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Nothing beats a plate full of warm toast in the morning. Fortunately, you needn't spend a lot of money to get a good toaster — unless you're interested in a deluxe toaster with all the bells and whistles, that is.
We've selected several lower-priced models and some premium brands to help you understand exactly what you get for your money. Regardless of price, all of the toasters on our shortlist have received high ratings from consumers.
A toaster's outward appearance could impact your purchasing decision. If a manufacturer has put a lot of thought into a toaster's design, chances are this effort reflects its functionality and durability as well.
Some people like their toast lightly browned. Others like it crispy, almost to the point of being burnt. Flexibility and speed are two important performance features in a toaster.
In this section, we tell you about toaster features that make your life easier: cord storage, removable crumb trays, defrost/reheat settings, and so on.
You could get a cheap toaster for around ten bucks, but we don't recommend it. You could get a commercial toaster for three or four hundred dollars, but do you really need eight slices at once? Our top five fall somewhere in between these extremes.
Judging by the T-fals' popularity, people like the looks of the T-fal Classic Avante 2-Slice Toaster. The chrome highlights give it a slightly retro look and work well with the angled front, resulting in a smart, solid appearance. Controls are clear and uncluttered, and there's a clever little feature that's hidden from the front but revealed when you turn it around —a carrying handle that has been molded into the body.
Oster Jelly Bean Toaster
When we looked at the Oster Jelly Bean 2-Slice Toaster, the first word that came to mind was "funky." The purple color might not suit everyone's taste, but there's also a gray version available, and the smooth curves give it a friendly look that is reminiscent of the Volkswagen Beetle. The main body has a nice metallic sheen that hints at quality, and easy-to-read controls fall easily into the hand.
Krups Breakfast Set Toaster
The Krups KH734 Breakfast Set 4-Slice Toaster is quite different from the T-fal and Oster, and not just because it's considerably larger. This model has the kind of styling you'd expect to see in a commercial kitchen. The combination of brushed and chromed stainless steel suggests solidity. We really like the fact that the outer body isn't just colored plastic, as is often the case, but real metal. Controls are equally purposeful-looking. Krups has an excellent reputation for kitchen equipment, and the quality of this machine quite literally shines.
Cuisinart Countdown Toaster
The Cuisinart CPT-435 Countdown 4-Slice Stainless Steel Toaster boasts a classy, stainless steel exterior that is interspersed with blue LEDs to indicate heat setting and cooking time. It possesses a sharp, modern look, and there's certainly no denying the quality of Cuisinart's products. As with the Krups, however, we suspect that the outer design of this toaster will appeal to some consumers more than others.
Breville Smart Toaster
If you like the look of a sleek appliance, you'll love the Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Long Slot Smart Toaster. The Breville's gently curved sides and die-cast, brushed metal body exemplify the manufacturer's high standards of construction. Its main controls are smart chrome buttons that sit neatly on the upper surface, while an LED indicator lets you know how your toast is progressing. This large-slotted machine can accommodate both ordinary slices and specialty breads.
We like the fact that the T-fal Classic Avante Toaster offers a choice of six browning settings. We also appreciate the cancel function, which is useful because sometimes you want to stop your toast from getting too dark. Like several other models on our shortlist, the T-fal includes a bagel function which is intended to crisp the outside and warm the inside. While the sloping front of this machine might suggest that the top corner of your bread wouldn't receive enough heat, that's not actually the case. However, one or two owners did find the bread slots to be a bit short from front to back.
The Oster Jelly Bean Toaster offers seven browning settings and, like the T-fal, it also includes a bagel option. It's a slightly larger model than the T-fal, so it doesn't get the same complaints about length of slice that the T-fal does. Instead, owners tell us that sometimes their bread was too tall to fit this machine! If you really want an Oster Jelly Bean Toaster, however, we think the solution is simple enough, albeit a bit of a nuisance: simply toast your bread halfway, then turn it upside-down to finish .
On busy mornings, large families can really take advantage of a four-slice model like the KRUPS Breakfast Set Toaster. The Krups has six browning settings and a separate bagel function, as well as a helpful cancel button to prevent burning. We particularly like the fact that you can program the left and right slot pairs of the Krups independently. For example, you could toast bagels on the right and bread on the left at the same time. Our research didn't uncover any consumer complaints about slot size, but with a depth of about 4 1/2 inches, larger slices of bread could potentially cause a problem. While many owners rate the Krups an excellent machine with "even" browning, several complained that it takes too long to toast denser breads, especially English muffins.
The Cuisinart CPT-435 Countdown Toaster offers seven browning options, a separate bagel setting, and two independent heat zones for added flexibility. Where some toasters are criticized for their unaccommodating slot size, the Cuisinart, with its 5+ inches of slot space, is frequently complimented. A few owners told us that this model does not toast "evenly" enough for their tastes. Specifically, they said it would toast one side more than the other.
Although the Breville Smart Toaster is called a four-slice toaster, it actually offers just two slots —but these slots are extra-long. This unique feature has advantages and disadvantages. On the negative side, you don't get the two heat zones (and therefore, the toasting flexibility) that machines like the Krups and Cuisinart provide. On the plus side, you'd be hard-pressed to find a piece of bread that won't fit in this toaster. Other key features include a cancel button, a bagel setting, and five browning levels. While this feature set is smaller than others on offer here, few Breville owners consider it to be a drawback. The only criticism we encountered of this machine was that a few people think it toasts too dark, even on the lightest setting.
Nina is a longtime gourmet chef, interior designer/decorator, and events planner. She has accomplished all of this in addition to maintaining a stellar career as a healthcare executive, where she helps alter the course of people’s lives via preventive care and healthy living. Nina’s hobbies include learning new recipes, planning and executing amazing dinners to impress local chefs, and hiking around the world.
The T-fal Classic Avante Toaster may be an entry-level machine, but it's certainly not short on useful features. A handy, slide-out crumb drawer in the base makes cleaning this appliance, and your counter tops, much easier. Along with underbody cord storage, this model comes with a built-in carrying handle that makes it easy to stash out of sight if you're low on counter space. A handy reheat function allows you to warm whatever you've toasted without actually cooking it further. The interior mechanism is designed to prevent jamming, and there's also a high-lift lever so you won't burn your fingers on the machine —although that's unlikely anyway, thanks to the T-fal's cool-touch exterior.
Oster Jelly Bean Toaster
In addition to the typical warm/reheat function that is common to these machines, the Oster Jelly Bean Toaster features a setting for frozen bread. Like the T-fal, users enjoy a mechanism for lifting the toast clear of the slots, a cool-touch outer body, a removable crumb tray, and an anti-jam feature that automatically shuts the machine off if it fails to eject at the end of a cooking sequence.
Krups Breakfast Set Toaster
Like the Oster, the Krups Breakfast Set Toaster has a frozen function, although in this case it's called "defrost." This machine features a high-lift lever for toast removal, a reheat function, built-in cord storage, and two crumb trays (because it's a four-slice toaster). Unlike some of its competitors, the Krups does not have a stay-cool exterior. In fact, several owners told us the Krups can get unacceptably hot on the outside.
Cuisinart Countdown Toaster
The Cuisinart CPT-435 Countdown Toaster sports many of the same features that we've seen in other models on our shortlist: reheat/defrost function, neat cord storage, useful crumb tray, high-lift mechanism. However, the Cuisinart also supplies a visual countdown LED so you know exactly when your toast is going to be ready. A few owners told us that the exterior of this toaster gets uncomfortably hot, but our research didn't turn up enough complaints for us to tell whether this is a widespread problem or just a fault in one or two machines.
Breville Smart Toaster
The Breville Smart Toaster gives you all the perks you would expect from a high-quality toaster. In addition to the cancel and defrost functions, cord storage, and crumb tray, you also get a "lift and look" feature that lets you inspect your toast while it's still cooking and an audible alert when your toast is ready. This audible alert can be set to high or low volume and can be turned off completely if you don't want to hear it.
There are plenty of reasons why the T-fal Classic Avante Toaster is popular, including its price, which is only $89. You can't find a toaster with such terrific functionality and design for much cheaper than this. As with any top-selling machine, there are some owners who are less than satisfied with the T-fal. Complaints relate mainly to the size of bread it will take, although we also uncovered a few incidents of faulty or non-working machinery upon delivery. That's frustrating, but the one-year warranty should cover the problem if you're one of the unlucky ones.
At $34, the Oster Jelly Bean Toaster is another machine that delivers great value for the money. The purple color may not suit your taste, but there is a gray alternative. However, plenty of owners told us they love their "little purple friend," as one owner calls it. As with all budget toasters, the Oster is not without the occasional manufacturing defect. However, complaints are remarkably few, and overall, it's rated a very good toaster by users.
The Krups Breakfast Set Toaster costs $61. Those who know and love the brand will consider that something of a steal. The two-tone, stainless exterior is attractive and professional-looking. The two zones/four slots give you all the toasting control you need. Owners' main criticism is that, although this product toasts evenly, it takes a long time to do so. For example, an English muffin can take five minutes or more to prepare.
Cuisinart Countdown Toaster
Right now, the Cuisinart CPT-435 Countdown Toaster costs $69. For this price, you get a high-quality machine from a well-known and trusted manufacturer. When the machines on our shortlist share so many common features, small discrepancies can make a big difference. With the Cuisinart, one of the most compelling reasons we found to endorse this machine is the number of owners who said they would recommend it to a friend. Some concerns have been raised about how hot the exterior of the Cuisinart can get, but reports of this problem are few and far between. The consumers who think this is a marvelous toaster for the price far outweigh the owners who are worried about the hot exterior.
Breville Smart Toaster
The Breville Smart Toaster, at a cost of $160, is not cheap. Nevertheless, many owners tell us they are delighted to have made the investment. This toaster is almost universally praised for its sleek, shiny appearance. As far as performance is concerned, owner comments like "Very impressive!" and "Pricey, but worth it!" are the norm. One or two buyers experienced problems with the Breville's electronics, but these instances were rare. In general, this is a reliable toaster of supremely high quality.
All of the toasters on our shortlist are terrific buys, but the best of the bunch is the Breville Smart Toater.
Our "Best of the Best" award always goes to the product with the highest quality and performance. The Breville is that machine. It looks sharp. It oozes class. It can accommodate just about anything you want to toast, including split rolls and artisan bread products.
This toaster may lack the dual heating zones of models like the Krups and Cuisinart, but its other perks more than make up for this small shortcoming. For example, you can raise whatever you're toasting and have a peek at it while it's still cooking. You can program the Breville to alert you when it's done toasting with an audible signal. On top of these unique features, you can defrost items, cook frozen items, and make use of the dedicated bagel function.
The vast majority of owners say things like "Best toaster ever!" or "Just get one!" This toaster costs a pretty penny, but if people who pay $160 for a toaster are that enthusiastic about it, logic speaks for itself. The Breville BTA83OXL is an amazing product, and it's the best toaster money can buy.
The Breville can accommodate just about anything you want to toast, including split rolls and artisan bread products.
If a two-slice toaster suits your purposes, both the T-fal and the Oster would be very good choices. However, the best value for the money is found in the Cuisinart Countdown, a four-slot toaster.
While the Cuisinart sports many features that are similar to other toasters on our shortlist, it includes a few "extras" that make it special. Seven browning settings, a bagel function, reheating and defrosting capabilities, two independent heating zones — all of these features combine to make the Cuisinart really stand out. Also, the Cuisinart can accommodate a marginally larger slice of bread than the Krups. This is especially important for those who like to use their own bread maker. Perhaps not everyone will like the sci-fi look of the blue LEDs, but we like their countdown function and the clarity they add.
When it comes to popularity with owners, the Cuisinart is a clear winner. What else would you expect from a highly rated company with a long line of top-notch products? A few of the owners we talked to bought faulty machines, and several found the exterior too hot or the toasting uneven, but the majority of consumers agree with us. This is a very good toaster, and for the price, it can't be beat.