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When Emily Mariko, the infamous TikTok creator of the Salmon Rice Bowl who has almost 10 million followers, featured an aesthetically pleasing appliance to toast a piece of bread and pastry in her videos, I was intrigued. My fascination grew as I began to see the device, which employs steam technology to toast baked goods, all over my “For You” page and it morphed into a sensation in the cooking community.

The appliance in question: Balmuda The Toaster, which is attempting to emulate bakery-style bread’s crispy golden exterior and a fluffy interior from the comfort of home.

But is a $299 toaster more special than your average one from Amazon? I spent several weeks testing the Balmuda to find out.

TikTok's trendiest kitchen appliance
The Balmuda toaster's steam technology is great for reviving leftover breads, reheating leftovers like they were fresh that day and warming confections to a golden and crisp exterior with a fluffy and soft interior.

The rundown

Balmuda The Toaster aims to make each meal you make a delightful culinary experience. The device promises to enhance each baked confection you consume as it comes out warm from its chambers, no matter if it’s stale or concocted that day. As the toaster fluctuates between three temperature zones of 140, 320 and 428 degrees Fahrenheit, it shifts from a steam cooking to toast. Why? Balmuda says that this method ensures decadent contrasts in both flavor and texture.

The machine’s five methods of heating — Sandwich Bread mode, Artisan Bread mode, Pizza mode, Pastry mode and Oven mode — are designed to create the perfect slice of bread time and time again. Before each toast, 5 cubic centimeters of water (equal to 5 milliliters) is poured into a slit at the top of the machine. Because steam heats more rapidly than air, the moisture is locked into the bread’s interior while the exterior browns to a delectable golden color.

Larger than your average toaster, the Balmuda is built bulkier, more akin to the size of a toaster oven. Despite its extent, only two slices of toast or one slice of pizza can fit inside. The toaster’s design is more attractive than most, with a sleek, modern and minimalistic model that is arguably a kitchen accessory. Balmuda’s concentration on aesthetics reminds me of the raved Smeg appliances, offering multiple variations of essential colors like black, white, gray and taupe.

Everything you need to get started (minus the food) is included, and the Balmuda took us just five minutes to get the conveyor belt of carbs rolling. It’s covered by a one-year limited warranty as well.

The lowdown

Immediately after powering up the toaster, I had to test out a simple yet tasty staple in almost every household: warm bread and butter. Using my mini mug, I poured 5 milliliters of water into the slit on top of the machine. Near the water opening is an instruction table for easy access to the recommended cooking times for each culinary delight you choose to create. Referencing the guide and turning the knob to set the time, I toasted my Baked in Brooklyn white bread for two and a half minutes.

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Kicking the 1300W into gear, I first noticed a cloud of steam crowd the interior, fogging up the observational window that replicates a wood-fired oven. The steam escapes from the top, so be wary of where you put it on your counter because you don’t want to melt or spoil anything stored above. After about a minute or so, the air inside cleared, and the unit glowed red as the surface began to golden. The room became enriched in the aroma of fresh bread, similar to walking into a bakery on an early morning after they have replenished their goods for the day. The timer went off, a subtle beep, and out came my perfectly golden piece of toast.

Slapping on a bit of butter that melted quite beautifully from the bread’s heat, I took a big bite, noting it’s a crisp exterior and moist interior. I found the toast’s consistency to be different than normal, as toast from my regular toaster or oven takes many more chews in order to swallow, with extra bits getting stuck in your teeth. But the sandwich bread that came out of the Balmuda toaster was so light and soft inside that it could almost dissolve on your tongue.

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Still hungry, I followed an avocado toast recipe from the website, finding the result to be the same. The smashed avocado paired perfectly with the bread’s crunchy exterior and fluffy interior; a meal transformed to resemble a restaurant rather than a home cook. If you’re looking to elevate your breakfast to the quality of a fancy Sunday brunch, you may have to look into swapping your Amazon toaster for the Balmuda toaster.

After successfully testing the first setting, I proceeded to experiment with the rest: the Artisan bread mode made garlic knots that quite literally melted in my mouth, the Pizza mode quickly reheated Two Boots like it was fresh that day and the Pastry mode led me to engulf a scone without a beverage nearby. The beauty of the Balmuda was its ability to revitalize dry or stale goods. Its unique steam technology plugged back in any moisture that leaked out over time, making leftovers develop a whole new meaning. No wonder this device has all the hype.

Along with reheating “old” food, I roasted vegetables and baked frozen meals as if the toaster were an oven — a function those $30 pop-up toasters from Amazon lack. However, there wasn’t enough room in the toaster to meal prep for the week if I wanted to. Many of the creations that came out of the appliance were delicious because I had never been able to emulate high-level bakery-style products at home.

I did find errors in the process, though. Balmuda suggests that the user add one to three minutes on top of the suggested cooking time for bread. However, my freshly cut slab of thick sourdough burnt within the recommended three- to four-minute range, while my frozen sourdough was perfect. The toaster also scorched the top of my pain au chocolat despite following its directions. As someone who plops something in the toaster or oven and walks away in the midst of multitasking, I lost some of these simple pleasures. After acclimating to testing my favorite bread products and their appropriate cooking times, the process became much easier and much more appetizing.

Bottom line

The high price tag may be worth it only to toast connoisseurs and breakfast fanatics. If you’re looking to invest in the elevation of your bread game, consider spending the steep $299. The toaster’s steam technology truly makes this device unique because of its ability to revive goods as if they were fresh, distinguishing Balmuda from any other pop-up toaster or toaster oven on the market.

Though I had a couple of riffs with burnt bread, once I became comfortable with the toaster’s usability and cooking times, everything that came out of it was mouthwateringly good. Unfortunately, it’s hard to share with friends or family unless you’re looking to make multiple trips back and forth to your toaster, so consider this device if you’re a party of one.