Which toaster is best?
Whether you prefer basic sliced bread, artisan loaves, bagels or English muffins, the right toaster makes quick work of getting them crispy and warm. However, a subpar toaster can leave you wishing you’d bought a toaster oven or simply used your broiler.
You might still be wondering whether you need a toaster at all or perhaps you want to know which features to look out for when you make your purchase. Armed with the facts, it’s easy to choose the best toaster for your kitchen.
Why use a toaster?
Some people swear by toasters, while others prefer other methods of making toast, such as under a broiler or in a toaster oven. Here are some pros and cons of these kitchen appliances.
- Compact size: They’re compact and take up considerably less counter space than toaster ovens.
- Even results: Since their primary function is to toast, you’ll usually get more even results with a pop-up toaster than you would with a toaster oven or broiler.
- Ease of use: It’s extremely easy to use toasters — just select your shade setting, pop down the lever and away you go.
- Range of settings: Many toasters have settings for bagels, defrosting frozen bread and reheating.
- Nonstandard loaves: Most toasters struggle when it comes to extra-tall loaves or wide loaves like cobs and boules.
- Could be more versatile: These appliances are really only useful for toasting a range of bread products. Unlike a toaster oven, you couldn’t use them to cook a pizza or french fries.
How to choose a toaster
Consider how many slices you need
Do you need a two-slice or a four-slice toaster? If you live alone or rarely eat breakfast with the people you live with, a two-slice version will suffice. It also has the bonus of taking up less counter space than a four-slicer. However, for many households, being able to make four slices of toast at once is more practical and saves time when making toast.
Ideally, you should be able to control each pair of slots separately, so you can adjust shade settings according to individual preferences.
Think about nonstandard bread
Standard toaster slots are designed to accommodate slices of bread from average store-bought loaves. This can be a problem when you eat artisan loaves, such as sourdough boules or braided loaves. Slices of these loaves are often too wide to completely fit in a toaster slot. Instead, you have to put it in the other way up, either leaving some bread untoasted or forcing you to flip the slice halfway through toasting. This means the center is more toasted than either side of the slice.
However, there is a solution. Some toasters have two extra-long slots, each fitting either one extra-wide slice of bread or two standard slices of bread. If you regularly toast nonstandard bread, it’s worth opting for this type.
Decide what settings you need
The three most common settings are defrost, reheat and bagel. Decide which of these settings are important to you, as you won’t find them on every toaster.
- Defrost: This setting adds some extra time to defrost bread before toasting it. If you regularly freeze loaves and want to toast bread straight from the freezer, this setting is essential.
- Reheat: The reheat setting warms up toast that’s gone cold without making it any darker.
- Bagel: Designed for toasting bagels and other thicker bread products such as crumpets and English muffins, the exact function of this setting varies between brands. In some cases, it lowers the temperature but increases the cooking time so bagels get warmed through before they burn. In others, it disables one set of heating coils to toast the cut side without burning the toppings.
Have a budget in mind
Basic two-slice toasters start at less than $20, while high-end toasters that are built to last or have all-digital controls can cost more than $300. The cheapest toasters don’t always offer the best value because they don’t last as long as pricier models, but you don’t need to spend a fortune, either.
Consider how often you’ll use a toaster and whether you’re willing to pay extra for durability and high-end features. You can find excellent midrange toasters for $50-$100.
Other features to consider
Before you make your purchase, you might want to consider a few more features. Think about what’s important to you and what you need from your toaster.
- Shade settings: In most cases, this is a numbered dial, with the lowest setting lightly toasting your bread and the highest setting toasting it darkly.
- Digital controls: Some high-end toasters have all digital controls. This lets you have even more control over your toasting, as you can set the bread type and precise shade settings.
- High lift: Push this up to lift your toast slightly higher, making it easier to get small bread products out without burning your fingers.
- Wide slots: Extra-wide slots better fit thick bread products, like rolls, waffles and bagels.
This versatile appliance works as a regular toaster when flipped upward but can also flip down to function as a toaster oven.
Simple yet solid and well-designed, it comes in both two-slice and four-slice versions. The slots are extra wide to fit more styles of bread products and there’s a handy bagel setting.
The digital controls let you choose between seven shade settings, plus there are defrost, reheat and bagel settings.
This high-tech toaster features a digital touchscreen control panel that lets you set bread type, shade setting and more. It’s expensive but it’s worth it if you’re serious about toast.
The long slots are great for artisan loaves and other longer-than-average loaves. It has an “a bit more” button for when your toast isn’t quite done yet.
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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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