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As part of Cooking Week, we set out to test some of the most niche (and, in some cases, ridiculous) kitchen gadgets we could find. We wanted to know if these impressive-looking appliances actually do what they claim and if they’re worth the splurge. These are our findings.

Some devices, through their longevity, ubiquity, market saturation and the frightening power of economies of scale, have become essentially unimprovable. Among these, arguably, is the humble toaster — a product which has in the 130-odd years since its invention become so thoroughly standardized and affordable that most consumers probably could not tell you what brand of the thing is sitting on their kitchen counter. They all do the same thing (turn bread into crunchy bread) and they’re all somewhere in the neighborhood of $30.

Does such a device truly need to be improved upon? The team at Revolution evidently believe so, or one assumes they would not have spent time and money developing the InstaGLO R270 smart toaster.

Out of the box, the InstaGLO’s distractingly bright touchscreen has a number of settings for the level of desired toasting based on different kinds of bread (sourdough, multigrain, bagel, etc.) or different states of bread readiness (fresh, frozen, reheat.) Then again, so does my fully analog $30 Cuisinart. And in the defense of the cheaper option, I’d feel comfortable with and capable of disassembling that toaster and replacing anything that broke while the InstaGLO presents an impenetrable enigma of unnecessary engineering complications.

The foremost of these is perhaps the most obvious feature upon use: there’s no lever AKA the sticky-outie plastic tab you press down to carry the bread into its miniature furnace. Tapping ‘BEGIN’ on the front plate sends the bread gently downward all on its own, and shortly thereafter the same mechanism levitates it back up to a comfortable grabbing height, “so you never have to reach into the toaster with a fork again,” so says Revolution’s marketing copy. Grabbing hot food from the toaster has never presented much of an obstacle for me — perhaps I’m just built different! — but that is a problem easily solved by wooden toast tongs, which can be had for around $5. Or leftover takeout chopsticks, for free. Or just allowing the passage of time to cool the toast to a handleable temperature. Also free. (I can’t recommend sticking a metal fork into an electrical device.)

Bryan Menegus / Engadget

Of course if moving carbohydrates up and down a few inches was its only selling point the InstaGLO would be a transparent racket. No, the foremost stated innovation is faster heating, which Revolution claims “sears” bread rather than drying it out — crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, or so I’m told. While it certainly does manage to put a frozen slice of country wheat through the Maillard reaction a bit faster, whatever promises of a softer interior had been made were either unrealized or undetectable by my toast-stuffed mouth. And if several hundred dollars of unrealized toast dreams are already burning a hole in your pocket, maybe try one of those steam-based ones that were (are?) popular in Japan. Never tried it, but I hear good things.

It’s possible — likely even — that there are more discerning toast …….


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