This is the first toaster we've come across that makes truly good bagels while costing less than $100. Not only does it cost less than $100, the AmazonBasics KT-3680 generally sells for less than $20. This is a revelation for bagel lovers, as the best options previously were to spend more on a toaster oven or get teh $150 Smeg. If you're looking for great bagels on a budget, look no further. It also makes great toast. It does have some minor annoyances, like a tendency to burn frozen waffles and a slightly hard to get to crumb tray. However, these annoyances tend to feel a lot less cumbersome when you've only invested $20.
AmazonBasics KT-3680 Review
Pros: Good toasting performance, good bagels, inexpensive
Cons: Mediocre froze pastries, difficult crumb tray access
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The AmazonBasics KT-3680 offers impressive bread and bagel toasting performance for less than a $20 bill. If you're really picky about your toast the $35 Oster Jelly Bean is probably a better choice, but if you care about bagels at all this inexpensive machine is the best thing that will have ever happened to your kitchen.
In our testing the AmazonBasics KT-3680 performed very well where it mattered (bread and bagel toasting) but fell a bit short when it came to user friendliness and frozen pastry toasting. This earned it a slightly above average overall score.
The AmazonBasics KT-3680 was one of the more impressive bread toasters in our testing, earning a score of 8 out of 10.
For all intents and purposes, the toast produced by the AmazonBasics KT-3680 is near perfect. It is almost totally uniform across the faces and between each side of the toast. You have to get really picky to see its flaws, which are a minor lack of browning at teh center of each slice, and slight under-toasting in a narrow strip along the crust. The top scoring Smeg and Oster Jelly Bean were able to deal with this problem areas slightly more effectively, but we doubt anyone but the most discerning toast eaters are going to be able to tell a difference.
Ease of Use
This is one area where the AmazonBasics KT-3680 is a bit lacking. It earned a below average score of 4 out of 10 in our testing.
The major annoyances we ran into with the AmazonBasics KT-3680 were its crumb tray and interface. The crumb tray didn't slide out so easily for us, requiring a bit of finagling to get it out. This usually led to some crumb spillage in the process of cleaning. As this isn't an everyday task it's not too much of an issue, but certainly less than ideal.
The interface is clear, easy to understand, and has light-up indicators so you know which settings are selected. However, the buttons are a bit flimsy, and the toaster is very light, so sometimes the unit will slide when you try and press a button. Again, this isn't a huge inconvenience, but it doesn't feel as seamless as some of the more expensive models.
If you want something inexpensive that feels sturdier and better built, the Oster Jelly Bean is a great alternative. However, you will have to sacrifice some bagel toasting quality.
Bagel Toasting Quality
This is where the AmazonBasics KT-3680 really shines, especially given its low price. It is the best bagel toasting machine we've found that doesn't carry an exorbitant price tag.
The bagels we enjoyed from the AmazonBasics KT-3680 had well toasted cut-sides with only a few hits of over browning here and there, and slightly warm but still soft and doughy backsides. Occasionally, if the bagels were on the skinny side, the backsides would get slightly toasted, but not to a degree that it ruined the classic crunchy/chewy bagel juxtaposition.
The only model we found that makes better bagels than the AmazonBasics KT-3680 is the $150 Smeg. This model was able to get the cuts sides toasted slightly more evenly, and we never had issues with the backsides getting over toasted. However, the jump in quality is relatively small compared to teh huge jump in price, so you'll have to decide how much that last 10% needed to achieve perfection is worth to you.
When compared to other models in a similar price range, the Oster Jelly Bean being the most significant competitor, the AmazonBasics KT-3680's bagels are orders of magnitude better. The Jelly Bean almost always toasted one half of the bagel much more than the other, a problem that never came up with the AmazonBasics KT-3680.
Frozen Food/Defrosting Toasting Quality
Frozen foods are the one thing that the AmazonBasics KT-3680 had some trouble prepping. It earned an average score of 5 out of 10 in this metric.
Most of the frozen pastries we prepped in the AmazonBasics KT-3680, like frozen waffles and strudels, ended up being toasted much more on one side than the other. Frozen bread faced a similar fate when made in this model. It seems that the 'frozen' mode doesn't allow a slow enough defrosting cycle, so the pastries end up being toasted very unevenly. To be fair they are generally still tasty, but certainly not the perfect golden brown pastries most would hope for.
If frozen waffles are your thing, it is well worth spending another $15 on the Oster Jelly Bean. it does a much better job of toasting frozen things evenly and not scorching anything.
Considering that the AmazonBasics KT-3680 makes some of the best bagels and toast we've had, and costs only $20, for most people it's one of the best deals around. If you're looking for something that can make great frozen waffles, or something inexpensive that doesn't look like it's inexpensive, teh Oster Jelly Bean would be a better value.
If the only things on your toaster checklist are good toast and good bagels, this is the best value around. If frozen pastries and aesthetics make their way onto your checklist as well, there are better options available.