Hamilton Beach are far from the best appliance maker on the market. The likes of Breville and Cuisinart produce superior products year in and year out. Hamilton Beach are, however, one of the most innovative.
Case in point the surprisingly effective Toastation. A strange hybrid blend of toaster and oven that works a lot better than you’d expect. Another innovative product by Hamilton Beach is the subject of today’s review, the Set and Forget 31230.
The primary selling point, and I’m assuming the primary point of the name, is that the 31230 contains a built in temperature probe. In theory, this monitors the temperature of your food and ensures that it cooks safely, evenly and without overheating i.e. burning.
If you’re like me and burn approximately 10% of your meals, this is certainly an attractive idea. But does it work? And more importantly, is there any reason other than a tendency to burn things to actually purchase the thing.
I’ll start with the less interesting features to give you an idea about what this machine can do.
Inner dimensions are approximately 12“ wide x 12“ deep x 7“ high. I say approximately because the exact depth varies a little due to the shape of the back. This means that while you can just about fit a 12 inch pizza in, it’s a very tight squeeze. No such problems for bread however, it can comfortably handle 6 thick slices as advertised.
Outer dimensions are larger at 12“ by 20“ by 16“.
The control panel is both straightforward, easy to read, and decidedly uncluttered. There’s a reason for the lack of clutter which I’ll complain about later. The LED panel is also large, bright, and easy to read from across the room.
Starting it up is as easy as choosing the mode, choosing the temperature and choosing the preferred cooking time. All in all, five minutes reading the manual and just about anyone will be cooking their first meal.
Ease of Clean
Cleaning the appliance is equally straightforward. The crumb catcher does what its name suggests. The interior is completely non stick, and all trays etc are both fully removable and dishwasher safe.
For 90 dollars, I wasn’t expecting much from the Set and Forget but I was genuinely impressed by the number of different features that Hamilton Beach have decided to include.
In addition to the aforementioned temperature probe (more on this later), it provides:
- Five different cooking modes, namely, toast, broil, probe, bake, convection and warm.
- The warm setting can be set to come on when your food is cooked. This is ideal if you’re food is ready before you are and you don’t want to spoil it by reheating.
- Both the probe and convection features are completely optional.
- The timer goes all the way up to two hours and includes an automatic shut off.
As I mentioned at the start of this review, I have a tendency to occasionally burn things. It should therefore go without saying that I’m not the type of person who typically uses a meat thermometer.
For the sake of this review however, I decided to purchase the cheapest one I could find and try to figure out if the built in probe was a gimmick or a useful feature for those who actually care about such things.
And the verdict: It seems to work quite well. There was a single degree difference but that’s probably my fault, not the machine. Another interesting feature is that the temperature of your food is constantly displayed on the LED display.
So apparently, if you’re interested in perfectly cooked meat, or you’re worried about poisoning yourself on undercooked meat, this may well be the oven for you.
Overall Cooking Performance
My favorite toaster oven right now is the Breville BOV800XL. Given the massive price difference however, I have to say that the 31230 comes pretty damn close to it. Toasting performance is near identical, broiling and baking is a little slower but the end product is pretty much the same.
And the chicken that I cooked couldn’t have come out any better. Keep in mind however, that could be because I was paying more attention to temperatures that I normally would.
As you can tell, I’m a pretty big fan of the Set and Forget but there are a few design issues that I’m a little baffled by.
For a start, there’s no interior light. I don’t care about the temperature probe, I like to be able to visually see if my food is burning. In saying that, the interior is brightly colored.
Then there’s the temperature settings. There’s no dial so you’re basically just given a choice of different temperatures. There’s no shortage of them i.e. there’s six in total for toasting. But personally, I’d prefer a dial so that I can choose exactly what I want.
This is primarily an issue when it comes to cooking something like a casserole. Temperature increments are in 25 degrees i.e. 200 and 225, 215 is impossible.
Like most Hamilton Beach products, customer reviews are generally positive. At the time of writing, the 31230 has been reviewed a total of 275 times for an average score of 4.1 stars out of 5. Most people seem to agree with its “set and forget” nature, with ease of use being one of the primary selling points.
Aside from the noted cons, there’s a lot to like here. It’s effortless to use and clean, almost guaranteed to prevent you overcooking your food, and a good performer even without the addition of the temperature probe.
Then there’s the price. At the time of writing, it’s on the market for $90 which is excellent value. Overall, unless you need something bigger or you prefer a little more control over temperatures, it makes for an excellent purchase.