The Signature Classics 4-Slice Toaster Oven Review

I purchased my Signature Classics 4-Slice Toaster Oven from Walgreens, simply because they were asking only $20 and Walgreens is just down the block whereas I’d have to do some serious bus riding (or mail ordering) and pay a lot more money to get one from anywhere else. Signature Classics is just a re-branding of Signature Gourmet, Walgreens’ in-house line with which I have long experience. The products are not exactly the height of craftsmanship, but they’re generally among the cheapest options on the market and I’ve really had no significant problems with anything else I’ve bought from them, so I had at least decent expectations for this particular toaster oven.

Generally I don’t read appliance instruction manuals before using them, but for some reason, something compelled me to take a peek at this one before plugging it in. And I turned out to be very glad I did! On page five, in very unassuming text hidden at the bottom of the page, the manual casually mentions that ” … during the initial uses, the toaster oven may emit light smoke and a slight smell. This is normal and will subside with further use.” The reason I’m glad I read that is that during the first fifteen or so minute of use, the unit pumped out rather noticeable smoke and left my kitchen smelling like Burning for the rest of the evening. Not only did this save me calling the fire department unnecessarily, it also saved me a ranty and angry return of the unit to Walgreens demanding to know why they are trying to burn my house down with their inferior product.

I also think the Signature Classic/Gourmet/Whatever people have been reading my previous reviews of their products. On Page 4, in much more noticeable and prominent text than the whole thing about smoking out your kitchen, there’s a whole little section devoted to excuses as to why they include such terribly short power cords (their best reason: “to avoid tripping”).

Once we got past the whole “smoke pouring out” phase, however, I found the unit to be as basic and competent as the usual Signature kitchen doohickeys. As with all of their products they don’t let you select a specific temperature but rather have the temperature knob broken down into three settings: broil, bake and toast. As the only thing I really use this for is to toast various breads lightly and possibly to bake some small loaf-pan cakes in the future, I’m fine with the limited control over temperature settings, though other toaster ovens in this price range seem to offer a much greater degree of flexibility. The ticking mechanical timer that continues to tick for a good five minutes past the “done” mark is also a bit annoying, though that seems to be standard on all cheap toaster ovens these days. But all in all it does the job.

You can certainly do better in this price range, but if you just want to toast up hunks of bread and such, it works if it’s the most convenient or cheapest option. Or both. If you intend to do Serious Cooking with it, or feel like airing out your kitchen for 15 minutes upon first use is a rather unreasonable demand, I’d keep looking elsewhere.

Durabrand Stand Mixer is Affordable, Noisy and Messy

My wife has been insisting on having a stand mixer in the kitchen for years, but I just didn’t want to spend a fortune on one if she was only going to use it once a month or less.

So, when I saw the Durabrand Stand Mixer at Wal-mart for just $20, I couldn’t pass on it.

I’m wondering if I should have.

The mixer itself doesn’t look any different than the more expensive brands you can find at the stores. In fact, its black color actually makes it an attractive decoration for our kitchen counter when it’s not in use. I also loved the fact you can remove the mixer itself and use it as a hand mixer. But, the performance certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

First, the mixer is much noisier than I expected it to be. When using it, you can not only hear it on the other side of the house; you can actually hear it being used outside with the doors and windows closed. When my wife is baking, I have to leave while she’s using this mixer or my ears will end up ringing for the rest of the day.

The mixer is much messier than I would think it would be too. Even on the lowest setting (which isn’t really that low) the batter is thrown all over the counter and floor. I’ve never seen anything like it. My wife learned very quickly not to use this while wearing anything nice. How bad is it? Think of any television sitcom that has a funny scene taking place in a bakery and you’ll get the picture.

In addition to the mess the mixer makes, it also seems to make the baking process longer because it constantly has to be turned off so one of us can scrape the batter off the side of the mixing bowl. Some how, I don’t remember this being an issue when she just used her hand mixer.

Since I haven’t owned any of the more expensive mixers on the market, I don’t have much to compare the Durabrand brand to. But, I certainly would hope that, if I had spent the extra money, we would be getting better quality for our money. If that isn’t the case, then I’m glad I didn’t spend more than I had to. However, if I’m right on this, then I’m convinced I should have spent more on a better brand and would recommend doing the same if you’re in the market for a stand mixer and happen to come across this one.