The quest for that perfect piece of toast – warm, evenly browned and freshly buttered – is perilous, fraught with crumbs, uneven cooking, four feet of extra cord, and the risk of electrocution. As one of the most common and basic appliances known to man, you’d think buying a toaster would be relatively simple. The reality is almost always disappointing, if only because even the best toaster needs four or five uses before it “warms up” and actually starts working the way it was intended to. The good news is that there are great toasters out there and that perfect piece of toast isn’t at all unobtainable, no matter your price bracket.
Like every other appliance on the market today, toasters can come with all sorts of bells and whistles, so the first step in buying the best toaster for you is to decide what you need. As a baseline, you should look for a machine that doesn’t take up a ton of counter space and has a removable crumb tray, cord storage for safety reasons, and simple controls. This Cuisinart two-slice toaster will cover all your bases in a compact design, and produces moist and crunchy bread and bagels.
The next step is to decide what you’re likely to use your toaster for: just toast, or do you prefer bagels, English muffins, or artisan bread? Check out this four-slice compact toaster by Cuisinart, the big brother to the two-slice model above. It has wider, longer slots – perfect for bagels and artisan bread – and a carriage with extra lift means no more struggling to fish out your English muffin without burning yourself. The bagel setting is actually really cool, too: only one element warms to full heat so that one side gets toasted and the other is just warmed. The best part, though, is that both the two-slot and four-slot versions here are relatively cheap and out-perform models twice as expensive.
Not that it isn’t worth dishing out some extra money if you can afford it: there are all sorts of high-tech options out there. Since we’re on a hot streak with the brand anyway, this fancy Cuisinart two-slice toaster is longer and narrower than your typical toaster, making it great for long slices of artisan bread, but it’s also a great deal more compact and sports a motorized lever. It’s also built from aluminum, which brings up another point: if you want your toaster to keep looking like you just bought it, choose carefully. Your chrome, stainless steel, and aluminum options won’t show wear and tear for awhile, but scratches and fingerprints are, on average, more prominent. If it goes with your décor, stick with a colored model: white toasters tend to discolor and show their age faster. In the worst case, you can hide your ugly but beloved workhorse beneath an appliance cover.
Though one might consider toasters among the most basic home appliances on face value, rest assured that even the lowliest of today’s machines come with modern styles, conveniences, and curiosities. If you’re an aficionado of toasted anything and you want to impress and be impressed, rest assured that there’s something out there for you. Sports fan? Consider one of these Pangea ProToast models, which will mark each slice of toast with your favorite team’s logo. If you’re looking for something to match your modern décor, consider this somewhat quirky Sunpentown stainless steel toaster or, for something more in line with the digital age, check out this top-rated T-fal toaster. Both have eight control settings for getting your toast just the way you want it, and both feature stop buttons – something I love, since I hate pulling up on the lever and having my toast launched into the bottom of my cabinets. Oh, and don’t let the T-fal’s two slots fool you: you can fit two slices of toast into each of the ultra-long slots, effectively making it a four-slot toaster with a two-slot profile.
Buying a toaster is a little more complicated today than it was twenty years ago and beyond – they’re always building a better mouse trap, after all – but having more options is always a good thing. We’re all individuals with particular tastes. Besides being able to toast a slice of bread, what features does your perfect toaster need?