Let's be perfectly clear: The Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker ($24) is is not a gourmet, high-tech, fancy cooking tool for super-serious cooks. Not at all.
What it is, though, is fun. And it's well-built and sturdy, considering what it's designed to do. And it works just like it's supposed to.
The whole idea is to make a breakfast sandwich like the ones from fast-food restaurants. You could certainly do that with normal cooking equipment—a toaster, frying pans, egg rings—but that's really not the point. This gadget makes the process a little more user-friendly.
Or cooking-challenged friendly. Because this isn't really like cooking. It's a simple assembly process that just about anyone could manage.
The idea is that you start with the bottom of a muffin, add meat, cheese, or vegetables on top, close that section and put an egg on the next layer, and put the top piece of bread on top of the egg. Close it up, and in about five minutes, the egg is cooked, the bread is toasted, and everything is very hot. Slide the bottom out from under the egg, and there's a complete sandwich.
Since it takes about five minutes for an egg to cook in the sandwich, this isn't the best bet for someone who needs to make a half-dozen breakfast sandwiches. In that case, you might as well break out the frying pan and egg rings. But for someone single, a breakfast sandwich could be done in the time it takes to brew coffee.
This sandwich maker could be especially useful for kids, and parents who want to limit their kids' selections to healthier choices. Letting picky kids make their own fast-food-style breakfast sandwiches might help them get involved with cooking and, consequently, more adventurous with food in general. Kids with allergy issues who can't eat from fast food joints might get a kick out of making their own sandwich that looks like the real thing.
Younger kids would still need supervision—the machine gets hot while it's cooking—but they could choose their ingredients and make their own special breakfast sandwiches with a little help. Older kids could work unsupervised, making breakfast or an after-school snack.
Since the sandwich maker is small, it's something that could be brought along on trips to make breakfast in a hotel room or in someone's home. And an adult with allergy issues that prevents them from using a communal toaster and microwave could keep something like this in their office.
Besides breakfast sandwiches, I've used this to make English muffin pizzas and hot ham-and-cheese sandwiches on biscuits, so it's not all about breakfast.
Is this for everyone? Absolutely not. Is it for some people? Definitely yes.
About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.