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We quite like eating toasted sandwiches in our house. The machine we did own was a hand me down from one of my husband's relatives. He was given it when he went to university in 1998, and it had been well used before we got it. Now we are a bigger family, our needs were for a bigger and more efficient machine to make meal times a bit speedier if we all wanted a toasted sandwich.
This machine was chosen for us as a gift, so it is not something we chose for ourselves. On opening the box, we were delighted with this machine. It is a nice modern looking machine, and is not that much bigger than the machine we had, although this one is big enough to make 2 toasted sandwiches at once. It is roughly 23cm wide by 21cm, and about 7cm in height at its highest point. It stands on 2 legs at the front, and has a plastic section to the rear of the machine to coil the cable round when not in use, so it sits slightly raised off the bench on these three pieces.
The cable is about 1m in length, so we don't have to be right next to the plug socket to use it, and it can be kept well out of the way of the machine when in use, as that steel surface can get pretty hot to touch.
On top of the machine, there are 2 lights. The red one comes on straight away when it is plugged in. The green one lets you know the machine is hot enough to use to make your toasted sandwich.
There is only really one way to make a toasted sandwich, by using spread or butter on the outside of the bread, before putting the filling of your choice into the middle. My preference is for something cheesey, which will melt and turn very gooey inside the sandwich. The booklet that came with the machine had a few sweet and savoury sandwich option recipes, so that was useful to give some ideas of things we might try.
The manual suggested only using a tablespoon of your filling, otherwise you are likely to lose the filling out of your sandwich and find it running out through the back of the toaster. I find this happens to me most times I use this sandwich toaster, but it is hard to judge how much sliced cheese is equivalent to one tablespoon.
The recommended cooking time for this machine is 3-4 minutes. I find this is a gross underestimate. I made myself lunch with this machine yesterday. Just a plain cheese toastie. I let the machine warm up before use. It was on for nearly 5 minutes while I prepared the bread and sorted my son out. I then put my sandwich in.
After 4 minutes I checked my sandwich. The outer surface of the bread was starting to look a little golden, but the bread was still fairly soggy. Even the outer parts of the sandwich were only a little crispy. I then left it another couple of minutes. The outer section was now crisper, but the inside was still pretty soggy. In fact, it took nearer 10 minutes till the middle section of the sandwich surface could be described as toasted, but by this time, the outer surface was very crisp, and had a taste of being close to burning. I was glad I didn't have bad teeth, as it was very crunchy as well by this stage and tough to chew.
While this machine looks pretty stylish and comes from what I consider to be a decent brand, it doesn't make the toasted sandwiches as well as our old machine. This is a real shame. It takes longer than you think to get a passable sandwich, with the only consolation being because it is a double machine, it still takes the same length of time to make 2 toasted sandwiches as it did with 2 uses of the single toastie machine we had.
One advantage that this machine does appear to have is that although most bread you can buy in the shop is too big for the machine, and you are supposed to trim the bread before making the sandwich, the machine is such a tight fit when you put the lid down, that the edges just seem to fall off and don't need more than a quick pull to remove them.
Cleaning this is a doddle. A quick wipe with a cloth is all it needs to make it useable again, or ready to put away. It is such a neat machine that it doesn't take up too much bench space or room in the cupboard when not in use.
At about £20, it is not one of the better machines on the market in my opinion. From the way the green light goes on and off all the time when in use, I would suggest that the plates just do not transmit the heat properly into the sandwich, instead a lot of the energy going into the steel lid of the machine making it dangerous to the touch. This means the machine needs to reheat during use, so your food does not get as cooked as it should. I found with our old machine, I needed to let the sandwich filling cool down a bit before eating as steam would escape from the sandwich and leave blisters in my mouth if not careful. With this one, the filling is warm but not scalding. I could eat it straight away.
I personally prefer a crunchier toastie all the way across the outer surface, and I can't seem to achieve that with this particular machine.