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Toasters cook more than toast

The days of toasters that only cooked thin slices of bread are over. Now you can cook bagels, frozen pancakes and waffles, toaster pastries and English muffins, as well as thick breads such as Texas toast. Some toasters even cook eggs and heat up pre-cooked meats so you can make a complete breakfast with just one appliance.

Toasters fall into two basic categories. The two-slot toaster is adequate for many consumers, but the four-slot toaster is often preferred by those with large families or people who like everyone's toast to be ready at the same time with a minimum of effort.

Settings vary, but most toasters have a bagel setting. This means your bagel will be toasted on the cut side and warmed on the other side. Some toasters have a defrost or frozen setting that adds cooking time for thawing. A reheat setting keeps your toasted item warm while you're waiting for the rest of your meal to come together.

Cleaning is easy with removable crumb trays. The messiest part of cooking toast is crumbs; nearly all toasters have a crumb tray to catch them. Some trays are removable so you can wash them, while others are hinged and stay connected to the toaster. Either way, it's simple to dump the crumbs and wipe the tray clean. Keeping the exterior of the toaster clean is simply a matter of wiping it with a damp cloth and then drying it.

Matching your kitchen's décor is easy too. Toasters come in different colors and finishes, including the ever-popular stainless steel. Consumer reviewers comment that their toasters stay out on the counter so it is important for the style to match their other appliances.

Toasters tend to fall in the $20 to $100 price range, but some cost less than $20 while other prices soar into the hundreds of dollars. In the case of toasters, high price is no guarantee of quality, as many of the priciest toasters get the most mixed reviews for consistently making good toast, which, after all, is the whole point.

ConsumerSearch has analyzed a number of expert reviews and hundreds of owner reviews to evaluate dozens of toasters on their performance, ease of use and appearance. We then narrowed down our results to determine the best toaster for any kitchen or family size.

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