Toasters

Toaster Buying Guide
Toaster Buying Guide
Your Daily Bread

Toast Masters

Pop tarts, waffles, bagels, English muffins, baguettes, or a nice slice of whole-grain sourdough might all travel through a toaster over the course of a month. Got a toaster oven? Then the repertoire might also include broiled pork chops or burgers or a frozen pizza. When buying a toaster, the first decision you should make is whether you want a basic pop-up toaster or a toaster oven that can do more.

We tested dozens of toasters and toaster ovens for ease of use (and cleaning), and how well they can toast a single slice or a succession of slices from the very lightest taupe to dark brown. Also, we consider factors like cooking habits, budget, and available counter space. Heck, we even tested the Darth Vader Star Wars toaster. Check our toaster ratings and reviews to help figure out the best type for your toast needs.

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Toast With the Most

Toasters come in two basic types—the 2- or 4-slice toaster or a  toaster oven. In choosing a toaster type, among the primary factors that popped up for us were design, counter real estate, and budget. Toaster ovens are bigger and usually do more, so prices are higher. If you want to economize, you’ll find top-performing toasters for as little as $35. Low-priced toaster ovens that did well in our tests cost about $70 or $80.

Photo of a simple, two-slice model toaster.

Toasters

The basics: If all you really need is your morning toast—sliced bread, or maybe a bagel—your most budget- and space-saving option would be a simple 2-slice toaster. These appliances have morphed beyond the square metal box, and now come in a variety of exterior finishes, such as chrome, copper, brushed metal, and colors. All the toasters we tested had automatic shutoff. A few toasters offer clear sides so you can monitor your toast (but these had mixed results for overall performance in our tests). Or, if you’re the impatient type, there’s a countdown feature. It’s worth noting that 2-slice models outsell 4-slicers by about three to one, but your choice will depend on your breakfast habits, as well as the number of people in your family.



Consider this: Retro and contemporary designs abound, as do models that look perfectly at home in high-end designer kitchens. But great looks don't necessarily equal great mechanics. Many upscale toasters we tested were middling performers.

Photo of a toaster oven.

Toaster Ovens

The basics: There are two types: Countertop models that entail a trade-off between counter space and capacity, and models that mount underneath a cabinet. Toaster ovens can cook pizza, broil meat, bake cookies, and toast larger baked goods. Some have convection. Not all multitasking features pay off in the end but others add convenience and versatility. But if you just want good toast, we recommend a toaster.



Consider this: The toaster oven’s footprint on the counter is a concern if you're tight on space. The smallest toaster oven we tested has a 16 x 8-inch footprint; the largest is 20 x 10-inches. But the smaller the toaster oven, the smaller its capacity. Some we tested couldn’t even fit six slices of bread. And if frozen pizza is your go-to snack, you'll want a depth of at least 12 inches. Some ovens have a curved back to help accommodate a pizza, which is helpful if you  have limited counter space.

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A Slice of Life

Yes, even the humble toaster is heating up, design-wise. Some very snazzy looking toasters have passed through our test labs recently. Given the prominent place this appliance has on many countertops, style is indeed important. But it's not just about looks. Bottom line, you want your toaster to make great toast. As for toaster ovens, we're also seeing new designs and innovations there, as well as some very large models. They tend to be on the boxy side, though some have fairly sleek trim and details. But again, the ability to heat items quickly and evenly should be your first requirement. We tested dozens of toasters and toaster ovens, and these are some factors to consider when shopping.

Mastering Toast
If crispy bread toasted to perfection is all you care about, you'll want to opt for a toaster. Toasters brown more evenly and consistently than toaster ovens. But a toaster oven can melt a cheese sandwich, broil a hamburger, or roast a 4-pound chicken. When they toast, though, the ovens take longer—4 to 6 minutes, versus 2 to 3 minutes for a toaster on a medium setting—and leave stripes on the bread.

Crowd Pleaser
Toasting times depend on volume, so even the fastest toaster ovens take twice as long as toasters. But if you're toasting for a crowd, a toaster oven with a six-slice capacity can quickly make up for lost time. Four-slice toasters combine the best of both worlds.

Convection
There's little proof from our tests that convection technology, which works via fan to circulate air around the food allowing for quicker cooking times at lower temperatures, enhances baking performance in a toaster oven. It's probably because air circulation is less of a factor in a small oven than a regular range. We don't advise paying extra for this feature. And the fan typically also bumps up the appliance's bulk.

Size Matters
In our tests, it turns out that some of the toaster ovens with the biggest dimensions didn't fit six slices of toast. And, if you plan to cook pizza, make sure the rack is at least 12 inches deep. Some ovens have a curved bump-out in back for this purpose. Look for variable or extra-wide slots in toasters if you like to toast real New York-style bagels.

Prices That Pop
Toaster ovens are generally more expensive than toasters because they're bigger and can do more. You can spend as little as $40 or as much as $400 for one of the toasters in our tests.  The range for toaster ovens is a bit higher.

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Toaster and Toaster Oven Features

Manufacturers are adding more bells and whistles to toasters and toaster ovens. Here are some features worth noting. 

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Brands

Among the leaders in market share, Black+Decker products are available nationally at a wide range of retailers including Target, Wal-Mart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, and Amazon.com. Electronic models include features such as frozen pastry one-touch function button and LCD indicator lighting.
Breville is an upscale Australian brand of small appliances. Their products are engineered to perform in a unique fashion. Breville toasters feature a motorized "lift & look" control button as well as defrost, and a one-touch "a bit more" button for crisping. Breville toasters sell for $80 and more at specialty and department stores.
A smaller but well-known and more expensive brand, Cuisinart is sold through department stores and specialty channels. Cuisinart toasters are generally made with a brushed-stainless-steel exterior and have defrost and reheat features along with LED indicators.
The DeLonghi brand originates in Italy. Toasters are fashionably colored and easy to operate with large levers and dials to guide you. Costing almost $100, a DeLonghi toaster can be found at a variety of stores including Target, Kohl's, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Best Buy.
Dualit is an upscale brand from the U.K. Its products have a sturdy, industrial-retro look. In addition to even browning, Dualit has an option that allows you to fire up only occupied slots. Dualit is a brand for toaster aficionados, with pricing of $100 or more for a no-frills toaster and up to $300 for one that's loaded with options.
Hamilton Beach is among the market-share leaders. Styles vary from the contemporary look of the Eclectrics line to the retro look of the Classic models and the modern appearance of the long-slot model. Hamilton Beach products are widely available at department stores, Wal-Mart, Target, specialty stores, Bed Bath & Beyond, and regional outlets.
Well known for its mixers and large appliances, KitchenAid makes toasters and toaster ovens that are sold through department stores, appliance retailers, national chains (Best Buy, Circuit City), and specialty channels.
Krups is best known as a German maker of coffeemakers. They recently introduced a fully-featured mid-range line of toasters starting at $50. The toasters are available at Macy's, Dillard's, and Amazon.com.
Oster toasters and toaster ovens are value-priced starting at $20 and up to $100. Practical features such as auto-shutoff and cool-touch can be found on toasters, and a convection fan in toaster ovens. Retailers include Walmart, Target, and warehouse clubs.
Proctor Silex is a value-priced, no-frills brand of toasters and toaster ovens. Starting out at $10, these toasters offer basic functions like a shade selector and lifter slide control. Find them at a local hardware store, Kmart, JC Penney, or Walmart.
Sunbeam offers inexpensive toasters sold at discount stores, Target, and online retailers. Sunbeam offers very basic models in 2- and 4-slice models.
Toastmaster is one of the least-expensive brands and is sold through mass-market retailers such as Wal-Mart, regional Ace Hardware stores, and numerous online retailers.
Wolf is known for its cooking appliances with red knobs. Thanks to Wolf, there are now toasters and toaster ovens with red knobs, too. Beyond aesthetics, features on the toaster include a keep-warm setting. Toaster ovens feature a built-in temperature probe. Expect to pay upwards of $200 for a Wolf toaster or toaster oven at specialty kitchenware stores such as Williams-Sonoma or Sur la Table.
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