When I moved to New York eight years ago, I got a crash course in bagels — where to find the best ones, what each spot's specialty was, and, the biggest shock of them all, which places didn't toast.
"Well, this must be some kind of silly mistake," I thought. "New Yorkers are serious about their bagels. So why in the world would some institutions skip the most crucial step?" The toasting of the bagel, in my humble opinion, is non-negotiable. Same goes for every single breakfast carb: English muffins, bread (also known as, you know, toast), fluffy rolls … come one, come all to the electric dunk tank of deliciousness. Everything that can be toasted should be toasted!
My Days as a Light Toaster
I wasn't always such a staunch advocate. At breakfast growing up, my father always horrified me by burning his English muffins to a tough, black char and then spreading jelly all over them like he wasn't eating a hockey puck. In contrast, I would put my own in the toaster just under the 1 setting — as far to the left as you could turn the dial and still push the lever down. (Perhaps I was subconsciously rebelling against my father's too-toasty ways?) The result was a barely warmed, soft English muffin, and my butter would sit atop it without spreading or melting, a stubborn island of flavor.
Turning the Dial
I came around to the perfect golden crisp in college, where industrial mess hall toasters let you customize your time and speed. College is, after all, the time for experimenting! The gates to breakfast perfection opened before me: I learned how to perfectly toast a bagel so that butter would seep into its pores, and just how crisp to make an English muffin so that it was toasted but still chewy. I even mastered the toasting of thick bread that could stand up to a smashed avocado without becoming too soggy.
A Love Affair with My Own Toaster
Fast forward to me as an adult: I have a four-slice toaster even though I'm the only person ever using it, and it's rare (read: never) that I need four slices of bread for my own breakfast. I just wanted something that was more substantial than the dinky-seeming plastic ones on offer. Mine is stainless steel and indestructible — it was absolutely unnecessary, but I liked how it looked!
My toaster: Cuisinart CPT-180 Metal Classic 4-Slice Toaster, $56
It's not just a pretty face, either — it's efficient, too! My favorite thing about it is that the dial is really responsive, so there is a big difference in toasty-ness depending on where you place it. I can put a frozen English muffin in there and it's defrosted and toasted within two minutes.
There's no limit to the things that my favorite appliance can do. Sometimes I'll slice a croissant in half and stick it in, even though I'm pretty sure I could be arrested in France for as much. I use it to warm tortillas and naan. And it cooks up veggie burgers for me while I answer evening work emails. I use my toaster every single day.
Sure, I love my own toaster, but I also seek out the small appliance when I'm a guest at other people's homes. Through my experience, I've come to learn that there isn't a food (breakfast or otherwise) that can be made worse by popping it in the toaster. Don't worry — I'll keep doing the research just to be absolutely sure.