One of the first things I learned to cook was toast. I felt like a fancy French chef as I slid my Wonder Bread into the stainless steel contraption, pressed down the lever, and cranked the dial. Soon, I had charred to a crisp toast that no amount of butter could make palatable. I ate it anyway because I didn’t want to be wasteful and piss off my parents.
In my time, I have started toaster fires (pro-tip: if it’s electrical, use baking soda, not water), created magnificent meals, and destroyed my share of toasters. I push them to the limits so that I can tell you what not to do. Here’s what you need to know.
What to Consider when Buying a Toaster
First of all, if you are looking for toaster ovens, you’ve come to the wrong place. This article is solely about pop-up toasters. That said, here are a few things to consider when buying the best toasters:
- Is bread your jam? Or, do you want a toaster that delivers more? In addition to toasting bread, some toasters will heat pre-cooked meat, cook eggs, and make out with your spouse.
- Do you go through a lot of toast? For personal use, I have the top pick below. It has four slots. When I was buying it, all that came to mind was the two times in the last year or so that I made BLTs and needed to toast a lot of bread. For the most part, though, we never use more than two slots at a time. What I’m trying to say is learn from my mistakes: don’t go big unless you need to.
- Do you want your toaster to be sexy? You’ll typically keep your toaster on the counter at all times so you might want it to match your décor.
- Do you have room? The two-slot toaster is the better option when space is limited. Be sure it fits in your storage space if you don’t plan on keeping it on the counter.
Features of Top Toasters
The best toasters have certain characteristics that set them apart:
- Crumb Tray – Before I upgraded to the Cuisinart CPT-340, I had a monogrammed Hamilton Beach number that we’d received as a wedding present. I wasn’t raised properly so I didn’t know I had to remove and empty the crumb tray every once in a while. Consequently, after five years, it died on us. I tell you this story to help you overcome your poor upbringing. I’ll be your dad.
- Shade-Setting Dial – This allows you to make your toast as light or dark as you want. Some kids like to crank it and eat shame toast.
- Wide Slots – When you have wide slots, you can toast bagels, artisan bread, or extra-thick frozen French toast without it getting stuck, forcing you to use a metal object to retrieve your food, and electrocuting yourself. How embarrassing!
- So Many Settings – Some of the fancy toasters have settings for warming or reheating, bagels, canceling the toast, and defrosting stuff like waffles.
- High-Carriage Bread Lifter – Most toaster engineers are sadistic by nature and want you to burn your fingers in order to extract your toast. Look for a high-carriage bread lifter so you can avoid this mild discomfort.
Now that you have a few tools in your toaster-shopping repertoire, here are my picks for the top 10 best toasters:
- One-and-a-half inch wide toasting slots so you can really get your hand in there
- Shade-setting dial with six settings
- Defrost, bagel, and reheat controls
Full disclosure: the Cuisinart CPT-340 is the rig I use on the reg. I have had it for quite a while now and have had zero issues. I’m already well on my way to destroying it because I never clean out the crumbs. I’m pretty sure the three-year limited warranty does not cover the user being lazy, but Cuisinart is a respectable brand that’ll probably still work with me. Other full disclosure: I have not used the CPT-340 for Pop-Tarts because we don’t eat that crap, but other users have reported having trouble toasting Pop-Tarts with this appliance. I think this is more about the culinary gods smiting them.
- Anti-jam (not the sugary spread you put on your toast) function
- Removable crumb tray
- Seven-setting shade dial along with defrost, bagel, reheat, and cancel controls
The Vremi Toaster is ideal for people who want a basic, functional 2-slice toaster with a modern, retro look. For the pricing point, it can’t be beaten. Users who have had problems with the Vremi report that their customer service is exceptional. They kind of have to be since they can’t rely on their branding alone. The only issue here is that really thinly sliced bread might fall through the tines to the bottom of the toaster.
- Blue backlit LCD function display and countdown feature
- Push a button rather than a lever, which is better for some reason
- 1800 watts
The CPT-440 is supposed to be the greatest thing since (toasted) sliced bread. What sets it apart from the CPT-340 is that it has the LCD display with countdown feature, and it’s lever-less. To me, it’s not worth the extra $13 for unnecessary functions that could potentially break down and cause problems. That said, it is still a great appliance that is ideal for people who want something high-tech looking without spending too much.
- Extra-lift carriage lever to protect your digits
- Wide slots just how you like it
- Bagel function for when you gots to have your cream cheese and lox
Three of the appliances on our top 10 best toasters list are made by Cuisinart. That’s because Cuisinart produces performance, style, and quality. They have basically set the standard for toasters. The CPT-180 is essentially the same as the CPT-340 only it costs more and has a slightly different design. I’d only recommend this option if it goes better with your kitchen’s design, and you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks.
- Auto-lowering function
- Two 1.2-inch-wide slots
- Small footprint
Breville is another popular name in the toaster industry. They are known for their high-end appliances. Breville toasters, including the BTA820XL, are celebrated for their design, but they generally aren’t worth the extra cost. For instance, users complain about the toasters not lasting long – they only come with a one-year warranty – and toasting unevenly.
- Egg cooker scrambles, boils, and poaches eggs
- Heats pre-cooked meat
- High toast lift
“In a West end town a dead end world/The East end boys and West Bend Toasters/West Bend Toasters.” Okay, so maybe Weird Al I am not. The West Bend TEM500W is the perfect gift to get college-bound teens (provided their living arrangement allows for toasters). It does everything you need to have a breakfast sandwich every morning. The biggest complaint from users is that the Teflon pans that come with it start to bubble and peel, which can be a health hazard.
- Svelte design lets you know that it works out
- Seven adjustable toast shade settings
- Slots go nice and deep to accommodate different types of bread/hands
What users like most about the Oster TSSTTRJBG1 is how it looks and the relatively low price. The biggest complaints revolve around uneven toasting, and the slots are not big enough for thick-sliced, homemade bread.
- LED toasting progress indicator
- One-side toasting for bagels
- Extra-long slots for entire loaves of French bread (okay, maybe they aren’t that long)
The BTA630XL is the most affordable Breville toaster worth buying. For the most part, it works well. The only issue some users have been having is that it occasionally shoots out sparks and burns your kitchen down. No biggy.
- Optional sound alert to let you know your toast is ready
- 1600 watt element
- Eight-pound weight makes it convenient for you to bring along on vacation
If you don’t mind spending a premium for toast that emerges (rather than pops) from the toaster, then the BTA830XL is the way to go.
- Ejector system keeps toast warm until you push the toast all the way up
- Element longevity and toasting efficiency are boosted by the ProHeat element
- Slots are a smidge over one-inch wide
With the Dualit, you are shelling out the big bucks for a toaster that is made in the UK. However, the quality does not appear to justify the price. The slots are small, it toasts unevenly, and some users have expressed dissatisfaction with how long it lasts. I recommend this only to people who absolutely refuse to buy anything from China.
Are you a toastist with the mostest? What is so great about your toaster? Share your thoughts with us below.