Maybe it's not something that immediately springs to mind in that you really want to know all about commercial toasters, but they have an important function in the food business and play their part more frequently than you may imagine. But first, a quick look at what the end product is all about.

Doesn't everyone love toast? You know, the stuff you get when you take a slice of bread and hold it up to an open fire and allow it to, well, toast! Then spread butter over the hot slice and allow it to melt. It tastes wonderful and you can do so much with the stuff it's untrue!

This conjures up a romantic setting spent sitting around a big open fire on a cold winter's evening holding up a slice of bread with a toasting fork and drinking a glass of good wine. Eating buttered toast with a slice or two of your favourite cheese to really round it off and you have a scene made in heaven.

Unfortunately, most people don't have big open fires to sit around or even cold winters evenings depending upon where in the world they live. Not something you'd expect to see in somewhere like San Diego, California or Darwin in Australia! But that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy a slice or two of toast!

Enter the good old reliable electric toaster in one of its many guises, add a loaf of bread and some butter and you have all the ingredients you need to pamper yourself with one of the simplest hot meals there is to make. Of course you can go a step or two further and add some nice cheese, a slice or two of good quality ham from the bone, some sliced tomatoes, relish or mustard, maybe some lettuce or cucumber to top it off and all of a sudden you have a veritable mini-meal all in itself!

Making toast is so easy with a domestic electric toaster that just about anyone can do it. But what happens when you are not in a simple domestic situation and need to make a large order of toast for a large amount of hungry people? Well, there are commercial toasters that are designed to fill that gap and are large, robust and fast enough to be able to keep a restaurant full of people all ordering toast and butter happily supplied in reasonably short order.

So what makes a commercial toaster more able to fulfil the role of toast provider for the masses when called upon than its humble domestic model? For starters, they are usually able to toast more slices at a time than regular domestic toasters and they do that faster using more powerful heating elements. They can also either toast one side or both at once depending upon what you prefer. Depending upon the size of the installation that your toaster is intended for, there are models that can churn out 130 slices an hour or more. For large concerns, such as hotel breakfast bars where several hundred rounds of toast may be demanded by a full complement of hungry guests, a larger scale commercial toaster would be needed that could easily cope with a higher demand.

So who makes these incredible toasting machines?

An English company called Dualit Toasters makes small to medium sized commercial toasters that are ideal for very large families or cafes and smaller restaurants where demand is not quite as heavy as a large hotel breakfast bar. Their larger toasters can manage 130 or so slices per hour which can easily keep up with demand in smaller eating establishments.

For those applications, you need the heavy guns and companies like Star and APW Wyott make larger, conveyor toasters that literally churn out slices of toast on a conveyor belt system that are capable of making 600-700 slices of toast per hour. That's one every second!

For the biggest catering facilities, companies like Hatco manufacture vertical conveyor toasters that are capable of toasting up to 960 slices of bread per hour or three every two seconds, which is something quite incredible to observe in action!

Conveyor toasters work on a forced convector system with heavy duty heating elements that have energy saving circuitry that can shut off most power while the machine is only producing a few slices and then switch back on to full power as soon as production needs to be stepped up fast. They can toast other types of bread as well as the standard sliced loaf variety if needs be, Bagels, rolls, English muffins, thickly sliced bakery bread, buns, crumpets, croissants etc can all be sent through these machines and come out piping hot and ready for the topping of your choice!

If all that leaves you in desperate need to go and make yourself a slice or two of toast, here's some healthy tips that will help to prevent you from gaining too much weight with your new found passion for buttered toast!

The first thing that you should get into the habit of doing is eating wholemeal, or wholegrain brad instead of the generic white loaf that the industry mass produces in incredible volumes. This is because white bread contains no useful nutrients and has a tendency to raise blood sugar and bad LDL cholesterol levels, leading to slower metabolism and more fat storage, equalling weight gain! Wholegrain bread, on the other hand contains plenty of nutrients as well as dietary fibre that you need to digest your food completely. It doesn't unduly raise your blood sugar levels, nor does it load you up with bad cholesterol. It tastes better too!

When going for the toast toppings, while butter is the number one preference, with cheese following closely behind, these are high in saturated fats which will load on the calories. Low fat spreads and cottage cheese are much better. The Europeans like to drizzle extra virgin olive oil on their toasted bread and this is also a really healthy option.

But whatever you choose to top your toast with, remember that as long as you don't go crazy, you can still have a really tasty, low calorie snack that is easy to prepare and a joy to eat!