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How Does a Toaster Work: A guide to prepare delicious toasties

How does a toaster work

I am confident you have heard the mantra that breakfast is the most essential meal of the day. Most individuals, I asked, agreed that the quality of their 1st meal during the day will have a huge effect on how the rest of their day will play out.

With that in mind, even though the category of breakfast meals is quite broad, one of the most popular and standard varieties of breakfast across the globe is toast with eggs and coffee: and that is where the best toasters come into play.

If you love toasties, and like all Americans, think of it as an essential part of every morning, then owning the fastest toaster in the market is not something you would likely question. It is simply one of those appliances that will make a kitchen feeling empty if it is missing.

Having said that, I know you agree with me, and that is why you are here wanting to learn how to best use your toaster.

Before getting to that section of the post, let us better understand the appliance itself.

Straight out of the box

As you may already know, a regular toaster operates by electricity. Unlike when you are using a conventional oven (which may run on gas) you don’t get multiple options with a regular toaster.

So, when you take out the appliance, all you ought to do is plug it into the closest power outlet and start using it. Bear in mind that the power cord for regular toasters is usually shorter for safety reasons.

This implies that you should be prepared to place the appliance to a space on your counter where it will be close to a power outlet. And in case the toaster you get does not have a cool to the touch exterior, then ensure there is enough space around it because it will get quite hot during operations and will need time to cool down after the process.

How does a toaster work

A toaster also retails with additional accessories such as removable and dishwasher safe crumb tray. For those who are not accustomed to this part, it is the one that will collect all the dirt and debris that falls off your toasted slices.

It is there to make cleaning easier. To clean it, all you need to do is take it out and wipe it clean using a damp cloth. But when the toaster is brand new, take all the accessories out and thoroughly wash them then turn on your toaster and let it run by itself.

Most brands recommend this because it is the best way to get rid of the smell kitchen appliances have when you acquire them.

With that out of the way, let us skip to the main section of the post.

How does a toaster work?

When you press the handle and lower your bread slices, a wedge in the toaster forces two contacts together. These are the ones that connect the power supply to nichrome wires that have electricity around plates called mica sheets.

Like any wires in your house, nichrome wires conduct electricity. However, most wires made of metals convey electricity way better compared to nichrome. Basically, electricity will pass through a wire easily, which further allows them to be used in various appliances.

With nichrome wires, however, electricity isn’t delivered as efficiently as it is by copper. This implies that all the energy from the power cord cannot be transferred down the nichrome wire. So, instead, all this energy is converted into heat.

That is why you will realize that the same kind of heating elements are used together with fans in household hair dryers. The heated-up nichrome wires will heat up anything around them, including your bread slices.

The amount of time the bread slices spend close to the wires determines to what level they will be toasted. And if you leave the slices in for too long, then they will turn completely black and maybe even start to smoke and catch on fire.

That said, if you are using one of the best modern toasters, then it has been designed with safety features that will allow it to stop on their own and ensure this does not happen. Better yet, if you acquire the best pop up toaster, it will cause the toasted slices to pop up out of the toaster when they have been sufficiently toasted.

If the toaster you have acquired retails with a timer, then all you ought to do is set it and it will automatically shut off when the timer runs out.

When your slices have been sufficiently toasted, simply press the high lift lever. This will raise the slices high enough to retrieve them without burning your fingers.

Below is a guide of the steps you have to take while toasting bread

Step 1: Plug in your toaster in a power outlet

When you place your toaster close to a power outlet, plug it in and turn it on. Also, remember to always unplug your toaster when you’re not using it. Leaving it connected can easily result in accidental fires (even though this is not common.)

How does a toaster work

Step 2: Put in slices of your choice (these could be bagel, English Muffin, or bread slices)

Place the slices inside the empty space of the slots. The direction you place them is not really important, but I like placing my slices facing upwards. You only have to pay attention to this, when you want to use the bagel setting, which will only toast one side of the bread.

Step 3: Select the toasting level you would like to avail and press down the lever

All the best modern toasters retail with options that let you choose the level to which you would like your toasties browned. You will usually find this knob on the front side if you are using a 2-slice toaster and on the side if you are using one of the best 4-slice toasters.

Also, note that the higher the number you select, the more your toasties will be toasted. And the lower the number you select, the lighter the slices will be toasted. Once you have selected the level, go ahead and pull down the lever.

Step 4: Wait for the toast to be toasted

At this point, you will realize that the toaster is glowing red inside. This means that it has started working and you shouldn’t put anything else inside it. Be patient, and when the slices have been sufficiently toasted, pull up the main lever so you can easily retrieve them.

Step 5: Unplug the toaster and enjoy your breakfast

If you are using one of the best fast toasters, the entire process shouldn’t take more than three minutes. And when you have retrieved your slices, always remember to unplug the toaster from the power outlet.

How to use the other settings on your Toaster

If you have already acquired your regular toaster, then you may have noticed that some, or all of the following settings have been included on the appliance:

  • Defrost
  • Bagel
  • Reheat

Let us look at what they do.

1. Defrost

This setting is there to take the guesswork out of toasting frozen bread slices. When activated, the setting will add a little bit of time to the toasting cycle so your toaster can first defrost your slices before browning them. This eliminates the need of waiting for the slices to thaw on their own first.

That said, extensively review the user manual that comes with your appliance because some toaster models require you to lower the bread before pressing the defrost button whereas others require you to do it the other way.

2. Bagel

If you’re a fan of bagels, then acquiring a toaster without the bagel setting isn’t an option. Usually, this setting turns off the heating elements on one side of the toaster so only the cut side of the slices get toasted.

How does a toaster work

Some toaster models will also adjust the time it takes to accommodate the thickness of the bagel.

3. Reheat

When you have leftover toasties, you would like to consume, put them back into the toaster and activate the reheat setting. The toaster will then warm up your slices without browning them any further. The entire reheating process should take approximately 40 seconds and they will be as fresh as the newly made ones.


There you have it, a detailed guide explaining how a toaster works and how you can efficiently use one yourself. If you still haven’t acquired a toaster yet, then here are several posts I think you may appreciate: best fast toasters, best retro toasters, best 2-slice toasters, best commercial toasters.

And in case your goal is to learn more about the appliances, then check out this comparison post on Toasters vs Toaster Ovens. It is really enlightening.

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