Toaster Buying Guide


What the best toaster has

  • Wide slots. Wide slots allow you to cook a variety of breads—bagels, English muffins and artisan breads -- as well as frozen waffles, pancakes and French toast. If the slots aren't wide enough, you'll wind up forcing thick-cut bagels and breads down into the toaster, and then trying to tear them out.
  • Bagel setting. A bagel setting is designed to toast the cut side of the bagel and simply warm the other side.
  • Defrost setting. This functionality adds extra cook time so the item thaws before toasting. It is useful for things like frozen waffles.
  • Reheat or warm settings. These setting reheat setting or keep your toast warm, which is handy when the rest of your meal is not ready at the same time as the toast, or if you've gotten distracted and had to let it sit.
  • Separate cancel setting. Some toasters don't allow you to lift the lever to stop the toasting cycle, so you need this if you want to cut the process short.
  • Shade-setting dial. This function, usually on a dial, controls the lightness and darkness of the toast. Some toasters have electronic touchpads. The best toasters boast a wide browning selection and consistent browning: even after multiple batches, their toast comes out the same shade of brown.
  • High-carriage bread lifter. This feature lets you lift the bread up so smaller toasted items rise above the top of the toaster for easier removal, thus avoiding burned fingers. English muffins are generally the trickiest item to remove from toasters.
  • Removable crumb tray. A crumb tray that slides out from the front is the best option because it can be emptied and cleaned while the toaster is hot. If the tray is located in the back, you will need to move or lift the toaster to access the tray, after it cools down.
  • Cord storage. For safety's sake, it is best to have the cord stored on the toaster so it does not hang off the kitchen counter. Some toasters have storage cleats on their underside around which the cord is wrapped. Others have retractable cords.

Know before you go

How much toast do you cook? If you've got toast popping out of a two-slot toaster non-stop for a half hour every morning, you might want to consider switching to a four-slot toaster. On the flip side, if you have a four-slot toaster and only use one or two slots at a time, consider downsizing.

How much room do you have to display or store the toaster? If your space is limited, the two-slot toaster is obviously the smaller option. The four-slot toaster might be the most convenient, but consider first if you have room for it in your kitchen. If you don't want to keep it on the counter, be sure it fits in the available storage space.

Do you want a toaster that does more than cook breads? Some toasters cook eggs and heat pre-cooked meats as well as toasting breads, which can make for a quick breakfast of more than toast. Again, consider if you have enough space in your kitchen for this larger appliance.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it.

Buying a toaster does not need to break the bank. Some models cost under $20, while others' prices soar into the hundreds of dollars. Most are less than $100. Generally there are no extras to buy, except for a replacement crumb tray. There are exceptions, though, including our pick for the best breakfast sandwich maker, the West Bend 4-Slice Egg and Muffin Toaster TEM4500W, which includes replacement parts for its egg cooker, and the Dualit NewGen, which allows you to replace virtually all parts.