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Kenwood; there's a name I haven't seen for a long time. I used to have a Hi fi unit with the name of Kenwood and although it wasn't the best it took me a few years to realise that the company who make kitchen appliances and Hi Fi's are not the same people! Doh!
Well its harmless enough mistake to make given that the look of each brand emblem is virtually the same. These days however I have moved onto better things and replaced my old Hi Fi with an all in one unit, half the size and twice the amount of features.
The same goes with my toaster. Having had a few cheapie brand names over the years such as Hinari, Bush and JMB from then, Index catalogue stores (bought over by Argos) and another similar toaster from Poundstretcher, one day my cheapie toaster no longer toasted. The problem was the fact that through 4 toasters throughout the years I found that whilst they could toast well enough, their build quality was mostly the bulk of problems, from catches falling off, to dud controls such as the toast release buttons which were supposed to push up bread whenever the buttons were activated. Save from having to switch the toasters off the wall, I was beginning to tire of endless problems with the quality and the controls.
Then I set eyes on the Kenwood TT920 toaster. Unlike any other toaster I have had, this is a large toaster, much larger than the compact cube like ones I have had before, but this is down to the fact that the TT920 is a 4 slice toaster and can handle any size of bread including home made bread. This had been a great advantage to me as my sister usually visits me at the weekend bringing home baked bread for me as I do love my toast and bread!! Measuring 27.5cm length by 16cm width and 16.5cm height, it is quite a long and squat looking toaster but I'm lucky because I have an open plan kitchen with tall cupboards and a lot of space.
of the factors which attracted me to the Kenwood was the price. At Argos it wasn't the highest priced toaster on sale and indeed I liked the matt finish and chrome inserts, (whilst also being attracted by the cool wall design on both sides) and at £23-99 it looked like it could handle any job I need for any of my bread favourites. It is however no longer on sale at Argos but it is viewable on Kenwood's home website and importantly don't be confused by the number as the TT290 is a different 2 slice toaster as opposed to this bigger metal and black matt finish 4 slice model.
For example the Kenwood has quite a few features absent on my old toasters. Instead of a push up button to release the bread, the TT920 has a slide up bar (normally it pushes down to push the bread down) which lifts the bread/toast up to release the bread. There is a cancel button too and an electronic browner control built in. Whilst my other toasters have had dial numbers in the past, this Kenwood doesn't which can be a bit of a downside but teaches you to finely tune in the browning state by use.
What I like about the Kenwood is the fact that there are few controls to go wrong. My last toaster had three buttons, one dial and after a year or two, the controls started to get stuck or malfunction. Although I miss the reheat facility for example, the TT920 can be fired up quickly due to its 900 watt element; not 1500 watts as other shops online states.
Toasting and Using
I find the TT920 does a good job on shop bought bread, thick and medium sliced managing to give a good uniform browning on either side. Incase noone knows what browning means, it is when the bread turns brown as it cooks and toasts in a toaster. However with home made bread the Kenwood sometimes struggles to put browning on either side in a uniform fashion. That is the downside but at least it can manage virtually any slice thanks to the thick and thin springs which hold the bread in from the start.
Another surprise is the fact that this toaster has a built in bun warmer which is simply an extra pair of arms which, when activated pops up to provide a simple grill in which food such as croissants can be warmed up. Now this is really handy for me because previously I've either had to wait an age for my old convector cooker grill to heat up solely for warming up croissants or shoving them in the microwave only to find the bases of croissants soggy because of the oil content. Here there is simply no sogginess of waiting around for anything to heat up other than the smaller and faster toaster elements. The only downsides are that of course these grilles get hot in and after use. The other downside is that it won't make a good make shift warmer for toast but rather thicker dough based breads such as Muffins, Cakes and of course my tasty hot and crispy Croissants. The best thing to do is to use the button at the side which pushes these grilles back down after use as you won't burn your fingers.
Despite the size, the Kenwood comes with a 2.5 metre power cord which can be easily wrapped and locked under the toaster. This is like my old JMB and Hinari toasters but the locks on the Kenwood have a thicker plastic and manage to lock the cord in without anything escaping.
Lastly of course it can toast up to 4 slices of toast in one go - this is very handy for people staying over.
The Kenwood TT920 isn't difficult to clean but neither is it any easier than any other toaster I have used. It has a slide out crumb tray but it suffers from clogging with crumbs which you can see from the top (I guess in the month I've had it, its seen a lot of different bread types!) but don't put themselves on the pull out slide out crumb tray. For this purpose, I usually unplug the long 3 metre cord and shake the toaster over the sink vigorously to ensure all the crumbs are out.
The body of the Kenwood should never be cleaned with a damp cloth. Why? Because unlike the manual's suggestion I find any cloth, regardless of whether it's clean or not leaves a trail from the fibres on the chrome wall and when it dries in everyone can see how you've cleaned the toaster. The easiest thing to do is by all means use a damp cloth and then towel dry to ensure it keeps things sparkling. I have used old tales of toothpaste before on chrome and that seems to work but gives off a minty scent as a result!! I also use lemon juice and bicarbonate soda to clean off any food marks which get splashed on the walls. The matt finish however is easy enough to keep clean but it can mark easily if you use detergents or abrasives.
Unfortunately I really do miss my reheat facility! I often used it on my old toaster whenever I read the Sunday papers and would often find I needed to reheat old toast before it got margarined! I realise that if the toaster had this then it wouldn't have been so overly cheap, but then again some say £24 is expensive for a 4 slice toaster.
I haven't found many downsides to this toaster as a result. What I find shocking however is the user manual. It states the model number but doesn't show my model, consisting of a two page booklet type leaflet which shows the basic 2 slice model and all the info you need. Kenwood should improve on this if they make future 4 slice toasters.
Unfortunately for Kenwood although the chrome walls are indeed cool wall by design, the sides definitely are not! They get hot in constant use and warm by one day's use only. When I saw "cool wall" advertised I assumed it meant the whole product. Would make sense wouldn't it?