what do the numbers mean on a toaster

We use many appliances in our homes automatically without thinking about how they work or what certain controls mean.

For instance, when buying or using a toaster, have you ever stopped to think about what the numbers on the toaster dials mean? Online rumours suggest that a toaster’s numeric display represents the time.

Others believe that the gauges are used to regulate the toastiness and browning. But is there more to these numbers? What do the numbers mean on a toaster?

Types of Toasters

There are four different toasters on the market today. These are pop-up toasters, toaster ovens, conveyor toasters, and convection toasters. In this piece, we are going to focus on pop-up toasters.

Every pop-up toaster comes with a standard toaster dial, even for the more expensive toasters. Depending on the brand and type of toaster you have, the dial might vary. However, the one thing that makes them similar is the number pattern on the dial control.

These numbers can be used to refer to several things. These differ, especially if you use a capacitor toaster, a toaster with a bimetallic strip, or a timer toaster. Here is a breakdown of each of these toasters and what the numbers on each toaster mean.

Bimetallic Strip Toaster

Bimetallic strip toasters are among the most old-school toasters on the market today. This toaster uses a bimetallic strip to brown the bread. This toaster features two pieces of metal strips that expand at different heat temperatures and different rates.

Once you lower the bread into the toaster, two wires are connected to form a circuit, and this connection acts as a switch. Depending on how much electricity flows through the toaster, the metal strips begin to curve up. When the toast is done, the metals snap back and the circuit cuts.

On a bimetallic toaster, the dial equates to how much electric current should flow through the toaster before the circuit is broken. The lower number on the toaster dial indicates higher current and not browning levels. The higher the current means that more energy is needed to break the circuit, thus meaning browner toast!

Capacitor Toaster

While timer toasters are the hype on the market today, we still have die-hard capacitor toaster users. The numbers on a capacitor toaster refer to the charging elements in the toaster.

Most toasters today still use a circuit that acts as time. For capacitor toasters, when a specific voltage is reached, the circuit automatically cuts off, and your toast pops up.

Changing the dial on this toaster will certainly affect your bread’s toastiness. This is because of the amount of time that the capacitor charges for and not how long the toast takes to get done. If you, for instance, set the toaster dial at 5 – it does not mean you toast for five minutes.

Timer Toaster

 A timer toaster is on the higher end of the price chart. This toaster has a timing chip that allows you to set a time for your toast. Most modern toasters are timer toasters, as this type is considered efficient and more accurate.

The numbers on a timer toaster indicate how long you want your toast to cook. So, the number on this toaster, in particular, means time toasted and not how brown you want your toast to be, specifically.

Before Purchase

toasting machines display

We have seen that the numbers on a toaster point to different things. This also applies to other household appliances.

When shopping for a toaster, it is better to know what you are getting. If you opt for either a manual or automatic toaster, carefully read the information booklet to know its technical details.

Instead of a trial-and-error situation, read the instruction manual to know how to use the toaster. You can also search for instructional videos on YouTube. The type of toaster you go for will determine your toast’s quality.

The numbers on a toaster can also refer to the different foods that can be toasted in the toaster.

The thickness of the toasted food will determine both the heat temperature of the toasting and the time it takes to toast. However, for bread, two minutes at 450°F or 232°C is enough for a perfectly toasted slice.

The Difference in Toast

Toast lovers know that not all toasts are made equal. And it is because of different factors and beliefs. Some are attributed to the lack of understanding of the numbers on the toaster and the bread used. Let us look at these reasons.

Dial Controls

We have confirmed that not all dials are used to indicate time. The assumption of this will see you getting either overdone toast or underdone. For example, if you set a low number on a bi-metallic strip toaster, you’ll end up with very brown and crisp toast. This is compared to if you set a low number on a timer toaster.


Assuming that any bread is okay for toasting is wrong. This is because not all bread recipes will toast similarly under the same toaster setting. If you follow the same procedure to toast different bread types, the result will differ.

Looking at how a toaster works, you will discover that toasting involves cooking and drying. So, if you have a thicker slice of bread, your toast might take a little longer than a thinner slice. The wetness of the bread is also a key factor in the quality of toast you get.

If you are used to a timer toaster and set your dial at 3 when you toast, you might want to tone it down if you use dry bread. Dry bread needs very little time in the toaster. Otherwise, it will burn.

Choosing the Right Toaster Settings

Now that you understand the meaning of the numbers on your toaster, the chances are that you will never have to eat burnt toast ever again.

If you are not sure if you have a timer, bimetallic strip, or capacitor toaster, you can always look it up on the internet using the brand name.

But in case you are looking for one to buy, read the product description. However, you might inevitably have to experiment a couple of times before getting it right.

At the end of the day, you will always have your toast pops up whenever you are in the mood for one, regardless of the toaster you get.

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