|GadgetScope.com > Cooking > Egg & Muffin Toaster|
|Reviewed 3-1-2006 by John Shirrell - Produced by Back to Basics - List price: $39.99|
Puncture the Egg
Meat Warming Tray
Cooks Everything Together
The Finished Product
Multifunction devices have been appearing in many areas of society. There are printer/scanner/copiers (many with fax), there are stereos that combine CD/DVD/MP3 playback and speakers, and there are microwaves that also have coffeemakers in them. (I would review one of those except for my dislike of coffee.) Every so often, though, you are thrown a curveball. One example of this is the car that turns into an airplane that was demonstrated by one very bored handyman. Another is the Back to Basics Egg & Muffin Toaster. This product claims to make "your favorite breakfast sandwiches at home in under four minutes." The accuracy of the latter part of this claim will be disputed in a moment, but at least this gives you an idea of the premise behind this toaster. On the left are two extra-wide slots, and on the right is a little steam cooker that poaches eggs and warms pre-cooked meat.
As far as the toaster half of it goes, Back to Basics has designed a toaster that is as good as any $100 slot toaster could aspire to be. It cooks very evenly, has a large lightness/darkness adjustment for fine adjustments, and the slots are big enough for most breads one would want to toast. I gave this toaster the hardest test for any toaster to pass—the Toaster Strudel test. Historically, no toaster I have tried has ever managed to warm the filling without burning the outside to a crisp. The Egg & Muffin Toaster breaks that trend, by passing not only the Toaster Strudel test, but also the more challenging Toaster Scramble test. This toaster performs as a high-end toaster would at this task, partially due to its smart design: There are cages that suspend the toast, pastry, or whatever in the exact center of the slot, and metal heat spreaders help cook evenly. The Egg & Muffin Toaster may be worth its price just for the toaster end of the deal. However, that is not what this machine was designed specifically to do.
The Egg & Muffin Toaster's real mission in life is to produce a sandwich remarkably similar to the Egg McMuffin from McDonald's. In this endeavor it does a decent job. While toasting the split english muffin, it poaches an egg and warms pre-cooked meat. First you set the hard-boiling tray over what is essentially a small hot plate, then the little round pan that sets into it is just the right size for one egg. This pan came with a big sticker on it that says, "MUST USE COOKING SPRAY." The importance of this became apparent on my second run, when I forgot to spray the pan. There was about a centimeter of sludge around every side of the pan. I could only remove it with a relatively soft scrubbing sponge, and when I finally got the sludge off, most of the cheap coating on the pan went with it. This is the worst problem with the toaster—if B2B ever revises the product, they need to start by putting a real non-stick coating on the pan that doesn't rub off. I doubt that it will ever be possible to poach an egg without any spray, but at least if you fail to do so, you can still clean the sludge out of the pan. Atop the poaching pan goes a tray for warming pre-cooked meat. A frozen Boca sausage thawed and warmed nicely on there, but the taste was not very good. Canadian bacon (refrigerated) warms perfectly on the warming tray, however there is one problem with this I will discuss later. On top of everything goes a lid with a vent that lets out a lot of steam.
When it comes to cooking, B2B claims that the cooking time is under four minutes. However, in all my testing, the minimum time to cook the egg was five and a half minutes with the toast on the lightest setting. Often it was closer to six or seven minutes with more toasting. When cooking finally finishes, the meat from the warming tray drains a watery sludge onto the egg, which accumulates its own watery sludge all around the egg. The finished egg is very slippery and sometimes falls apart. It does taste right, though, arguably better than the McDonald's egg. With the right cheese (in my testing I used Velveeta which melted nicely), you get a great-tasting Egg McMuffin out of this machine. The results are impressive, and really make the toaster worth owning.
Cleanup is the natural next step, and is no trivial matter. All of the parts are dishwasher safe, and there are quite a few to wash. The hot plate bottom, however, gets a white sludge in it after the water steams away, and it is difficult to clean. There is a nice little tray to clean out crumbs from the toaster end. The toaster does come with a nice little cup that punctures hard-boiled eggs and measures out the amount of water needed to cook, but there is no place to conveniently store the cup so it just has to sit somewhere with its rather dangerous exposed needle at the bottom.
For the hassle of having that needle there, the hard-boiled egg function in this toaster is not worth anything. No matter the amount of water I used, I always ended up with a fairly raw yolk in the center of the egg. This toaster does not hard-boil eggs, it soft-boils them. This device is not able to hard-boil anything, and that should not be used as a reason to buy this toaster. As a side note, the manual says that if the egg is not punctured, it may explode. As badly as I wanted to see this, the toaster is already difficult enough to clean when everything works properly.
This product is basically a high-end $40 toaster with an extra egg poaching and meat warming feature, and it can soft-boil but not hard-boil eggs. It's a good value, but definitely has room for improvement. The meat dripping onto the egg is a serious nuisance, and as one final note, the power cord is very short at just three feet. There is also a very poor effort at a cord reel underneath the toaster, which holds about half of the length of cord and does not secure the plug. There is much room for improvement, but the Egg & Muffin Toaster is the only device of its kind which offers unparalleled convenience, in the true spirit of a multifunction device, to those who want their own Egg McMuffins at home.