Toaster buying guide
Two-slice or four-slice? Old school or space age?
Hot toast on a cold morning
A simple slice of toast is a hard thing to get wrong, but we've all been there – scraping the burnt stuff into the sink. CHOICE tests a variety of toasters for ease of use and consistent browning (yes, we get to eat the toast afterwards), so we can tell you which ones perform best. Read on, and we'll tell you what to look for when shopping for a new toaster.
Want to know how we get our review results? Check out how we test toasters.
In this article
Toasters are very simple machines, so if all you need is something that gets the job done well, skip to the next section to find out what you should look for in a basic toaster.
If you'd like some fancier features with your toast, here are some of the more impressive things some toasters can do these days:
LED progress indicator
Yep, you read that right: some toasters even have LED lights, giving a progression bar or timer countdown. Necessary? No. Cool? You bet!
A height-lift carriage allows you to raise smaller items above the toaster slots.
For those who don't like surprises in the morning, some toasters now have motorised lifts that gently raise the toast instead of popping up abruptly.
To supplement that whisper-quiet motorised lift, you'll need an alert to tell you your toast is ready so you don't miss out on that butter-melting warmth.
Like your toast a particular shade that's hard to get right? Look for a feature that slowly raises the toast and lowers it back down so you can check out how it's going. For that micro-manager in all of us.
Two-slice or four-slice?
This depends on the size of your household and how much toast you eat. Families will probably find a four-slice toaster more useful. These of course take up more bench space, and in some four-slot models the two inner slots can heat up more than than the outer slots. Look for four-slice models in our review with good evenness and repeatability – those are the toasters that avoid that particular problem.
Ease of use
Basics such as storage for the power cord and non-slip feet will make your toaster much simpler to use and store.
Controls should be easy to read and operate, and positioned away from hot areas.
Separate controls for each slot, or each pair of slots, allow you to carry out two different toasting cycles, and are useful if you're using two different types of bread.
A crumb tray should be easy to slide out and insert back in after emptying, as well as have no places for crumbs to accumulate in the toaster over time. Empty and clean the crumb tray frequently to avoid build-up and insects, and occasionally shake the toaster upside down for a more thorough clean.
Look for an easy-to-clean exterior with no crevices where dirt can be trapped, and no sharp edges that could scratch the benchtop, or you, when moving. While stainless steel may look more attractive than plastic, it often requires more effort to clean.
The temperature of the exterior during toasting should remain cool enough to touch, and not exceed 60°C.
The toasting chamber should be wide and long enough to insert and remove a variety of bread shapes and sizes. If you like long slices of toast, a long-slot toaster is the way to go.
If you have an elderly parent or relative they may have experienced the not uncommon event of setting off their smoke alarm from burnt toast. A simple solution to this could be a glass-sided toaster that allows the user to see the toast browning.
They range in price from $20 to over $399.