Why Toast Burns More Easily When Your Toaster Isn't Clean

As basic as it might be, there's just something inherently satisfying about toast. When concentrated heat is applied to bread — and of course, the better the bread, the better the toast — some kind of alchemy happens, making toast somehow much more craveable than plain, soft bread. Of course, much of toast's deliciousness is owed to its crunch factor, but its flavor, too, is actually amped up due to the Maillard reaction, in which amino acids and sugars in the bread react in a way that produces a caramelized taste (via Science ABC).

Whether you're enjoying a slice of plain toast with butter or using it as a base for avocado toast or pickled mushroom toast, this bready item is certainly a kitchen staple — and a nearly foolproof one, at that. But even toast can turn out badly, mainly due to the risk of burning. If you've got a pretty good understanding of your toaster's temperature settings, then burned toast might be a rarity in your house. But you may have noticed it occurs more frequently when you haven't stayed on top of keeping your toaster clean.

Burning crumbs can make the toaster's heating elements get hotter

If you try to make toast in a toaster you haven't cleaned in a while, the toast might burn. That's because as crumbs accumulate at the bottom of the toaster, they burn when you turn it on, which can actually make the toaster's heating elements hotter — burning your toast even if you've set the toaster to a moderate or low setting (via Appliance Analysts). So if your toast is coming out burned and you don't know why, it's a good moment to clean out the toaster and see if the issue resolves.

To clean a toaster oven, unplug it. Then remove the baking tray, the rack, and the bottom crumb tray and wash them in the sink with dish soap and a sponge, soaking overnight if there are baked-on stains (via Consumer Reports). Dry each element before reassembling the toaster. To clean a pop-up toaster, unplug it, hold it over a sink or trash can, and shake the crumbs out (via The Spruce). Remove the toaster's crumb tray and wash it with a sponge and dish soap, soaking as needed for any baked-on crumbs. If you have a pastry brush, use it to swipe inside the slots and knock out any additional crumbs. Dry the crumb tray and replace it, and you're ready to toast. 

The Spruce recommends cleaning toasters once a week to keep bread from burning, which can actually be a fire hazard.