Who should buy this
You’re probably looking for a new toaster because your old one bit the dust. Or maybe it toasts unevenly, can’t accommodate bagels, or doesn’t fit with your kitchen anymore. If you use a toaster oven and it dries out your bread, switching to the intense, direct heat of a toaster can give you a nice char while keeping the bread’s texture intact.
If you need something more versatile and capable than a two-slot toaster, you’re better off getting a toaster oven, which can handle some (if not all) of the tasks that a full-size oven can tackle. However, if you have a large family and you don’t want to invest in (or don’t have room for) a large toaster oven, four-slot toasters are the way to go. With double the capacity, four-slot toasters allow you to produce more toast fast, which is nice if you have a lot of mouths to feed.
How we picked and tested
For our 2016 update, we tested toasters using white sandwich bread, bagels, Eggo waffles, and English muffins. Photo: Michael Hession
The ideal toaster should toast bread evenly and consistently without a whole lot of fuss. Every slot should give you similar performance, and you should be able to toast breads of different types and shapes, which means having a big enough slot to handle thick bagels plus a way to retrieve small English muffins without jamming utensils (or your fingers) into the slots. You should be able to control the toast’s darkness, and it’s essential to have a cancel button that can easily cut off power mid-toast.
For this guide, we tested two- and four-slot toasters between $30 and $180. However, in our research, we found that many of the high-end toasters that cost upwards of $100 don’t offer much more than those costing less than half the price.
Ideally, we wanted to find a slot toaster for under $50, especially because they are really a lo-fi, single-purpose appliance. In most cases, we were able to make perfectly fine toast with much cheaper machines.
For our testing, we used uniform slices of basic white bread from Bimbo and Wonder. We did three back-to-back batches at a middle-shade setting, which showed us how consistent the toast could be from model to model and batch to batch. This also showed how well the toasters could self-regulate their temperature once they’re heated up.
We judged toast on its top-to-bottom and side-to-side evenness. We evaluated the accuracy of the shade settings—would most breakfast eaters consider these results medium, or were they too light or too burned? We also bit into the test toast to evaluate its texture and taste, looking for slices that had a lightly charred and crispy exterior and a warm interior that didn’t feel too dried out or stiff.
To test the toasters’ features beyond basic white bread, we tried out their bagel modes on everything bagels fresh from Murray’s and frozen waffles. For more on how we picked and tested, see our full guide.
The best two-slot toaster
The Oster Jelly Bean is our pick for the best two-slot toaster. Photo: Michael Hession
Our pick for the best toaster is the Oster Jelly Bean. This simple, inexpensive two-slot model toasted bread, bagels, and waffles better than all of the competition in this price range. Unlike some toasters we tested, the slots are wide enough to fit thick, hand-cut bagels without needing to force them down. The plastic controls are easy to use and stay cool to the touch even during multiple rounds of toasting. Also, the Oster was one of the smallest toasters we tested, so it’s ideal for kitchens with limited counter space.
The Oster toasted evenly from top to bottom and slot to slot, while pricier machines with the same nichrome heating element put out inconsistent results. In three successive batches, our Oster toast results were mostly consistent, with some darker patches on the second batch. This wasn’t the case with the Cuisinart CPT-440 we tested, which toasted bread inconsistently from batch to batch.
A pricier toaster with more features
Our upgrade pick is the Breville BTA720XL. Photo: Michael Hession
If you want a high-end toaster with more features, we recommend the Breville BTA720XL. Though it’s more than twice the price of our main pick, our testers found that the Breville toasts bread and bagels more evenly. The Breville also stands out because it allows you to check the degree of doneness, with the option to add 30 seconds more to the toasting cycle. Also, its handsome steel casing has a classic look that would fit the aesthetic of almost any kitchen.
The Breville delivers a more even toasting performance than the Oster, with uniform browning from top to bottom. While the Oster slightly scorched the edges of the second round of toast in back-to-back tests, the Breville’s results were a bit darker but not burnt. Bagels also turned out better using the Breville, because the toaster’s bagel mode is more precise with how it heats each side of the bagel. If you follow an onboard legend that tells you which direction to insert a sliced bagel, you can get a nicely darkened sliced side and a round side that’s warmed but not overdone.
A four-slot toaster for larger households
The Oster 4-Slice offers double the capacity and consistent toasting results. Photo: Michael Hession
If you need a four-slot toaster, we recommend the affordably priced Oster 4-Slice. This model toasts bread very evenly, even after multiple batches. Like most models we tested, you’ll need to adjust the heat setting slightly for bagels, English muffins, and Eggos, but it provides consistent results every time. Additionally, this stainless steel model has a classic look and wouldn’t be an eyesore if stored on a kitchen counter.
In our tests, the Oster 4-Slice toasted bread almost as well as, if not better than models costing three and four times as much. Toast comes out perfectly golden brown, with a crisp exterior and a warm interior that isn’t dried out. Though the Oster 4-Slice toasts more evenly than most other models we tried in the price range, it does leave a small area around the perimeter of the bread untoasted. However, for the price, we don’t think this is a dealbreaker.
A heavy-duty four-slot toaster
Our upgrade pick for a four-slot toaster, the Breville BTA840XL. Photo: Michael Hession
If you want a four-slot toaster that consistently makes evenly browned toast with every batch, the Breville BTA840XL is hands down the best that we tried. Though it’s pricier and takes up more space than the Oster four-slot toaster, the Breville offers more features than any other two- or four-slot model we tested.
This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.
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