I’m a bit of a self-professed toast perfectionist; an ideal piece of toast, in my opinion, should have a golden brown top and a satisfying crunch, while still retaining a soft and fluffy middle.

Sadly, finding a good toaster to make the perfect slice of toast is a real challenge. It seems like most toasters make me go through two cycles just to get it right, leaving me with dry, overdone bread.

TikTok Toaster

That’s where the TikTok-famous Balmuda toaster comes in. I’ve always been a fan of the popular Japanese toaster, having heard great things about its magical toasting capabilities, sleek appearance, and, of course, the cute little mini water cup that accompanies the toaster.

The Balmuda Toaster

And, knowing that the iconic appliance is now officially available on our shores, it felt like all my wishes were answered. The Balmuda toaster, as I learned from its experts, doesn’t just simply toast my bread: It gently warms it by steaming, bringing out its rich flavours and hidden notes. Die-hard fans of the appliance would say it’s not just a gadget – it’s the ultimate bread toaster that could revolutionise how we enjoy our toast.

Besides my humble piece of morning toast, the Balmuda is also able to toast other members of the bread family, including baguettes, bagels and croissants, as well as revive leftover pastries and pizza, thanks to its unique steam-powered technology.

However, good things come with hair-raising price tags: The toaster costs $539 in Singapore. I’m certainly not opposed to a kitchen appliance changing my life, but is this magical toaster worth its steep price?

Here’s my review of the Balmuda toaster after using it for a week.

Image from Balmuda

The Balmuda Toaster Design

If you’re unfamiliar with the Balmuda toaster oven, here’s the lowdown: It’s a compact appliance that goes beyond conventional toasting by incorporating steam into the heating process.

The steam enters through a top vent – just fill the provided small cup of water and pour it into a metal basin at the toaster’s top.

Toaster with steam function

Essentially, the process, detailed in the user manual, unfolds throughout the entire cooking duration. Steam is introduced as the oven warms up, saturating the chamber with moisture at a low heat. The temperature then gradually rises, levelling off at a moderate setting for even browning. In the final stretch, as the steam diminishes, the heat intensifies, delivering that sought-after “Maillard reaction” (meaning: the 137°C bread browning effect).

Balmuda asserts that this steam infusion enhances the flavour of toast and, through the marriage of moisture and heat, improves its texture.

Professional bread baking technique

While the notion of a toaster oven with a steamer may seem unconventional, steam has a well-established role in baking.

High-end bakery ovens use steam injection for that perfectly crisp baguette crust. Even the technique of placing a sourdough boule in a Dutch oven with the lid on during the initial hour of baking creates a steam chamber, trapping moisture for the bread’s rise. That extra bit of moisture is also the trick to breathing new life into day-old bread.

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Image by Balmuda

Balmuda Toaster for Bread

Does it actually make better toast?

Yes! (My excitement has to be conveyed through an exclamation mark.)

It’s amazing – the first time I tried it with a humble slice of white, plain bread, the result was perfect toast: golden brown and crunchy edges with a soft centre.

Good toaster for ‘Shokupan’

People were also raving about how the Balmuda handles shokupan, Japanese milk bread that’s sweet, soft and typically cut in thicker slices (an absolute dream). I got my hands on a loaf of bread from Asanoya Boulangerie, toasted a big piece, and it was magical.

The warm toast – with a beautifully browned outer crumb and a fluffy interior – paired with butter, a sprinkle of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and a sprinkle of green seaweed flakes for an added umami taste? Heaven.

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Image by Balmuda

Balmuda Toaster Functions

In Singapore, the Balmuda toaster oven model here boasts four preset modes: toast, cheese toast, baguette and croissant. (This seems to differ from different regions and continents, I’ve seen models with a dedicated ‘pizza’ mode, for example).

Bread and pastries

Additionally, the Balmuda also features a classic oven mode with fixed temperature settings at 170°C, 200°C and 250°C. Notably, the steam function only works for bread and pastries. The timer goes up to 15 minutes, so longer cooking times do require a reset.

Croissant

The croissant mode is a life-changer for me – day-old croissants never usually taste the same as when they are fresh from the bakery, but the Balmuda ensures that my day-old croissants are still fluffy, buttery and flaky as they were the day I bought them.

I’ve also tested the toaster with fresh ciabattas from Bread and Hearth, one of my absolute favourite bakeries, and boy, it tastes delicious, especially as an accompaniment to heartier stews.

Pizza and cheese

Have pizza leftovers? No problem, the Balmuda can handle it as well. Pizza is notoriously the most problematic dish to reheat, but using Balmuda’s cheese toast mode delivered excellent results – a crispy bottom, gooey cheese, and a flavorful, chewy crust, resembling the fresh, hot-from-the-box pizza experience.

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Image by Balmuda

Balmuda Toaster Price

The Balmuda is undeniably a stunning piece of design, with its elegant matte finish imparting a luxurious feel that definitely elevates your kitchen countertops.

However, the Balmuda is not perfect (though maybe with a $539 sticker price it ought to be). ​​One notable limitation is its capacity, for the toaster can only accommodate no more than two slices of regular bread. While I appreciate the idea of small-batch oven dishes, the Balmuda’s size can seem impractical for some.

Balmuda Toaster Disadvantages

Even toasting from top to bottom can also be an issue – having used the toaster for a week, I noticed that the top of the slice would typically come out a few shades darker than the bottom. While this can be remedied by flipping the slice and giving it an extra minute or two, it would be preferable not to have to do this.

How many minutes to toast bread?

The trick to mastering the Balmuda is to find the optimal cook time (a skill that comes with practice). The “sweet spot” for most items falls between three and five minutes, adjusting for thickness. It can also handle frozen items with a few extra minutes for thawing. If you overtoast, there’s no way to fix it, but if you undercook, you can run the cycle again without steam for a minute or two until it reaches the desired toasting level.

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Image by Balmuda

The Balmuda Toaster Review

Yes, but let me explain: I don’t want to make bold promises – like the fervent TikTok testimonials claiming that the Balmuda toaster oven will revolutionise your life – it’s a toaster oven after all, not a new heart.

It also does not work miracles – the result when the timer bell dings will only be as good as the item was on the day it was made; it can’t turn frozen-dough crescent rolls into authentic French croissants.

However, as they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the Balmuda toaster certainly produces breakfast foods that sets the tone of the day for me. Throughout my testing, it consistently impressed with its diverse modes, excelling not only with fresh items but also breathing new life into less-than-fresh ones.

The Balmuda’s ability in transforming days-old pastries and bread into fresh(-er) delights is a testament to its remarkable capabilities. Yes, it comes with a price tag, but for those seeking an elevated toasting experience, every penny spent on the Balmuda is an investment in toast perfection.

Plus, with the festive season around the corner, the gift of good bread makes for a pretty awesome gift (both for yourself or a loved one), if you ask me.

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Balmuda Toaster Oven is available for $539 directly from Balmuda, and in black and white from the Best Denki storefront at Shopee.

This article was originally published in HerWorld.

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