affect me either. But something about the decibel of the beep drives my dog crazy, and she will run away at the sound of it. She literally hides on the top floor in my bedroom in the corner of my closet to get as far away from it as possible.
A $500 toaster oven may not be within everyone’s budget, but if it is, I think it’s worth it. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, my kitchen has never looked chicer. But it’s also changed my breakfast game: As someone who desperately misses her café outings in Japan, being able to recreate the toast I enjoyed so much on these trips has brought me endless joy as of late (and we all need a little joy right now). Without question, this toaster oven trumps any regular old toaster. However, it’s worth noting that a convection toaster oven with a steamer mode could likely recreate this experience if you’re looking for an alternative on a smaller budget. Because even though this toaster can be used to cook or bake without the steam function, I still rely on my regular convection oven for those tasks. That said, my trusty little Balmuda Toaster has been my go-to for sparking joy in the kitchen, and I couldn’t recommend it more.
Editor’s Note: Be mindful of which version of the Balmuda Toaster you’re shopping for on Amazon, as the US version has a few different cooking modes than the Japan domestic version. The Japanese domestic version only has instructions and manuals in Japanese.
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