Welcome to The Esquire Endorsement. Heavily researched. Thoroughly vetted. These picks are the best way to spend your hard-earned cash.
Pull up a chair, have a seat, and prepare for a tough question. Have you ever really—like really—questioned your relationship with toast? We all know toast is one of the most flawless foods devised by humans. Crunchy, comforting, and exalted on social media, it’s about as perfect as food can get. But what if I told you there was a new way, a better way, to transform bread into something that actually transcends toast?
The Balmuda Toaster Oven is a device that can help you achieve toasty nirvana. Sold now in the United States for the first time, the kitchen gadget attracted an almost cult-like following in Japan and South Korea for years due to its use of steam to imbue any starchy product with an almost impossible balance of crispiness and warm fluff. Here's how.
It's one small(ish) step for toaster ovens.
Using the Balmuda, which is about the size of a small microwave, goes something like this: You pour 5ccs of water into a tiny slot at the top of the toaster, then pop in your breadstuffs. (Don’t know how much 5ccs is? Don’t fret. The Balmuda comes with a tiny measuring cup.) There are two dials on the front of the toaster; one is for temperature, the other is a timer. You crank the temp, set the timer, and the Balmuda gets to work, making pleasant whistling sounds as it steams your bread. Then the heating coils click on and that bread is roasted to a golden brown.
And one giant leap for toast.
I've tossed practically every baked good in my house into the Balmuda—French bread, croissants, pizza, muffins—and while all of them emerged delicious with crispy exteriors and warm, steamy interiors, there were two exemplary standouts. The first was sliced brioche bread. Brioche, as you may or may not be aware, is made with high amounts of egg, butter, and sugar. On its own, brioche is fluffy, sweet, incredibly unhealthy, and also completely satisfying. But as toast it’s especially tasty, since the high sugar content means the exterior takes on a rich, almost caramelized flavor.
To get an outside perspective on the quality of the toast coming out of the Balmuda, I invited my friend Kevin over for some socially distant brioche toast. Here’s something you need to understand about Kevin: He’s obsessed with toasters. This year alone he’s cycled through seven(!) different models trying to find the perfect one. (He has yet to throw down on a Balmuda, however.) I served him some brioche toast topped with room temperature Irish butter and fresh jam. He took a bite, stopped chewing, muttered, “God damn it,” and went on to devour his slice. After finishing he sat in silence for a moment, then looked up at me and said, “I think that’s the best homemade toast I’ve ever had. Fuck.”
If brioche bread is one of the most indulgent breads you can eat, then Dave’s Killer Bread is one of the healthiest. I typically keep my house stocked with Dave’s 21 Whole Grains and Seeds, which, while packed with nutrients, emerges from conventional toasters tasting like cardboard with the consistency of a hockey puck. I inserted a couple of slices of slightly stale 21 Whole Grains and Seeds into the Balmuda, and somehow the steam injection made the bread taste fairly fresh yet crunchy when it emerged. Munching my killer toast with peanut butter, banana, and a little sea salt, I realized that even bread that had gone past its expiration date could be easily resurrected.
It handles more than toast.
There’s really not much to complain about with the Balmuda. You can’t argue with its performance or its beautiful design. It's also so adept at reheating leftovers—pasta, dumplings, even veggies—that you may even consider ditching your microwave. My only real gripe is the tiny 5cc measuring cup. It’s cute, but there’s no place to stow it on the Balmuda. I once lost my car keys in my own car, so it’s only a matter of time before that cup pulls a D.B. Cooper and disappears forever.
Look, I know $300 for a toaster oven might seem borderline absurd right now. But we’re also spending a lot more time at home these days, and no one knows when we’ll be able to go back out again. Life has changed, permanently, and we have to reevaluate, reorder, and reassemble. A device that’s not just evolutionary but revolutionary for toast seems like a solid cornerstone for the new foundation as we build this brave new world.
Photography and prop styling by Allie Holloway
You Might Also Like