Over the last half-decade, we conducted hands-on testing of more than 30 toasters. We've focused our efforts on the 10 best options on the market today. We made and consumed over 400 pieces of toast, as well as bagels and breakfast pastries, to find the best gadget for your kitchen. The market is inundated with toasters, and many of them appear identical, making it tricky to pick the best one for your needs and your budget. We distilled the choices down to only the top-performing appliances so you can more easily achieve the perfect slice of toasty bread to accompany your morning fried egg.
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|Pros||Great toasting performance, incredible bagels, stylish looks||Inexpensive, toasts 4 slices at once, toasts bagels evenly||Decent bagels||Good toasting, inexpensive||Relatively good bagel toasting and defrosting performance|
|Cons||Expensive||No specific bagel mode, toasting can be slightly inconsistent overall||Relatively poor defrosting performance||Mediocre defrosting, poor cleaning access||Does not fully utilize leverless technology|
|Bottom Line||The perfect choice, particularly if you're a bagel fan and love unique design||The best option we've found for people seeking a 4-slice or long-slot model on the cheap||Great if you want an inexpensive slot model that can make decent bagels||This toaster delivers the best bagels you can get at such a low price||Cool leverless feature, but lacks performance of other leverless models|
|Rating Categories||Smeg 2-Slice||Elite Gourmet ECT-3100||Krups Breakfast Set||Amazon Basics KT-3680||Cuisinart Touch to...|
|Bread Toasting Quality (35%)|
|Ease of Use (35%)|
|Bagel Toasting Quality (15%)|
|Frozen Food (15%)|
|Specs||Smeg 2-Slice||Elite Gourmet ECT-3100||Krups Breakfast Set||Amazon Basics KT-3680||Cuisinart Touch to...|
|Weight||5.4 lbs.||6.4 lbs.||3.0 lbs.||2.5 lbs.||4.1 lbs.|
|Dimensions (L x W x H)||12.7" x 7.7" x 7.6"||14.7" x 7.1" x 7.7"||10.5" x 6.8" x 7.8"||10.7" x 6.4" x 7.6"||10.2" x 11.2" x 7.8"|
|Standard / Long Slot||Standard||Long||Standard||Standard||Standard|
|Available with Long Slot?||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Available in 4 slot?||No||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Color/Finish Options||Cream, Red, Black, Chrome, Pastel Blue, Pink, Pastel Green||Black Plastic/Stainless||Stainless Steel/Chrome||Black Plastic/Stainless||Stainless Steel|
|Exterior Housing Material||Coated Steek||Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel||Plastic||Stainless Steel|
|End of Cycle Indicator||None||None||None||None||Beep|
Best Overall Toaster
Our favorite toaster is the Smeg 2-Slice thanks to its sleek look and perfect bagel toasting prowess. If a supreme bagel or stylish good looks appeal to your morning routine, the Smeg is the one for you. This slot toaster is the only one we've tested that creates the ideal bagel crunchy on the cut side and doughy on the back. This toaster is no one-trick pony and also makes near-perfect toast and frozen pastries. The Smeg has intuitive controls and super cool retro styling, so you get the best of all worlds with this king of the kitchen countertop.
The downside to the Smeg is its steep price tag. Its price is more on par with a versatile toaster oven. If you aren't a bagel aficionado, you can definitely find a more affordable option to create similarly stellar toast. However, if you are obsessed with making perfectly warmed bagels and enjoy the retro aesthetic, the Smeg might be well worth the extra money.
Read review: Smeg 2-Slice
Best Bang for the Buck
We think the Cuisinart CPT-122 offers the best bang for the buck for its strong overall toasting performance, consistent results, and affordable price tag. It placed high on the leaderboard in many of our test metrics, only coming up a little short when toasting bagels and frozen waffles. What users can expect is evenly toasted bread, great handling of frozen bread, awesome strudels, and an easy-to-use interface.
Many toasters struggle to do well in our bagel tests, and the Cuisinart CPT-122 is no exception. While the bagels we made with it were light gold to deep brown, they were a little unevenly heated and just a little underwhelming. Waffles could also have been better, repeating similar uneven heating issues observed during bagel testing. Aside from underwhelming bagels and frozen waffles, you won't find a better buy for performance across the full range of our tests, but if bagels are your preferred toasted snack, then seriously consider a toaster oven over a standard toaster.
Read review: Cuisinart CPT-122
Best Bang for the Buck: 4-Slice
Elite Gourmet ECT-3100
We think the Elite Gourmet ECT-3100 is one of the best bargains on the market, especially for a baker that wants to toast an artisanal loaf or for a family that wants to be able to make lots of toast at warp speed. In our tests, this toaster performed great, producing good toast, delicious frozen waffles, and even browning bagels consistently — a feat many other models weren't able to achieve. We're also pleased with the built-in warming rack that can help you bring your croissants or other pastries to the next level.
This model's drawbacks are minor. First, it does not have a specific bagel setting. This design means that even though it can brown a bagel nicely, both sides will be toasted, and this conflicts with the conventional wisdom that says only toasting the cut side makes for a better bagel. Additionally, we observed some minor inconsistencies in the toast in general. However, these complaints are minor and did not detract from the overall fantastic experience that the Elite Gourmet ECT-3100 provided in our tests.
Read review: Elite Gourmet ECT-3100
Best for 4 Slices
Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Long Slot
If you often find yourself toasting long slices of sourdough that don't fit in a standard slot, check out the Breville BTA830XL Die-Cast 4-Slice Long Slot. This toaster is the best option we've found for artisanal bread. Its slots are also long enough for each to fit two standard bread slices at once. The pièce de résistance is this model's leverless design that automatically raises and lowers the toast. This can inspire child-like wonder even in full-grown adults, and it also allows you to raise the toast in the middle of the cycle to check on progress without having to cancel the cycle. This may sound a little unnecessary, but it's a feature we appreciated when we were toasting irregularly shaped bread that cooked at a less predictable speed.
All that cool technology and the sleek metal exterior come at a cost. The Breville has a hefty price tag; it's one of the most expensive models we tested. However, we think it's worth the price for those seeking a genuinely high-quality long-slot option.
Read review: Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Long Slot
Why You Should Trust Us
Steven Tata and Max Mutter have been testing and reviewing kitchen appliances for over 5 years. In that time, they've used and abused more than 100 of the best toasters, coffee makers, espresso machines, pressure cookers, and waffle makers. In doing so, they've become experts in how certain appliances can improve your kitchen, and what pitfalls to avoid to prevent you from purchasing a contraption that takes up precious space but rarely sees action. Also included in this review is Genaveve Bradshaw, a self-professed foodie and detail-oriented researcher. She has tested hundreds of products from waffle makers to blenders.
To choose the models worthy of inclusion in this review, we researched more than 100 models by combing through user reviews and analyzing specification sheets. Once we selected the cream of the crop, we bought them all and lived with them in our testing kitchen for more than a month. In that time, we made more than 400 pieces of toast, almost 250 bagels, over 150 frozen waffles, and nearly as many frozen pastries.Toasters are tested across 4 metrics:
- Bread Toasting Quality tests (35% weighting)
- Ease of Use tests (35% weighting)
- Bagel Toasting Quality (15% weighting)
- Frozen Food/Defrosting Quality (15% weighting)
We performed more than 17 individual tests per toaster in our quest to find the best performing models. For bread toasting quality, one of the most important metrics, we performed 4 specific tests using multiple pieces of bread utilizing the different toasting levels on the product. This information was used to score the quality of the metric. The same was done for bagels. We kept careful notes on toasting consistency and quality throughout the process, how convenient each model was to use, and how much of a crumbly mess was made. Since our first toaster review, we've tested more than 40 contenders, giving us unique insight into all things toasty.
Analysis and Test Results
Traditionally, a toaster is a wonderfully simple device. It is essentially just a chunk of metal or plastic with basic electrical heating elements inside. Yet, it can turn plain boring bread into crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside ambrosia at the push of a button or press of a lever. In an age when it feels like every new product on the market is trying to be a multifunctional wonder-machine, toasters have remained refreshingly simple, specialized masters of a single task. Our tests are designed to assess a model's performance across four specific metrics so you can find the right toaster for your toasting needs and budget. The following sections explain the importance of each metric and the relative performance of each model.
Toasters are a device where it's possible to find an awesome deal if you look hard enough. For example, the Cuisinart CPT-122 and Oster 2 Slice are affordable appliances with great performance and ease of use, although they may not prepare the best bagel.
The Amazon Basics KT-3680 is a budget-friendly option that didn't perform as well on our ease of use tests as the CPT-122 and Oster, but prepares a much better bagel than those two models, and also manages to produce great toast.
If you desire outstanding performance across the board, you could enjoy a few extra benefits by spending a lot more on the Smeg, which produced the best toast and bagels in our tests. Even though this expensive model outperformed the rest, we believe the vast majority of shoppers will be completely satisfied with the performance of a much cheaper model (unless you're on an epic quest for the perfect bagel).
On the far end of the spectrum of the most affordable options we've tested, is the Revolution InstaGLO R180B. If you value innovation, a completely digital touchscreen display, and are willing to look beyond poor frozen food performance, then you might consider the Revolution InstaGLO R180B worth it. Although, it doesn't provide the best dollar to performance ratio.
Bread Toasting Quality
For most people, bread toasting will be the primary task for their toaster, so we weighted it more heavily. 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. The quintessential 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. Certain models produce less desirable toast with burnt edges, uneven sides, and conspicuous white spots near the crust. Higher-performing models are better at avoiding these issues. A perfect slice will also have evenly toasted sides. Some models tend to toast more near the center of the device than the outside, producing toast with a light side and a dark side. Consistency refers to consistency between cycles. If you find dialing in a five on your device produces your favorite piece of toast, you want to be confident that your preferred setting will continue to 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 the mouthfeel. This is a term that has come to us thanks to the expanding field of food rheology. Mouthfeel refers to how food physically and chemically interacts with your mouth. In simple terms, it refers to how delightfully crispy the toast is.
Our testing revealed a relatively tight window of toasting performance after making, grading, and tasting an excessive amount of toast, with scores ranging greatly. Although some models toasted bread better than others, all could produce decent, edible slices.
If you're a toast connoisseur, then the phrase "decent and edible" probably made you scoff a little. Those that place a high premium on toast quality should consider one of our top toasters — the Smeg 2-Slice. It manages to produce nearly flawless toast with great consistency. At the far opposite end of the price spectrum, the Amazon Basics KT-3680 also provides impressively even toast. Sure, there are some minor differences in the darkness between the two sides, but for the most part, it offers excellent toasting performance at an enticingly low price.
Three other models we tested also produced toast as good as or better than the Amazon Basics, they were the Revolution InstaGLO R180B, the Cuisinart CPT-122, and the Oster 2 Slice. These models did an excellent job at producing consistent and predictable results. From the highest point on the price spectrum to our best value purchase, a variety of good options exist to achieve a delicious golden crunchy slice of toast.
However, its toast is imperfect and often displays some small cold splotches near the crust. The Breville Die-Cast Long Slot showed the opposite problem, often leaving the crust just a tad blackened but otherwise creating evenly toasted slices.
The Elite Gourmet ECT-3100 was also a slightly above-average performer in our tests. It displayed some minor inconsistencies spread over the slices we made, but for the most part, it created a consistent crunch throughout. Amongst above average appliances we tested, was the Redmond 2 Slice Retro. On medium and high heat settings, it consistently produced well-spread coloration and texture. It replicated those results across multiple cycles.
The Bella 2 Slice was a consistently average to above-average performer. The darkest settings worked well to produce a deep gold to light brown coloring without burning. However, it did produce a strange line where the topmost end of the bread did not cook as evenly as the rest of the slice.
The CPT-420's toast came out quite evenly toasted, but we found the browning level to be a bit inconsistent between cycles, meaning that the same setting isn't always going to get you the exact same shade.
The Breville Bit More 2 Slice does a consistent job of inconsistently toasting. So if you like to shake things up and produce exceptional results every time you start the cook cycle, this might be the appliance for you. All joking aside, while it produced an inconsistently cooked slice of bread, the results were always average, so those that are less discerning consumers would probably get on just fine with this model.
The Hamilton Beach Keep Warm produced a mostly even slice of toast, but it tends to burn the top just a tad. The enjoyment of the resulting toast was only lightly impacted.
Ease of Use
Mornings can be hard. Simple and straightforward kitchen appliances can make your morning that much easier. The last thing you want is a slew of confusing buttons and levers between you and a comforting slice of crispy carbohydrates. To test user-friendliness, we had multiple testers complete various tasks with each model. Each model received a grade based on the intuitive nature of its design. We also assessed how difficult each model is to clean.
Most models are fairly simple to use but don't provide clever touches to make the toasting process more convenient.
One model that set itself apart from the others, with a modern and, dare we say, beautiful touchscreen interface, was the Revolution InstaGLO R180B. Today, touchscreens may not be revolutionary for some modern kitchen appliances, but this touchscreen enhances the user experience and adds something new to a morning routine.
The touchscreen has many clear heat settings, which include bread, english muffins, bagels, waffles, and toaster pastries, and adds three preparation choices for fresh items, frozen items, and reheating foods. Choices couldn't be more clear or straightforward to understand and select.
The touchscreen also eliminates a lever from the user interface and automatically lifts and lowers for the insertion and removal of foods. An upbeat notification will chime when food is ready, and on-screen reminders signal when to empty the crumb tray.
The screen brightness is adjustable, and there is an option for either a digital or analog clock to display when in "sleep mode". For having so many options, in a uniquely modern display, it remains very simple and easy to use.
While not as futuristic or easy to use as the Revolution, a handful of other products we tested also impressed us. Models that performed well above average include the Breville Bit More 2 Slice, Cuisinart CPT-122, Oster 2 Slice, Redmond 2 Slice Retro, and the Breville Die-Cast.
The Breville Bit More 2 Slice feels like a combination of more modern and some restraint to remain a typical toaster. Still, the balance results in an easy-to-use interface with buttons for bagels, frozen items, cancel, and "a bit more" to extend cook time. A sliding tab controls five heat settings, and an LED indicates the current selection. An audible notification lets you know when cooking is done, but the lever does allow you to check progress without prematurely ending the toasting cycle.
A few products we tested did very well, without reinventing the wheel, sticking to mostly traditional product designs. The Cuisinart CPT-122 and Oster 2 Slice are two of those products. Both have seven heat settings controlled by a dial, activation is controlled by pulling down on a lever, both have buttons for bagel, defrost, and cancel, and both have a removable crumb tray located at the rear of the toaster. The Oster is only slightly different because it adds an additional warm button.
With the Redmond 2 Slice Retro, retro styling doesn't prevent any ease of use. It utilizes a fairly typical, but aesthetically retro, dial for heat settings and a knob to activate. It also ironically includes less than retro backlight buttons for bagels, defrosting, and canceling.
The Breville Die-Cast also has all the features you might expect from a well-designed toaster, like an easy-to-remove crumb tray and clear shade controls, but its leverless design is relatively unique. This model uses a button to automatically lower and raise the toast. This may sound a bit gimmicky, but Breville utilizes this technology to allow you to slightly raise the toast up and down without interrupting the toasting cycle. The sneak peek puts users back in control of the cooking cycle versus relying purely on timers and settings.
The Smeg also did very well in this metric. It keeps things simple with a shade knob, some pleasantly backlit buttons, and an easy-to-remove crumb tray. The only minor downside is that you can't push the lever up to lift smaller items, so if you're making particularly short pastries, you may need a pair of tongs to retrieve them.
The Black+Decker TR3500SD has a friendly interface with backlit buttons, but it utilizes a trapdoor crumb tray instead of the slide-out style. This necessitates moving the entire toaster when you want to empty the crumbs, which can be somewhat inconvenient.
Consider a handy handheld vacuum to clean the crumbs from the counter and cracks if things get out of hand.
The Elite Gourmet ECT-3100 provides a fairly basic user experience, with easy-to-decipher buttons and a simple slide-out crumb tray while providing a built-in warming rack for pastries. However, it lacks some features present on many other models, most notably a bagel mode for those that like to toast only the cut sides of their bagels.
More than a handful of models were squarely average in our ease of use testing, including the Bella 2 Slice, Cuisinart CPT-160, Cuisinart CPT-420, Hamilton Beach Keep Warm, Krups Breakfast Set, and the KitchenAid Long Slot. Their controls were reasonably straightforward to get the job done, but they 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. Unfortunately, the CPT-420 does not include a function to preview your toast without canceling the cycle. In our opinion, this is one of the biggest advantages that should come with leverless technology, and we were disappointed that Cuisinart didn't take advantage of it when designing this model.
Bagel Toasting Quality
Most of the models we tested included a bagel mode. 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 exterior. We looked for evenly toasted cut sides with consistency between slices and 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.
So far, the Smeg is the only slot-based model we've come across that can rival the quality of a toaster oven for prepping bagels. Its bagel mode managed to perfectly brown the cut sides of bagels while leaving the backsides warm and gooey, without any crunchiness. This juxtaposition of textures is, for many people, what makes bagels such a decadent breakfast staple, and the Smeg is the only model we've found that ensures a bagel can reach its full potential.
If you like bagels but don't want to fork over serious cash for the expensive Smeg, the Amazon Basics KT-3680 is an excellent alternative. It could toast bagels fairly evenly while leaving the backsides chewy but not crunchy. And it did this while costing far less than most of the competition. The Krups Breakfast Set performed very similarly but costs a bit more than the Amazon Basics model.
The Elite Gourmet ECT-3100 toasted bagels incredibly evenly in our tests, much to our surprise. However, it does not have a bagel mode, so both sides of the bagels end up getting toasted. This result may be disappointing for those seeking cafe-style bagels that are typically only toasted on the cut side of the bagels, leaving the backsides a bit softer and more tender.
Although not quite as good as the best models we tested, the Breville Bit More 2 Slice and the Revolution InstaGLO R180B produced slightly above-average bagels. The results were bagels that were toasted just a little bit better, or more consistently than the average models in our testing lineup. Distinguishing factors were more even heating, darkened gold sections, and more consistently warmed exteriors with more desirable textures.
The Bella 2 Slice, Cuisinart CPT-122, Oster 2 Slice, KitchenAid, the Black+Decker TR3500SD, and the Cuisinart CPT-420 performed quite similarly — average. All toasted one-half of the bagel face a bit more than the other. They also left the backsides warm but untoasted, which we were hoping for.
Frozen Food/Defrosting Quality
Surprisingly, a toaster's high heat frequently doesn't work well for frozen foods because it's easy to burn the outside of a pastry while the inside remains cold. The best models get around this problem with a defrosting mode that slowly thaws frozen items before ramping up to full toasting temperatures. However, not all defrost modes are created equal, and some models don't even have them. We tested frozen food performance with a nostalgic, double-blind taste testing feast of frozen waffles and strudels.
Our favorite thus far is the Smeg 2-Slice. This model utilizes variable defrost cycles that slowly thaw and then toast, producing golden waffles with minimal scorching and handling frozen bread with ease.
While some models did not average the highest scores for the entire category, some did stand out for individual performances on specific sub metrics within the category.
For example, while only average to above average for the entire category, the Breville Bit More 2 will produce near-perfect waffles that are evenly heated, golden in color, and have a desirable texture.
Also just average to above average are the Cuisinart CPT-122 and the Oster 2 Slice, but they are also some of the few models we've tested capable of producing the perfect strudel, with a crispy, crunchy texture, golden brown coloring, warm centers, and edges.
Not too far behind the top models is the Black+Decker TR3500SD. Though it had a little trouble with frozen pastries, leaving some burned spots, it produced almost perfect frozen waffles but was hindered by a small amount of browning on the ridges.
The Elite Gourmet ECT-3100 did quite well with both frozen bread and frozen waffles in our tests. However, it tended to burn the edges a bit for more irregular toaster pastries while the centers were still very soft.
The Cuisinart CPT-122 was also on par with above-average models but struggled a bit on waffles. As we've already mentioned, it is capable of making a perfect strudel, but it also does quite well with frozen bread.
We found that the Redmond 2 Slice Retro was close to the Cuisinart CPT-122 frozen bread performance but did much better on the heavily weighted waffle tests, making very enjoyable waffles.
Our tests are designed to identify where every model exceeds or falters, average the performance of each model, and place them on a scale of 1 to 10. While some models can perform a particular task to a tee, as already mentioned about near-perfect waffles or perfect strudels, they can't be a one-trick pony and score well overall for the category. Some models are just average as a result, and they include the Bella 2 Slice, Breville Bit More 2 Slice, and Oster 2 Slice.
Those three models proved to be exceptionally good at one task, while doing poorly enough on all others to place them squarely into an average score range for the category. While one may be a perfect choice for you, none of them could be regarded as well-rounded in the category.
For the frozen food category, the Revolution InstaGLO R180B ended up at the back of the pack. It failed to handle any specific frozen food task well and, with minor exceptions, earned one of the lowest frozen food performances ever.
Toasters are one of those kitchen appliances you use most days yet probably don't think about too much when shopping for one. And that is entirely reasonable because any real or digital retail shelf will instantly bombard you with hundreds of options, all of which seem to be roughly the same. However, we have found that not all these machines perform equally and that an informed decision can bring you more breakfast happiness per dollar. We hope our comprehensive review has helped you navigate the world of toasters and find the perfect model for your kitchen.
— Benjamin Hickok, Genaveve Bradshaw, and Steven Tata
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