Which toaster is the best? To find out we bought 11 of the top models on the market and put them all through an exacting series of 10 tests totaling more than 100 hours. Now that our testers have spent multiple weeks on the anti-Atkins diet (all toast, bagels, and frozen pastries) we can definitively tell you which tabletop toasting tool is the best. Read on to find out which models will set your taste buds a tingling, and which will leave you with tasteless charcoal.
If you're looking for a more versatile toast machine, check out our toaster oven review.
The Top Toasters of 2017: Side-by-side Test Results
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Toaster
The Smeg 2-Slice may have a whimsical, 1950's retro looking going on the outside, but on the inside it's all business. In our testing it made perfectly browned, crunchy toast and flakey, crumbly toaster pastries, but it really endeared itself to us with its bagels. The bagels it toasted in our testing were nothing short of perfection, with warm, doughy backsides and cut sides that were perfect, toasted fields of crunchy goodness. This is the only toaster we've found that can make better bagels than a toaster oven, making it our favorite breakfast machine. Sure it doesn't have the fancy motorized lifts of some of the more modernized machines, but it makes up for that with a refined rusticness that hearkens back to a simpler time. If you don't mind paying a little extra for quality and style, the Smeg is for you.
Great toasting performance
Read full review: Smeg 2-Slice
Top Pick for Ease of Use
OXO On 2-Slice Motorized
OXO only makes one model of toaster, and for good reason. When you hit a bullseye on the first go around, there's no reason to take another shot. The OXO On produced some of the best toast we encountered, scoring an 8 out of 10 in that metric, and was particularly consistent between cycles. This, combined with its shade knob that clicks into each setting, means everyone can dial up their preference and get a great piece of toast every time. It takes full advantage of its leverless technology, allowing you take a gander at the state of your toast without canceling the cycle. What really sets the OXO apart is the design of its controls. Imbued with a sense of simplicity and minimalism, the OXO's knob and buttons make it feel like nothing is in your way, kind of like the first time you used a smartphone with a touchscreen after years of clunky flip phones. This earned the OXO our Top Pick for Ease of Use award. Overall, the OXO offers a seamless toasting experience with high end results, and deserves a place on any countertop.
Great toasting quality
Great defrosting ability
Enjoyable user interface
Read full review: OXO On
Do you ever eat irregularly sized artisanal bread? Things like sourdough loaves may make longer slices than traditional white or wheat bread. Most of the models we tested have standard slots, which are generally 4-5 inches long. Long slot models like the Breville Die-Cast and the KitchenAid have slots that are nearly twice as long and can handle almost any slice of bread your heart desires.
Top Pick for 4-Slice
Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Long Slot
The Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Long Slot is, arguably, the best looking model we tested. Its die-cast body oozes a feeling of quality and instantly draws the eye, even when sitting in our testing room with 10 other toasters. The weight of its die-cast construction also lends a pleasant tactile sensation during use. Most models utilize rubber feet to prevent sliding when pushing buttons. While this is effective, you can somewhat feel the feet straining against you. The sheer heft of the Breville makes you feel like you're pushing buttons on the console of a space ship rather than a toaster. The lift and look function was a favorite of our testers, allowing you to get a peek at how the toast was doing without interrupting the cycle. It also showcases the smoothness of the motorized lift, and is particularly useful for finicky frozen goods. Its toasting quality is not stellar, it scored a 6 in that metric, but it is above average. We feel any slight shortcomings in toasting quality are handily made up for by the Breville's enjoyable user interface. This combination of quality and high capacity earned the Breville our Top Pick for 4-Slice Model award. If you're looking for a model with wow factor, and don't mind the high price, this is the one for you.
Great user interface
Lift and look function
Read full review: Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Long Slot
Best Overall Value Toaster
Oster Jelly Bean 2-Slice
The Oster Jelly Bean 2-Slice practically locked up our best buy competition after the first round of toasting. At a list price of only $35 it produced some of the most even and delicious toast in our testing, receiving a top score of 9 out of 10 in that metric. Despite its low price the Jelly Bean has some weight to it, which combined with rubber feet approaches the feel of using the superbly solid and sturdy Breville Die-Cast. Its controls are intuitive but don't feel quite as smooth as those of our Editor's Choice winners, which is the only thing that kept the Jelly Bean from vaulting into our top position. If your top concern is toasting quality then the Jelly Bean is an incredible value.
Great toasting quality
Great defrosting ability
Average user interface
Read full review: Oster Jelly Bean 2-Slice
Analysis and Test Results
A toaster is a wonderfully simple thing. It is essentially just a chunk of metal or plastic with some basic electric heating elements inside. Yet, at the push of a button or lever, it can turn plain boring bread into crispy on the outside soft on the inside ambrosia. In an age when it feels like every new product on the market is trying to be a do-it-all swiss army knife, toasters have remained refreshingly simple, specialized, masters of a single task.
That isn't to say that this simplicity has shielded them from technological innovation. While electric models have been around since 1910 and basic design principles haven't really changed since the first dual sided electric model was released in 1926, advances in electronics have brought the aesthetics and functionality of many of today's models clearly into the digital age. This makes choosing a toaster more complicated than ever before. To simplify the process we gave each model we tested an overall score, which you can see in the table below.
These scores were based on real-world tests that we ran in the TechGearLab kitchen, which we diveded into four testing metrics: bread toasting quality, ease of use, bagel toasting quality, and frozen food preparation. The following sections explain the importance of each one of these metrics and how well each model fared in our testing. For a more detailed discussion about the gauntlet we ran these products through, check out our how we test article.
Bread Toasting Quality
For most people bread toasting is going to be the primary task for their toaster (it's bread and butter, if you will), so we afforded it significant weight in our scoring. It will certainly be the most important factor to consider for toast connoisseurs. Bread toasting quality is determined by three main factors; evenness, consistency, and taste. An ideal piece of toast has an even color and crispiness across the entire slice. This means every bite is right at your preferred level of toastiness. Some models tend to burn edges, leave conspicuous white spots near the crust, or toast the bottom of the slice more than the top. Higher performing models are better able to avoid these issues. Similarly, a perfect slice will also have evenly toasted sides. Some models tend to toast more on the inward side than the outward side, producing toast with a light side and a dark side (hitherto referred to as Star Wars toast). Consistency refers to consistency between cycles. If you find dialing in a five on your device produces your most favorite piece of toast, you want to be confident that the five setting will produce the same slice of toast morning after morning. Taste is a bit more complicated. Obviously different types of bread are going to produce different tasting toast. So if you want to get technical we're not really talking about taste here, we're talking about mouthfeel. Mouthfeel is a term that has come to us thanks to the expanding field of food rheology. It refers to how food physically and chemically interacts with your mouth. In simple terms, for toast it refers to how delightfully crispy it is.
After making, grading, and tasting an exorbitant amount of toast our testing revealed a fairly tight window of toasting performance, with scores ranging from 5 to 9 out of 10. So while there were some models that clearly toasted bread better than others, all were able to produce decent, edible slices.
If you're a toast connoisseur then the phrase "decent and edible" probably made you gag a little. Those that place a high premium on toast quality should consider one of our top scorers. Surprisingly one of the most inexpensive models we tested, the Best Buy Award winning Oster Jelly Bean made some of the best toast in our test, scoring 9 out of 10 in this metric. It produced incredibly even slices with very few dark or light spots and near identical sides. The only model able to match the Jelly Bean was the Editors' Choice Award winning Smeg 2-Slice. It also made toast that was almost perfectly even and delectably crunchy. The OXO On closely followed the top scorers with a score of 8 out of 10. It also produced excellent toast in our test, but with just a tad less evenness than the top performers.
Following the leaders in our test were the Black and Decker, the KRUPS Breakfast Set, and the best 4-slice model we tested, the Breville Die-Cast Long Slot, all taking home a score of 7 out of 10. These models all made good toast, but with a few more inconsistency issues than the top performers. The Black and Decker produced some horizontal asymmetry with one vertical crust getting much darker than the other. The KRUPS often had some difficulty toasting the area adjacent to the crust. The bottoms of the Breville's toast slices were just a few shades darker than the top, and it tended to burn the vertical edges a bit when toasting a single slice in a slot. In general the models in this group produced toast that would please all but the most critical of toast eaters.
All of the models that received scores of 6 out of 10 did so because of somewhat less common consistency issues. The Cuisinart CPT-420 made good toast, but we found it to be very inconsistent between cycles. The Darth Vader model also made great toast, but it was very inconsistent between sides (that's the price you pay for having the Star Wars logo branded into your morning meal). The Hamilton Beach Keep Warm made toast with much darker tops than bottoms, which is the opposite problem from what you'd expect.
The lowest scoring models in our test, the KitchenAid Long Slot and the Cuisinart CPT-160, both received a 5 out of 10. Each showed more significant inconsistencies in our testing. The KitchenAid tended to over darken tops and edges, and toasted inconsistently between sides. The CPT-160 often burned one vertical crust and had trouble properly toasting the difficult area adjacent to the crust. The models in this lower scoring group did not produce bad toast during our testing, but they display enough toasting inconsistencies that even less finicky toast lovers may start to notice them.
Ease of Use
For many, the morning is a grumpy time that involves being pried from a snug cocoon of warmth in order to deal with morning traffic and angry bosses. In these dark hours you want the least amount of frustration separating you from a comforting slice of crispy carbohydrates. Models with intuitive controls and clear displays that let you start the toasting process quickly and easily scored well in this area. Models with flimsy, hard to push buttons or a lack of feedback (I just pushed the bagel button but nothing lit up am I in bagel mode?) and difficult to clean crumb trays received lower scores.
The two models that shined in our ease of use testing, the Breville Die-Cast and the OXO On, both received Top Pick awards. Both feature sturdy, easy to remove crumb trays, well utilized leverless design, countdowns that indicate the time remaining in the cycle, and intuitive controls that provide clear feedback. They also both feature shade controls that clearly indicate which setting you're in, making it easier to repeat your favorite settings for different items. The OXO's minimalistic interface is aesthetically pleasing and was our favorite to use. The Breville's interface was also well designed, but felt just a tad less streamlined. Also, both of these models use leverless technology to offer the functionality of taking a peek at your toast without canceling the cycle. While this is easy to do on both models, it is a one button operation on the Breville, making it just a bit easier. Overall, both of these models make it incredibly easy to select settings, monitor the process, and come out the other end with your preferred level of toastiness.
Closely following the top scorers in our ease of use testing was the Editors' Choice Award winning Smeg 2-Slice, which scored a 7 out of 10 in this metric. It has a simple interface, using a knob to one of six shade settings and two buttons that light up to engage bagel and defrost mode. The only real downside is that you can't lift the lever to push the bread further out of the slot, so short items can be difficult to retrieve. The Best Buy Award winning Oster Jelly Bean earned a score of 6. It has a nice interface and is easy to clean, but the outside does get quite hot when it is in use. This isn't a huge deal, but can be dangerous if you have small children.
Six different models scored 5 out of 10 in our ease of use testing, including the Cuisinart CPT-160 and the CPT-420, the Darth Vader Toaster, the Hamilton Beach Keep Warm, the KUPS Breakfast Set, and the KitchenAid Long Slot. In our grading scheme a score of 5 denotes average. Accordingly, we felt all of these models provided a typical user experience. In general, their controls were fairly straightforward and got the job done, but didn't offer any supplemental features or functions that made the toasting process more seamless. Some may be surprised to find the Cuisinart CPT-420 in this group, as it utilizes leverless technology. The CPT-420, unfortunately, does not include a function to preview your toast without canceling the cycle. This, in our opinion, is one of the biggest advantages that comes with leverless technology, and we were disappointed that the CPT-420 didn't take advantage of it. If you're interested in one of the models that scored a 5 in our ease of use testing, we recommend you check out its individual review to get a more detailed discussion of its ease of use attributes.
The two below average scorers in our ease of use testing presented specific annoyances in their day to day use that we felt had the potential of causing too many morning frustrations. The Darth Vader model, which scored a 4, has its controls on the backside of the unit, meaning you have to poke your head around to see what shade setting you're in. This could be rectified by placing it on your counter backwards, but we're pretty sure anyone who is interested in this model doesn't want it so Darth can stare at their wall. We found the Black and Decker, which scored a 3, particularly aggravating to use. It is difficult to push any of its buttons without sliding the entire unit backwards. When a button is pressed there is no feedback, so it's very difficult to tell if you're in frozen mode or not. The crumb tray does not remove, it opened on a hinge, so the entire unit must be held above a trash can when emptying the crumb tray.
Bagel Toasting Quality
10 out of the 11 models we tested included a bagel mode, Darth Vaderbeing the one dissenter. Bagel toasting quality is very similar to bread toasting quality, with the big exception that you only want to toast the cut side of the bagel and not the outside. We looked for evenly toasted cut sides with consistency between slices and between cycles. We also looked for the outsides of the bagel to be warmed but not toasted. And of course we considered that unique bagel mixture of crunchiness and chewiness.
In our first round of testing we were quite disappointed with the bagels these slot models produced, and concluded that toaster ovens were much more adept bagel machines. However, we were blown away when we added the Smeg 2-Slice into the mix. It made some of the best bagels we've ever had, better than those made by even the best toaster ovens. This earned it a rare 10 out of 10 in our bagel toasting metric, and is the clear choice if you're bagelmeister at heart.
If you like bagels but don't want to buy the expensive Smeg the KRUPS Breakfast Set would be a decent replacement. It scored an 8 out of 10 in this metric. Its bagels were toasted fairly evenly on the cut side, but the back sides also got toasted a bit, which was less than ideal. These bagels were comparable to what you'd get from an average toaster oven. The OXO On also scored an 8 in this metric. It performed similarly, with the front sides showing just a few toasting inconsistencies and the backsides being just slightly over done.
Most of the models we tested scored in the average 6 to 7 out of 10 range in our bagel toasting test. The 2 models that scored 7, the KitchenAid and Cuisinart CPT-420, performed quite similarly. Both toasted one half of the bagel face a bit more than the other. They both also left the backsides warm but untoasted, which is what we were hoping for. Two models scored a 6 in this test: the Hamilton Beach Keep Warm and the Cuisinart CPT-160. These models also left the backsides of the bagels pleasantly untoasted, but toasted the bagel faces more inconsistently than the models that scored a 6. The CPT-160 also had inconsistencies between slices, toasting one bagel slice significantly more than the other.
The low scorers in this metric were the Oster Jelly Bean, Breville Die-Cast, and the Black and Decker. The Jelly Bean toasted one half of the bagel face more than the other, and slightly toasted the backsides, robbing us of the crunchy/gooey combo we were looking for. The Breville was able to leave the backsides untoasted, but toasted the faces more unevenly, leaving one edge white while the opposing edge was burned. Both of these models scored a 5 out of 10 on our test. The Black and Decker, which received a 4, both produced significant toasting inconsistencies on the face, and toasted the backsides of bagels.
Darth Vader received a 1 on our bagels toasting test. Not only does it not have a bagel function, its slots are too skinny to even fit a sliced bagel. We're pretty sure we heard Darth mutter, "Rebel scum," when we tried to shove a bagel in.
Frozen Food/Defrosting Quality
10 out of the 11 models we tested have a defrost mode (again Darth Vader being the one exception). In some models the defrost setting simply extends the cycle time to compensate for the lower starting temperature of the toasted product. Other models' defrost settings start with a low temperature in order to gently bring the frozen good to room temperature before ramping up to full toasting mode. We found that the latter technique produces better results. Frozen goods are often frozen to different degrees in different areas, so slowly bringing it all to the same temperature before the toasting really starts yields a more evenly toasted product than putting the pedal to the metal from the get go. High performers in this category completely warmed and thawed frozen goods all way through while leaving the outside brown and crispy rather than black and charred.
The top scorers in this category where the Editors' Choice Award winning Smeg 2-Slice, the OXO On, and the Best Buy Award winning Oster Jelly Bean, with all three models earning an 8 out of 10. These models utilize variable defrost cycles that slowly thaw and then toast, producing golden waffles with minimal scorching and handling frozen bread with ease. In fact, some of the best toast that came out of our testing resulted from putting frozen bread into the OXO.
The next level down in defrosting performance is occupied by the Cuisinart CPT-420 and the Editors' Choice Award winning Breville-DieCast, both of which scored a 6 on our test. The Breville made decent toast from frozen bread, but again tended to burn the edges. It also left some tolerable but noticeable scorch marks on frozen waffles. The CPT-420 turned frozen bread into decent toast, but had a hard time browning crust adjacent areas. It was able to avoid scorch marks on frozen waffles, but did brown some areas much more than others. The Hamilton Beach and Black and Decker, both of which scored a five, had slightly more significant inconsistency issues. The Black and Decker was able to handle frozen waffles fairly well, leaving just a few over browned spots. However, when toasting frozen bread one corner often turned out many shades darker than the opposite corner. The Hamilton Beach made decently even toast from frozen bread, but tended to burn one edge of frozen waffles while leaving the opposite edge fairly light.
Representing the lower performers in our defrosting test were the Cuisinart CPT-160, Krups Breakfast Set, and the KitchenAid, all of which scored a 4. In general, we felt the defrost setting on these models didn't have enough horsepower to handle frozen goods well. Even on higher shade settings all of them produced somewhat underdone waffles. The Black and Decker did turn frozen bread into passable, though considerably uneven, toast. The other two models only managed to thaw the frozen bread, producing no discernable signs of toasting. Obviously this can be remedied by putting the bread in for another cycle, but a better defrost setting could avoid that annoyance.
Darth Vader again brought up the rear in this metric, scoring a 3. Its lack of a defrost or frozen setting left it struggling to thaw frozen items. Additionally, frozen goods magnified the inconsistencies arising from Darth's branding plate that emblazons all it touches with the Star Wars logo.
Toasters have become somewhat more complex in recent years, changing them from an easy, last second purchase decision to one that can benefit from some forethought. We hope the information and hands on testing results that we've laid out have helped you find the model that is right for you. If you're still not sure, check out our buying advice article, which gives a more detailed description of how to decide which product is the right one for you.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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