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The Balmuda is a high-end Japanese toaster oven with a sleek, ultra-modern design and “precision” heating technology, created so that your days of tolerating less-than-perfect toast are over.
It’s tough to justify spending $300 and giving up precious counter space for a fancy BALMUDA The Toaster ($300 Amazon) if all it can do well is reheat bread and pizza, so we decided to experiment with the Balmuda’s capabilities as a conventional toaster oven.
After testing a variety of foods, we’ve concluded that the Balmuda is essentially a compact high-heat chamber that does a great job cooking small portions of food that require high heat for a short period of time.
There are only 3 settings when you use it in oven mode, which does not utilize the steam function: 350 degrees, 400 degrees, and 450 degrees. So you pick the temperature closest to what you need and set the timer. The maximum timer duration is 15 minutes, but you could, of course, set the timer twice if you needed to bake something for 30 minutes, for example.
One big difference from a conventional toaster oven is that there is no pre-heating! No waiting! You pop your food in and the Balmuda gets hot FAST. The space inside the oven is quite small, so it makes sense that those glowing orange heating elements are heating up the compartment quickly. Unfortunately, the small size also means that you can’t fit much on the tray at one time.
For baking fans, the toaster only fits a Nordic Ware 1/8 sheet pan, which is about 9″ x 6″. That’s about 2 chicken breasts.
Baked Chicken Breast
We tested chicken breast and chicken tenders baked on oven mode at 450 degrees (no steam) for 15 minutes. To our surprise, the chicken turned out cooked through and extremely juicy every time.
We tried breaded and unbreaded chicken recipes with cuts of varying thickness, and the results were quite good. We are big fans of cooking chicken at high temperatures for shorter periods of time to maximize moisture, and the high heat of the little Balmuda chamber seems perfect for this type of cooking.
Boil & Bake Baby Back Ribs
After the chicken, we decided to try baking some baby back ribs with barbecue sauce (oven mode, 350 F, 7 minutes per side) after boiling them on the stove over low heat for 30 minutes-1 hour.
We tried two batches and they were both okay but not as moist as we would’ve liked. Ribs are better cooked in a low and slow environment, and the high heat shock of the Balmuda’s chamber was not a great fit for this type of meat.
We had high hopes for salmon since the chicken turned out so well, but it turned out about the same as with a regular toaster oven, so it was nothing special.
We thought there might have been some magic in the concentrated high heat, but our old test toaster actually cooked salmon pretty well, so it was difficult for the Balmuda to differentiate itself here.
The biggest surprise was the roasted broccoli experiment. Unlike the dull brownish-green color we usually get when we roast broccoli in the oven, the broccoli in the Balmuda came out bright green!
Usually you can preserve the bright green color of fresh broccoli by steaming or boiling it, then shocking it with an ice bath. Some people cheat and add baking soda, but that’s cheating. Generally, it’s difficult to preserve the bright green color when you’re roasting broccoli in the oven.
Here is where we find parallels with the chicken breast. To preserve the green color in vegetables, they should be cooked at high heat for a short period of time, just until they have a tender crunch but not so long that they get soft. This is really the advantage of baking food in the compact high-heat chamber of the Balmuda over baking or roasting in a large conventional oven.
What about bread?
For those who are curious about how the Balmuda does with bread, the answer is: beautifully. Hey, this is what it was designed to do, so it’s not surprising that it delivers.
We tested the same cuts of French bread on sandwich bread mode, artisan bread mode, and pastry mode to see the differences. Sandwich mode is perfect if you want a light to medium toast on most thin or thick breads. The bread will be lightly crisp with a moist and flexible interior, thanks to the steam heating function.
The artisan bread mode is just a stronger dose of heat, so it is better for thicker or denser types of bread, or if you just prefer crustier bread that has more of a crunch and a burnt edge.
Pastry mode is for warming delicate pastries like croissants without burning them. There are lots of reviews on the internet about how the Balmuda “revives” stale old croissants, but we found the pastry mode setting to be kind of weak. We had to put the same croissant back in the toaster several times until it was warm enough inside and the shell was crisp enough outside for our liking. Sure, it’s personal preference but it seemed like the heat setting on pastry mode was a little too conservative.
There is a special setting for reheating pizza, and given the amount of pizza we reheat, we were quite excite to try this feature.
However, it was disappointing. We reheated the pizza slice on the Balmuda tray as the instructions advised (so the cheese and other toppings wouldn’t melt off onto the toaster floor). The steam did it’s job and kept the interior of the pizza moist as it reheated, but the exterior of the crust was nowhere near “crisp” as advertised. It was moist but floppy and lifeless. This was true for both thin crust and thick crust pizza. The crust never regained its texture.
Is the Balmuda toaster oven worth it?
- You bake chicken for 2 multiple times a week
- You toast a variety of breads often and have strong preferences about the texture
- You frequently make small portions of roasted vegetables
- You cook foods that require high heat for short periods of time
- You have plenty of kitchen space and a budget for kitchen toys
- You have limited counter space
- You need a countertop oven large enough to fit a small bird
- You regularly cook for more than 2 people
- You’re on a budget
- You’re a pizza snob
- You eat bread frequently but your current toaster is just fine
If you fall into the narrow segment of the population that has a use case for a small but powerful countertop toaster oven, congratulations. BALMUDA The Toaster ($300 Amazon)