The package arrived with outsized anticipation. I had tipped off my daughter Meredith that something special was coming—an item that could enhance our lives in a way that felt as ridiculous as it was promising: a new toaster. But not just any toaster. This was a BALMUDA, an elegant device that touts “revolutionary technology” to deliver unparalleled texture and taste.
After removing the protective packaging and setting it on the counter, I ran my fingers over the black, brushed-metal frame. If felt sleek and luxurious, the toaster equivalent of a Mercedes S-Class sedan. This is a device, after all, that has earned numerous design citations, including Esquire‘s Gadget Award in 2020. After a quick scan of the directions, I put in two slices of thick rye bread from our local bakery, poured a teaspoon of water into the slot on top (more on that later), and waited for the magic to happen. We peered through the small window as the heating system started, the timer emitting a soft tick, tick, tick….
If all this sounds like hyperbole, understand that in our household, the toaster is the most frequently used small appliance. (Meredith, 12, and my 16-year-old son Pete haven’t started drinking coffee just yet.) Whether it’s frozen waffles for breakfast, a quick on-the-go lunch of peanut butter toast, or a midnight snack of cinnamon Pop Tarts, our toaster gets a workout. Yet despite its MVP status in our kitchen, a fancy, top-of-the-line model seemed excessive. We spent $400 on a used Vitamix blender, yet there aren’t enough smoothies in the world to equal the amount of bread products we feed into our 10-year-old toaster—a $40 budget model I purchased because a tech website I trust said it was good for bagels.
So, let’s get the sticker shock out of the way: the Japanese-designed BALMUDA toaster retails for $300. Why in the world would anyone spend that much on a toaster? Because, honestly, it has changed the vibe in our home in the early-morning hours. It may sound ludicrous, but everyone is happier and lighter in mood, because the damn toast tastes so much better!
INNOVATIVE STEAM TECHNOLOGY
To get that amazing taste, you pour in water which flows down to a heating coil and generates steam. Steam heats up much faster than air, so by using the steam at the beginning of the toasting cycle, the surface of the bread gets lightly toasted; this prevents the flavor and aroma from leaking out during the heating process. The toaster then cycles through three heating levels to achieve the perfect piece of toast. The bread is packed with flavor—crunchy but not burnt.
But what sets it apart from conventional toasters is the different heating modes you can choose from. There’s a mode for sandwich bread, one for artisanal bread (which tends be thicker and denser than supermarket brands), and pastry mode, which makes croissants taste like they came fresh from a Parisian patisserie. Where the BALMUDA toaster especially shines is in pizza mode. I refuse to put leftover pizza in the microwave because it turns into a gloppy mess, and a regular oven takes too long to preheat and turns the crust into cardboard. But this is a miracle worker. After three to four minutes, the pizza’s texture is almost as good as when it was removed from the box the night before. It’s astounding. Bagels also are phenomenal in pizza mode since most of the heat emanates from the top coil to give the surface some crunch while leaving the rest in all its chewy glory.
Every element of the appliance has been well thought out by the designers, down to the pleasing tick-tick-tick of the timer. BALMUDA Sales Director Shoko Fukuoka credits that innovation to company founder Gen Terao (a designer himself), who played in rock bands in Japan and is, therefore, attuned to sound quality. “We wanted a warm sound because it’s a busy time in the morning and many people are sleepy, grumpy, or nervous at the start of their day,” Fukuoka says. “We wanted to make that time when you prepare and eat your meals a happy, exciting atmosphere.”
Recalling our trial run with the BALMUDA toaster, Meredith and I waited eagerly as the different heating coils switched on and off. Time was running out, but the top of the bread still wasn’t the golden brown we had hoped to see. But with seconds left in the cooking cycle, a blast of heat gave the bread that wonderful caramel color. We were almost giddy. We removed the bread, slathered on some butter and each took a large bite. It was extraordinary, crunchy on top and bottom, light and fluffy on the inside. An absolute game changer. Meredith closed her eyes, savoring every second. “Dad,” she said, “this is the best $300 you have ever spent.”