The tasty toast that you look forward to almost every morning if not literally every morning has to do with basic physics and chemistry. And if you look at it from a utilitarian point of view, it’s actually a very interesting phenomenon.
Toasters that are used for your morning bread slices are found in pretty much every house where any kind of bread is consumed. But how many of us really know how this wonderful little device works? Don’t worry, we’re not judging. It’s okay if you didn’t already because you are here now.
Whether you are here because you think breakfast is the most important meal of your day and you want to know what goes into the making of your toast or because you ended up here while you were researching toasters planning to buy a new one, it doesn’t matter. Here’s what you must know about the inner workings of a toaster.
About Heating Elements and Voltages
The most important part of a toaster is the element which makes it as hot as it gets. For a long time now, the heating elements have been made with an alloy named nichrome. The heating element is a flat item that looks a little bit like a ribbon.
Nichrome is made of nickel and chromium and its patent was given in the year 1906. What makes it special is that it is resistant to oxidation which is why it will not rust as easily as any other metal.
But not every toaster uses the same kind of alloy. That’s because some of them also contain a little bit of iron because it is cheaper. This heating element is attached to the panel of the toaster which makes it stable while cooking. It is also for insulation so that making your breakfast doesn’t turn into an actual game with fire.
The voltage of a toaster depends on the country you are in. For instance, in the US it will be 120 volts. This applies to units that are being manufactured elsewhere but coming into the US.
If you use a toaster that is made for more input like 240 volts which is the British standard, your toaster might either blow the fuse or worse like catch fire. That’s not what you want.
Let’s Look at Some Numbers
The process of making toast involves heating the starch in the bread so that it is caramelized. For that to happen, the temperature of the air in the toaster needs to be about 310 to 320 degrees Fahrenheit. That is when the bread turns brown.
The electricity runs to the heating element to make it hot and that temperature is usually in the range of 1,100 to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The wire which is also made of nichrome is also highly resistant to electricity which means when the wires are connected, it does not let all the input electricity to pass through it. Instead, it converts it into heat and gets the job done.
Now, the heat creates infrared light which is the part of the light spectrum that cooks the food. And that IR light is what you see when the toaster is hard at work. Now, nichrome also has the benefit of having its melting point at 660 degrees Fahrenheit which keeps the wire inside from melting when the temperatures are that high inside the toaster.
That is also why it is the heating element in other appliances like heating systems. And it also cools down pretty quickly once the electricity is no longer coming in which means the wire in the toaster can remain durable for a longer period of time. It can withstand the heating and reheating that happens possibly every day without breaking.
The heating element is also an important aspect not just because of its functionality but because it is the element that comes with potential risks. Even though it is deep inside the toaster, it just takes a couple of things for the whole operation to go wrong. You might end up with a burn or starting a fire in the kitchen.
Many toasters are made entirely of metal even today which is why you are advised not to touch their walls when the appliance is being used. But, of course, now we have models that advertise the fact that you can touch it without ending up with cooking burns. They have an insulator inside the toaster which does the trick.
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