Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Best Toaster

SLATE ran a fun article today by Tom Bartlett entitled Toast of the Town. I sure didn't know that the key component in a toaster, Nichrome (which is what the heating elements are made from), was invented over 100 years ago by chemist Albert Leroy Marsh.

Anyway, Bartlett takes on the daunting task of picking the best toaster on the market today from a field of 8 top contenders. Nice review.

And if you want to learn even more about toasters, check out Toaster.org.


eisy said...

this has prompted me to ask (asking you, of course) a question i've always wondered about. i ask you because you seem to know absolutely everything and i think you should run your own advice column.
anyway, the question. why is it bad to fish out an english muffin with a metal knife? i do it all the time, have been doing it for 18 years and never have been electrocuted. what is the deal?
has doing this ever caused electrocution?

crazyinseattle said...

Well, after a little bit of research (even though I was already pretty convinced that it's risky AND dangerous to stick a knife into a plugged-in toaster), I found what I think is the best answer on The Straight Dope (see end of my comments for a direct link.

To quote them, "Inserting a metal knife or fork when the toaster is unplugged isn't recommended either. Although there's no immediate risk of electrocution, you could damage the toaster and create a future hazard. A toaster's heating coils are usually insulated from the metal chassis by a material called mica. Mica is a mineral with excellent thermal and electrically-insulating properties that make it well suited to this application. However, it's thin and brittle and if a sharp knife or fork pierces it and allows the coil to contact the chassis, you could cause a short leading to a blown fuse or, even worse, an electrically hot metal frame that could shock or electrocute someone.

Does that happen often? No, but it happens. The Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that on average 15 people are electrocuted in the U.S. annually due to faulty or misused home electrical appliances, including toasters. Why take a chance on being the 16th? If toast gets stuck, unplug the toaster, open the crumb door on the bottom, and use something dull and nonmetallic such as a wooden spoon handle to push the toast out from the bottom."