Panasonic FlashXpress Review
Price: $150 List | $107.00 at Amazon
Pros: Fast and convenient, great toasting quality, great for frozen foods
Cons: Smaller capacity, odd controls
Bottom line: Small capacity, amazingly fast oven that can replace 90% of microwave functions as well
Maximum Pizza Diameter (in.): 9
Accesories: Baking pan
The FlashXpress is a ringer that shakes up an otherwise homogenous field of toaster ovens. It is the mutt that runs into the Westminster Dog Show and throws everybody for a loop. Its small capacity and seemingly rocket fuel injected heating elements don't bode well for baking performance, but it can make quick work of frozen meals and toast bread in a flash (Xpress toast, if you will). It is the only model we tested that uses both quartz and ceramic heating elements. These heating elements are able to heat up almost instantaneously, no preheating required, and blast both the inside and outside of food with heat. In many ways it performs as if it were a microwave that can also make toast. This lightning fast heating is what earned the FlashXpress our Top Pick for Convenience award.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
If you want a toaster oven for baking, then you probably don't want the FlashXpress. Baking is not its forte, nor was it designed with baking in mind. In fact its timer maxes out at 25 minutes, far short of the cooking time required by many baking applications. It scored a 5 on our baking test. This put it just below the worst performing model, which scored a 4, and well behind the top performing models, which scored 9.
Its super powered heating elements tended to leave most things over crunchy on the outside. Cookies were very crispy, cakes came out with blackened edges, and drumsticks were a bit burnt. Everything was cooked all the way through, but the FlashXpress failed to achieve the pleasant textures and consistencies that the more standard ovens were able to produce. One big plus: if you like crispy cookies the FlashXpress can zap out a small, personal sized batch in a flash, as it requires no preheating time.
Ease of Use
As we mentioned before, the FlashXpress has a bit of an eccentric design when compared to other toaster ovens. This continues to be true in its user interface, which earned it one of the lowest scores on our ease of use testing. It came out with a 5, putting it just above the bottom score of 3 and far off from the top score of 9.
The FlashXpress' controls are all buttons, no knobs or dials, and they aren't the most comfortable to press. All information is displayed on bright red retro looking LCD displays. It has a dedicated button for each one of its six cooking modes: toast, frozen waffle, bread reheat, frozen pizza, quick reheat, and, oddly enough, frozen hash brown. The toasting shade is selected with a pair of dedicated up and down arrows.If you don't want to use one of the six preset functions you can simply select a temperature using another set of up/down arrows, and then set the time with a third set of arrows. The fahrenheit temperature settings are clearly converted from celsius round numbers, making them seem a bit odd at first glance, for instance, you can't dial in 400˚, but you can dial in 390˚. You can't dial in 450˚ but you can dial in 460˚, and so on and so forth. Also it does not have a start/stop button, it only has an on/off button. So when you turn the oven on you have about 10 seconds to dial in the settings you want, and then the oven will start cooking. If you make a mistake in those setting you have to turn the whole oven off and start over, no adjusting settings on the fly. Also, if you hesitate too much in punching in your setting the oven will start up half cocked and you'll have to shut it off and try again. Additionally, the crumb tray was the flimsiest that we tested, and there is a small lip right inside the door that tends to accumulate crumbs. While none of these things are deal breakers, they can occasionally cause some frustration, especially if you're in a hurry and hit the wrong button a few times (it happens to all of us).
Not surprisingly the FlashXpress ran hot in our temperature accuracy testing. It shared the bottom score of 2 in this metric, putting it far behind the top performers that earned 9.
It heated up instantaneously, but was consistently above the desired temperature. When we set it to 350Ëš it jumped to 370Ëš and stayed there. When set to 425Ëš it was 20Ëš degrees warm at the 7 minute mark, and a full 50Ëš warm at the 15 and 30 minute marks.
The FlashXpress was the best performer in our frozen meal performance test, scoring an 8. There wasn't a huge spread in scores in this metric, the lowest being a 5, but the FlashXpress was the clear frontrunner.
It cooked the surface of frozen pizzas well, lending just a bit of crispiness to the crust and fully melting and just starting to brown the cheese. Its quick heating style did leave the interior of the pizza a bit underdone compared to the outside. While most of our testers enjoyed this texture, others felt it was less than ideal. Also, we used 6-inch pizzas in our testing for the FlashXpress as it couldn't accommodate the 12-inch pizzas we used for the other models. It can accommodate a 9-inch frozen pizza, but those are somewhat hard to come by. It was also able to get the outside of tater tots nice and crispy while leaving the insides with a pleasant, fluffy texture. Again, it was able to do all of these things much faster than any of the other ovens, lending to its lack of a required preheating stage. If you're looking for fast frozen meals the FlashXpress lives up to its name.
Toasting is where the FlashXpress comes into its own. It shared the top score of 8 in our toasting test with the Editors' Choice Award winning Breville Smart Oven, putting it leaps and bounds ahead of the bottom score of 4.
It made the best toast in our test, toasting the top facing sides of slices quite evenly and leaving minimal striations on the bottom facing sides. Its toasting sweet spot can accommodate four slices of bread. It has just a small cold spot next to the door, so if you're making toast in this model we suggest you push the bread all the way to the back of the oven. It was the only model we tested that didn't have a bagel function. It toasted the faces of bagels very evenly, but it also toasted the backsides, which lost it a few points. The FlashXpress makes toast exceptionally fast. When placed on the medium shade setting it produces toast in two minutes. This is about the same amount of time as a traditional slot toaster and about a third of the time of most toaster ovens. This is even more impressive when you consider the fact that traditional slot toasters have the advantage of heating elements that are right next to the bread. This toasting speed is one of the reasons we gave the FlashXpress our Top Pick for Convenience award.
The FlashXpress lists for $150. This is sort of a mid range price, $50 more than our Best Buy and $100 less than our Editors' Choice. If you're looking for something that can bake then this is not a great value as the Best Buy Award winning Black and Decker provides better baking performance at half the price. However, its cost is in the same ballpark as buying both a traditional slot toaster and a microwave. So if you're pressed for counter space and want something that can serve in the place of both of those appliances the FlashXpress is a reasonable value.
If you're looking to bake then the FlashXpress isn't for you. However, if you're looking to combine your traditional slot toaster and microwave into one compact device, then this is what you're looking for. Just one note of caution: the FlashXpress' heating elements throw off infrared radiation, which can damage your eyes with prolonged exposure. The user manual warns to not stare at the elements for a long time. While we didn't find this particularly troubling, it may dissuade someone who is looking to ditch their microwave due to concerns about microwave radiation.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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