At some time or another, you’ve probably had a run-in with a cheap toaster that was only built to break.
The kind of price point you can expect for a toaster now is seriously astounding. At the time of writing, Argos is selling a two-slot toaster on its website for just £9.99. But as we all know, the true cost lies in these shoddily-made items using up resources, before being sent straight to landfill after a matter of months.
Toasters, by nature, can be prone to breaking. They have many moving parts, draw a lot of energy and are subject to all sorts of things being jammed into them (namely irregular chunks of bread or a risky butter knife). The failure points are familiar: the lever won’t stay down, one side won’t toast, the eject button stops working. Repair is out of the question, as the unit hasn’t been built for disassembly - and at such a low price point, why bother?
So, in the bin it goes. Certainly, spending a tenner on a toaster once or twice a year doesn’t seem like bad value, but the environmental implications are quite chilling. Whatever happened to well-made things?
A toaster made to last
British engineering legends Dualit are one of those rare companies proving to us that the old adage ‘they don’t make ‘em like they used to’ isn’t always the case. They’ve been around since 1945, and their durable toasters are still handbuilt in West Sussex - each toaster has the name of the person who assembled it on its underside.
This father and son company believe firmly in well-made products that are made to last, and they have a slough of awards to prove it. That, and endless testimonials from people who have had their toasters for years - generations even - and still making perfect toast.
Originally designed for the catering industry, Dualit toasters have been made to withstand the demands of a commercial kitchen. However, their performance and longevity, combined with a beautiful utilitarian design, has caused them to become incredibly popular as a domestic product too. To this day, the Dualit Classic Toaster is considered a design icon - and half of all Dualit products are still bought by commercial restaurants and hotels.
In stark contrast to the prevailing trend of planned obsolescence we’re seeing in all sorts of appliances, Dualit products are made to be repaired, not thrown away. Because the toasters are hand-built by people and not machines, each part is held together with visible screws. This system not only makes the toaster robust, it’s also easy to disassemble and repair - a service Dualit provides for a very fair fee. Spare parts are also readily available on Dualit’s website, so if you’re handy, you can even do it yourself.
The mechanical nature of a Dualit helps give it a long life. Contemporary electronically-controlled toasters contain a circuit board, with an automatic ‘pop-up’ mechanism. The Dualit Classic toasters, on the other hand, employ a mechanical timer and manual lever to lift the toast from the slots. This means simpler repairs, less to go wrong and a satisfying clunky feel that you just can’t replicate by other means.
The ProHeat element
The crowning achievement of Dualit’s toaster innovations is their patented ProHeat element, which has earned the company a Millenium award. It has a high density of heating wires in the element, which creates speedy and even toasting. Unlike a regular heating element, which is left exposed, Dualit’s are armour-plated with a layer of mica, protecting the heating wire from damage.
Dualit engineer their elements out of the highest grade of mica (a naturally-occurring silica compound which can have impurities). This is crucial to the performance of the toaster: no impurities means no hotspots. Hotspots not only cause uneven toasting, but might spell an untimely death for your toaster’s element.
Beyond repairability and next-level heating elements, Dualit have managed to pack a whole load of features into their toasters, without resorting to bells and whistles.
- An energy-efficient slot-selector control knob allows you to only toast what you need
- Manually operated ejector lever lets you check bread whilst toasting
- Bagel setting warms on one side and toasts the other
- Defrost setting gently warms frozen bread ready for toasting
- An adjustable rear foot compensates for uneven surfaces, so your toaster always sits level
- High lift mechanism to remove small items easily, such as English muffins
- The extra wide slots (28mm) accommodate large items
- Removable crumb tray for easy cleaning
The Dualit range
Although best-known for their toasting expertise, Dualit have a whole range of products which they’ve applied their engineering principles to. From kettles to coffee machines, every Dualit product has been made with function and longevity in mind.
The multi-patented Classic Kettle, for instance, features a replaceable heating element that means you could feasibly have your kettle for decades. It’s quiet too - Dualit’s Whisper Boil™ function has been awarded the Quiet Mark by the Noise Abatement Society. Combined with superfast heating, a precision-engineered non-drip spout, extra-durable hinged lid and double measuring windows (for cups or litres!), it seems as if Dualit have thought of everything.
An increasingly rare breed
“No frills. No gimmicks. No compromise.” That’s the Dualit ethos. Dualit’s hard-won reputation in the catering industry has resulted in products that are built to last, where performance comes first and reliability is an integral part of their design. Perhaps this freedom from consumer trends is how the company has managed to stay independent, family-owned and UK-based.
Finding a Buy Me Once electrical appliance is a challenge, and companies like Dualit are becoming rarer than ever. When you can buy a toaster for a tenner, it’s not hard to understand why consumers have stopped thinking about long-term value. However, it’s not just about saving money across the decades you could have your Dualit toaster for. It’s about having a product that performs exceptionally well, that you look after and cherish, that you know isn’t destined for the bin.