Ok, what was I thinking buying a $300 toaster??? I asked myself that question as I was driving to the store to buy it, as I was staring at the store display, as I was handing my credit card to the cashier, as I was driving home, and as I was unpacking it. Any doubts I had were erased when I produced & ate my very first Dualit Combi grilled roast beef and cheese sandwich. Incredible! It was only the next day at breakfast when my doubts resurfaced... more on that later.
Recommend this product?
I bought this toaster after my Cuisinart toaster started dying (see my review http://www.epinions.com/content_26426183300) After having gone through 2 toasters in the last 7 years I thought it was time to get one that would last a while. Browsing through all the reviewed toasters, I noticed that there were a couple of models that stood out... they were Dualit's. So I did some more research and found they were used quite extensively in restaurants. I thought that was a good thing since most restaurants buy things that last even if they pay a little more. So I bit.
I bought the toaster at Williams-Sonoma (the exclusive US Dualit dealer.) Yeah, I paid full price ($319) but if I didn't like it, I could return it for a replacement or refund. As it turns out, I will be taking them up on their offer to return it.
The first thing you notice about the Dualit is that it's heavy. As you remove it from its box, you are immediately drawn to its beauty. This is one good looking toaster. Very simple and sleek retro design. Compared to my old Cuisinart, this thing is huge and may take up more counter space than your used to. The craftsmanship is superb and you can tell that a lot of time and experience went into building it. They say that one English craftsman builds the toaster from start to finish. If there is one toaster that would last a lifetime, this one's it.
The controls are very simple. You'll see two rocker switches... these control the heating elements in the sandwich slot and the toast slots. You'll need to make sure that you set these correctly or you may end up with untoasted bread. If you only want to toast one piece of bread, you'll need to use the sandwich slot. Next you'll see the timer... the longer you set the timer for the darker your toast. It may take you a while to find the right timer setting for the type of toast you're making. As you're making your very first piece of toast you'll notice that when the timer ends (there is no bell!) the toast stays in the toaster and does NOT pop up. This turns out to be a good thing as it's actually keeping your toast warm (for up to 10 minutes.) The timer is noisy, so it's easy to tell when the toast is done cooking. To eject your toast, just push down on the lever on the front of the toaster, and your toast might actually pop up (I say might because I had some bad experiences with this. More later.) When your toast does come out, it will be toasted to perfection. I should also point out that as your toast is toasting, you'll hear lots of snapping and popping sounds. That's just the heating elements doing their thing.
The Sandwich Maker! Ok, this was the most intriguing feature of this toaster for me. The idea that you could make a toasted cheese sandwich in your toaster is truly incredible. As I mentioned above, my first experience with this toaster was with the sandwich maker. I grabbed a loaf of sliced sourdough bread, buttered two slices, slapped on a piece of cheese and some sliced roast beef, placed it in the sandwich cage (something to hold your sandwich together as it goes into the toaster), closed it and then dropped it into the sandwich slot. I actually shouldn't say dropped it into the slot, I squeezed it into the slot. The slot's about an inch wide and so once you take into consideration the thickness of the sandwich cage, you have about 3/4" left for sandwich makings. Not much. So I squeezed my sandwich into the slot and set the timer... 3 minutes later I had an awesome sandwich. My wife tried a variation of this sandwich but without buttering the bread. It too, turned out great (and lower in fat.) I wondered what kind of cheesy mess was in the bottom of the toaster, but remarkably there was none. If there had been, I could have easily pulled out the crumb tray and cleaned it up.
My second experience with my new toaster wasn't so great. The next morning I made breakfast... a toasted bagel. The toast slots aren't as wide as the sandwich slot is (a little less than an inch) and so I was a little worried about my bagel fitting in. Sure enough, it was a tight fit... I had to push it down into the toaster and when it was done toasting, the toast ejector had a real hard time pushing it back up. Ok, minor problem, but one I was willing to overlook. The next day I tried making some regular toast with some sourdough bread. The slices were about 5 inches long and would not fit in the slots. Maybe I was used to my Cuisinart with one super wide and super long slot, but I was really upset that I had to cut my bread down to fit into the toaster. You've only got about 4 1/2" to play with. Alright, another minor problem, but I wasn't ready to give up yet. The next day I made some cinnamon raisin bread. This bread is small, about 3x3x1/2". Great, finally some bread that will fit! Everything was going fine until I pushed down on the ejector lever. No bread!!! Peering into the slots, I saw that the bread had been squished between the ejector arm and the side of the slot. It would not come out. Unplugging the toaster, I resorted to using a knife to pry the pieces out. As I looked down at my well toasted but trampled pieces of raisin bread, I made up my mind to take this toaster back.
This toaster has so much going for it that it's a shame to take it back. Dualit did a lot of stuff right, but the issues I described above make it unacceptable for me. If you're someone who makes regular toast (4x4" bread) this toaster is the ultimate. But if you make odd sized toast, I would definitely try this toaster, but you probably won't find it satisfactory.
There is hope however. After browsing several UK internet stores, I find that Dualit has come out with new models. These new toasters have extra-wide slots ~1 1/8", that expand and contract to accept just about any type of bread. And, you can also make sandwiches in any slot, not just one. If this model ever comes to the US, I'll be first in line to buy it.
Amount Paid (US$): 319