Sunday, January 17, 2016

Review: Hamilton Beach Model 31511 Toaster Oven

Been thinking of getting a new toaster for over a year. Decided on this one for probably just as long but couldn't figure out where to put it. Well, I figured it out and finally picked it up.
Hamilton Beach Toaster Oven, Model 31511
x1 - Hamilton Beach Model 31511 Toaster Oven

Paid: About CA$ 60

Overview: Model 31511, Hamilton Beach Toaster Oven

This guy was suspended in foam inside a cardboard box. Took a relatively short amount of time to unpackage it carefully. The cord was tied up and the removable accessories like the pans were inside a small, separate cardboard box.
What took the most amount of time for me was wiping down the exterior of the model 31511 toaster oven. That's because I ran into something unexpected. While wiping the underside, my white paper towel suddenly turned blue. That led me to wipe it down two more times, top to bottom, to figure out where it was coming from. I don't recall the paper towel turning blue gain, but my suspicion was that it came from a crevice on the underside. It looked like it came from a relatively narrow gap where the front and bottom metal panels came together. My paper towel turned black after being stuffed in there. Maybe it was a cleaning fluid sprayed at the factory that got into the gap and wasn't wiped away. Hope it was that.

The first time heating the Hamilton Beach oven up was interesting. I turned on all the exhaust fans in the kitchen expecting a bad smell. While there was a smell, it wasn't as bad as I expected. And I think it went away fairly quickly. Wiping everything down probably helped a bit. It would have been nice if I had bought the oven during the summer and was able to open all the windows.
Hamilton Beach Toaster Oven, Model 31511: Inside the Box
Looked pretty short and wide to me. I haven't had any stability issues yet.

Expandability / Customizability
The product had a stainless steel exterior shell. Looks good with other shiny items?

How was it?
After about a month of use, I've had the chance to cook quite a few things in there including toast, cornbread, and meats like fish and chicken. Everything has come out fine. I'm not experienced enough of a cook to know the difference between a good and a bad oven. There also wasn't an oven thermometer available for me to check if the temperatures set using the dial were accurate or not. A new cornbread recipe I tried appeared to cook properly with the recommended cook time and temperature. The meats were done by ballparking the time and observation in the past, so we couldn't really tell if it took longer than the old oven -- it didn't appear to be much, if any, longer. My standards for toast are very low: as long as the bread is dry, warm, and brittle, it's toast. I put two slices of bread into the toaster a few times, used the toast setting, and they came out dry, warm, and brittle.

And the Hamilton Beach 31511 was just big enough that my regular baking pan fit inside. It was a bit cramped compared to my old oven to be honest. The smaller footprint of the entire oven was appreciated.
Hamilton Beach Toaster Oven, Model 31511
In terms of design, I did not really care for the dials. The toast setting was the most annoying. Unless I missed something, darker and lighter toast appeared to be separated by a relatively small turn on a dial. Not quite like the entire knob dedicated to light and dark on the 2-slice bread toaster I've been using for years. I found the built-in timer to be a bit on the short side too at only a maximum of 30 minutes -- the two times I used it, the oven appeared to ring and turn off about 30 minutes after I set it. There also didn't seem to be solid, locked-in clicks between certain knob positions on the temperature knob or timer knob. Not a big deal for the temperature knob, but I would have preferred more solid and firm clicks on the timer knob that doubled as the on/off switch.

The provided grill rack wasn't the best design in my view. A flat design would have been preferred. Instead, a basket type design was used with the center of the rack sitting lower than the sides. It has made lifting larger trays out of the oven slightly more difficult with the basket rack "upright."

One last thing that caught my attention was the lack of coverage over or under the heating elements. My older, higher-end toaster (I thought it was low-end previously and I was wrong) had small, metal shields on at least the bottom heating elements -- I forget about the top. Crumbs or liquids falling directly onto the elements probably wouldn't be the best thing in this Hamilton Beach 31511 toaster. However, this has made me more careful about using pans to avoid drips and crumbs falling in the first place.

I have not tried to use the broil function before and have no plans to ever do so.

For about CA$ 60, this was a pretty good toaster and has performed to my satisfaction thus far. It has done fine for all of the baking tasks that I've attempted. I will probably stick to the bread toaster for making toast unless I want more than two slices. There were some questionable design decisions, but they weren't that surprising given the price of the item.

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