Toasted breads are a staple all across the land, welcome at nearly any time of day and almost any meal. While some cooks choose to splurge on fancy toaster ovens, many of us rely on the simple toaster instead, and we all know the value of owning one that can quickly and efficiently toast bread without taking up too much of our limited countertop real estate. There are countless toaster models available online, but which one is the best? We tested 10 toasters and over 500 pieces of bread to find out.
The Winners, at a Glance
The Best Overall Toaster: Cuisinart 4-Slice Toaster
The Cuisinart 4-Slice surpassed all other slot toasters in each trial we put it through, handling frozen items and bulky bagels with ease. What's more, the plastic body and slide-out crumb tray are easy to clean and, critically, it has a feature that pops the toast up extra high, making bread removal simple and safe.
The Best Affordable Toaster: Black and Decker 2-Slice Toaster
This toaster performed extremely well in all our trials. It toasted bread evenly to the exact shade expected for the applied settings. It also has a cute "Brave Little Toaster" design with a square top and a round bottom. In this case, excellence comes at a rock-bottom price.
The Best Long-Slot Toaster: Dash Clear View Toaster
Of the long-slot toasters, which are better for toasting oblong or irregularly shaped slices, the Dash Clear View Toaster performed the best. While it didn’t toast bread as deeply on some of the upper settings, it toasted evenly, and it comes with a cool glass window to see your bread while it toasts.
What Makes a Good Toaster?
Because slot toasters only perform one task, it's essential they perform that task well. Slot toasters should reliably and evenly toast multiple types of bread to different levels of doneness without burning or under-toasting. If they have additional features, like a defrost function, the features should be effective. They should also be easy to use and clean. Since the toaster will likely live out on your counter, it's always a plus if it looks nice, too.
Who Needs a Slot Toaster?
Slot toasters are for anyone who wants toasted bread and doesn’t have the time in the morning to toast it over an open fire like a pilgrim.
Slot toasters do come with some drawbacks. Since they're designed to toast simple slices of bread, they often can't handle toasting a muffin or croissant or an old slice of pizza. In fact, something drippy or oozy could break them. (For those items, you're better off with a toaster oven.)
How We Picked the Products in the Review
To determine which toasters to test, we looked at recognized brands in the space, top sellers on Amazon and specialty retailers, newcomers to the market from startup companies, and those reviewed on competitor review sites. We also considered our own experience with toasters and included models we already use and love.
Why You Should Trust Us
In addition to being a longtime user of toasters, I also have years of experience testing products. Since starting my career in food media I’ve had the privilege of being asked to test all sorts of kitchen and kitchen-adjacent equipment and tools through the technical lens of a classically trained chef.
All test were done with precise measurements and in an environment meant to eliminate any external variables. Every method of testing and evaluation was conducted without bias toward brands or models.
Our Testing Methodology
The testing ultimately boiled down to three tests with one pre-test. The pre-test was to determine if we could use white bread (as opposed to more popular whole wheat) to test the toasters. The other tests all involved either fresh or frozen white bread, fresh or frozen white bagels, and fresh English muffins.
We also made notes on things like ease of cleaning, ease of bread removal, and overall aesthetics.
Pre-Test: Whole Wheat Bread
First, we conducted a pre-test to determine if whole wheat bread toasts similarly to white bread. White bread is a better medium for testing and recording observations as it provides a more clear backdrop for assessing how well and evenly a slice of bread has been toasted. However, whole wheat bread is much more widely consumed in the US. We chose to conduct this pre-test to make sure any conclusions we drew from white bread would also apply to whole wheat. We ran a few tests of sliced Pepperidge Farms-brand whole wheat bread to confirm if it toasted similarly. We were able to conclude that it did and carried on with testing.
Test 1: White Bread
The most crucial test for any toaster is to see how well it can toast a slice of bread. We fully loaded each toaster with slices of Pepperidge Farms white bread, set the toaster to the lightest possible setting, then ran the cycle according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After letting the toasters cool fully, we repeated the test with the medium and darkest possible settings, took photos, and recorded observations. While analyzing each toasted slice we looked for things like uneven toasting, underdoneness, and burning.
Test 2: Frozen White Bagel
The second round of testing was designed to determine how well the slot toasters can toast frozen items, like bagels. To that end, this test involved nine separate trials. First, we tested how the slot toasters performed with frozen white bread using the ‘defrost’ option. Then, we conducted the test the exact same way using frozen, white, Pepperidge Farms bagels. If the toaster didn't have a ‘defrost’ setting, we simply toasted the frozen bread/bagels using the toaster’s regular function and took notes. After, we also ran a trial using the toaster’s ‘bagel’ function, if it had one, on unfrozen bagels of the same brand. Once we had completed all rounds of testing, we took photos and recorded observations, looking for things like burning, evenness of toasting, and any signs that the toasters failed to fully defrost any frozen products.
Test 3: English Muffin
We conducted this test to determine how well each toaster functioned when toasting Thomas's English muffins. To do this, we fully loaded each toaster with split English muffins, set the toaster to the lightest possible setting, then ran a cycle. After letting the toaster cool fully, we repeated the test with medium and dark settings, took photos, and recorded observations.
Ease of Use and Other Observations
When it comes to user friendliness, we evaluated the toaster using several different parameters. First, we looked at how easy or difficult it was to remove the hot bread after the toasting cycle. Some toasters are designed to make bread removal simple, featuring a high-lift function that keeps you from reaching for tongs or, worse, a fork. There are also some models that allow users to manually lift the lever before the cycle ends to check on their toast’s progress, while others remain locked unless you press the cancel button.
We also evaluated aesthetics, since toasters usually end up being permanent countertop fixtures. Finally, we looked at ease of cleaning and the design of the crumb tray. Even if a toaster toasts well, if it's tough to clean or gets crumbs everywhere, it isn't worth buying.
The Best Overall Slot Toaster: Cuisinart 4-Slice Compact Plastic Toaster
What We Liked: The Cuisinart 4-Slice packs a punch in a surprisingly affordable package. Each trial produced excellent results, with toast colors that corresponded accurately with the darkness settings. It handled frozen items like a dream, fully defrosting each before toasting to the correct shade. We also love that this toaster has a feature that pops toast up even higher so it's easier to grab. What's more: It's easy to clean with a slide-out crumb tray and smooth plastic exterior.
What We Didn’t: The fresh bagels could have been toasted more evenly, though the resulting texture was still excellent. Some may find the aesthetics of the toaster to be lacking compared to some of the fancier chrome models.
The Best Affordable Slot Toaster: Black + Decker 2-Slice Toaster
What We Liked: This toaster excelled at every test we put it through. Each slice was uniformly toasted and the shade we would expect for the darkness setting. Of all the toasters, the Black + Decker’s results for frozen items were almost identical to their fresh counterparts. Add to that a sleek chrome look, lightweight construction, and a rock-bottom price, the Black + Decker 2-slice was a true winner.
What We Didn’t: The B+D doesn’t come with any special features (such as a dedicated bagel setting) aside from "defrost."
The Best Long-Slot Toaster: Dash Clear View
What We Liked: Out of all the long-slot toasters, this is the only one that didn’t burn the bread on the upper settings. The long-slot design means you can toast either one long slice of bread or two regulars simultaneously. A nifty window allows you to see your bread while it cooks.
What We Didn’t: Some of the trials, namely the English muffin and the unfrozen bagel, really didn’t toast as much as you would want, which is better than burning your bread but could be frustrating for dark toast lovers.
SMEG Toaster, Retro-Style: Despite being more than triple the price of some of the other toasters we tested, the Smeg toaster burnt our frozen bagels and failed to defrost others. Even simple slices of bread toasted unevenly. With this toaster, you’re mostly paying for looks.
Oster 4-Slice Long Toaster: This toaster packed a lot of power. Almost too much. All the slices of bread and bagels we put in the toaster on the darkest setting were burned black.
Hamilton Beach 4-Slice Long Toaster: The 4-slice, 2-slot design is handy for irregularly shaped bread, however, one of the bread carriages started jamming almost immediately during testing. This toaster also did not deliver even results and burned bread toasted on the highest setting.
Breville Bit More Toaster: This 2-slot toaster looks snazzy, but when it came to toasting bread it fell very short. The defrost setting didn’t appear to be effective and burned much of the bread toasted.
Krups Savoy 4-Slice Toaster: The Krups toaster is certainly a looker with its gleaming metal exterior, but results were all over the map when it came to testing. Overall, toasting was uneven and ultimately way too light across the board.
Cuisinart 2-Slice Compact Plastic Toaster: This Cuisinart toaster burned most of the bread that wasn’t regular white or an English muffin. When trialed with frozen items and bulky bagels, its browning was uneven across the board.
Bella Pro-Series 2 Slice Toaster: The draw of the Bella Pro-Series 2-Slice is its dedicated gluten-free setting. However, without a defrost function, it burned and unevenly toasted anything frozen we put in it.