The Vintage Toast Tool To Avoid Soggy Slices

If you're a fan of Downton Abbey, The Crown, or just perusing vintage photos of the royal family at home, you've probably seen a toast rack. The metal tray with vertical partitions is meant to hold pieces of bread after they are toasted but before they are buttered. In America, toast comes out of the toaster and goes right onto our plate with the buttering done immediately. So, the use of something like a toast rack might seem fancy or unnecessary, yet it fits right in with the stereotypical image of a polite, proper English high society full of fiddly food gadgets and accessories like egg cups, tea strainers, and sugar tongs.

But it's not just royalty and the upper crusts of society that utilize such gadgets. Hotels, restaurants, and any given home in Britain may have a toast rack that is used regularly. The reason is not pretentiousness, it's practicality. The British take their toast very seriously and would never so much as plop their golden sourdough slices on top of their plates of bacon and eggs. The crunchy bread must remain separate and at the ready for anyone wishing to partake. In America, most kitchen stores (even higher-end ones) don't sell toast racks but they can be found online or in antique stores for those who are seeking vintage ones. Once you learn the benefits of using a toast rack, you might reconsider your position on those fancy British habits.

Crunchy but cold

When freshly toasted bread is placed onto a flat surface like a plate, the steam created between the toast and the surface goes right up into the bread. The result is a soggy piece of toast. Placing toast upright in a toast rack with air circulating around each piece of bread completely eradicates steam from the picture, ensuring crunchy pieces of toast whenever you're ready to eat it. The drawback is that the toast often turns cold before butter can be spread on it. 

It turns out, the British don't mind this one bit. Anthropologist Kate Fox writes in her book "Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour," "The English would rather have their toast cool and dry than warm and damp ... American toast lacks reserve and dignity: it is too sweaty and indiscrete and emotional" (per My Recipes). Ouch.

Emotional or not, Americans like lots of creamy butter on their toast, and they like it melted and seeping into their bread. Sogginess can typically be avoided if the toast is eaten quickly, which many people do. But if crunchiness is desired and a lower temperature is acceptable for you, a toast rack might be just the solution for a better breakfast. In addition, the pressure would be off to serve warm toast at the same time that every other breakfast item is ready. Finally, they certainly look regal, so even if it isn't for every day, a toast rack would make a nice addition to a holiday or brunch table.