At the conclusion of a carb-heavy week, after more than 30 hours researching, toasting, and tasting breads, bagels, and breakfast pastries in seven of the best-selling top-slot toasters, we determined that the Cuisinart Touch to Toast Leverless 4-Slice Toaster is the best and most versatile toaster for everyday use.
Making toast isn’t the most advanced culinary achievement, so a basic toaster only needs to reliably perform a single function to be considered good. However, as we dove into the art of toasting we were surprised by the latest advancements in technology, features, results, and aesthetics.
Today’s top toasters produce more consistent texture and coloring, accommodate larger foods, are easier to clean up, and look sharp on any kitchen counter. Our testing allowed us to evaluate the market, find our favorites, and figure out why they beat the competition.
Top Pick: Cuisinart Touch to Toast 4-Slice Toaster
The Cuisinart toaster is our top pick overall thanks to its fast and consistent toasting and simple controls.
Table of contents
- How we picked our finalists
- The seven best toasters
- What to look for in a toaster
- How we tested
- The best toaster overall
- The most versatile toaster
- The best two slice toaster
- The other finalists
- The bottom line
How we picked our finalists
We began our quest to find the best toaster by compiling reviews and research from popular sources on home goods like Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, CNET, and Bon Appetit magazine.
We also read cooking blogs and talked to other consumers to discover how often people use a toaster, what functions are most useful, what the most common complaints are, and what makes a great toaster.
We found that these are the predominant characteristics that people look for in a good toaster:
- Reliability: Does a given setting produce an expected result time after time?
- Consistency: Is the food item toasted evenly over the entire surface?
- Versatility: Can the toaster accommodate a wide variety of foods?
- Aesthetics: How visually attractive is the appliance?
- Footprint: How much counter space is used?
- Features: Do special features work accurately and intuitively?
- Cleaning: How easily can the appliance be cleared of crumbs and debris?
- Affordability: Do better results necessarily require spending more money?
The seven best toasters
- Cuisinart Touch to Toast Leverless 4-Slice
- KRUPS 4-Slice
- Breville Diecast Smart
- Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome 2-Slice
- Oster Jelly Bean
- Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice
- KitchenAid 2-Slice
Why you need a slot toaster
Some may think that there are many ways to heat bread, bagels, and frozen waffles. An oven that can handle a Thanksgiving turkey can surely accommodate a couple slices of bread, and a pan over the stove can also toast bagels. So, why even bother with a slot toaster?
Slot toasters are the best and easiest way to make toast and a lot of other foods quickly and consistently.
Making toast in the oven, or even in a toaster oven, can be problematic for several reasons, but the most important consideration is it simply makes bad toast. Toast in the oven is often flakey and dry. Because of an oven’s size, the heat source is far from the bread, and with the volume of air inside, food items dry as they cook. That’s why we marinate vegetables and baste turkey.
In a slot toaster, because the source of heat is so close, the space tightly confined, and the duration so quick, the moisture inside bagels and breads does not escape. This creates the crispy outside but warm, soft, and chewy inside that makes toast so delicious.
Using the stove is certainly quicker than waiting for the oven to preheat and crisp the toast, but the pan has to be actively tended and then washed. The ability to simply push a button or lever, and then move onto other tasks makes a slot toaster much more convenient — particularly for those mornings when minutes seem to fly by as you try to get out the door.
Clearly the toaster is the right tool for making toast, frozen breakfast treats, and bagels. But it can also be the quickest, cleanest, and easiest way to reheat last night’s pizza or create gourmet sandwiches and paninis.
Toaster bags, made of heat-resistant and food-safe Teflon, allow you to cook pretty much anything that will fit in the slots. The bags, which trap any crumbs, melting cheese, or loose topping are washable and reusable.
With the confined shape of toaster bags, you can also add your favorite toppings or spreads before toasting. Bagels with peanut butter or cream cheese come out tasty and ready to eat right away. During our testing, we even made toaster paninis with chicken, pesto, and goat cheese.
What to look for in a toaster
Number of slots
A single person or couple will most likely be served well with a two-slot toaster while a larger family would probably benefit from the extra slots, particularly when multiple people need to use it in a short time period.
The size of your kitchen and your aesthetic taste will also dictate how much of your counter space you want to dedicate to a toaster. For a 300-square-foot studio with a small kitchen, a two-slot toaster is probably going to be the right decision.
The crumb tray, a small, thin, metallic sheet that slides out from the bottom of the toaster, is a crucial feature. All of our finalists have crumb trays, and we strongly advise against buying a toaster without one.
The tray catches all of the inevitable crumbs and debris that flake off bread during the toasting process. Instead of these small fragments of food continuing to burn at the bottom of your toaster for all eternity, you simply pull out the tray after use and dispose of the collected waste.
The length and width of the slots will determine what can actually fit inside, and smaller slots limit your ability to toast larger and more varied food items. The emerging standard width is 1½ inches, which is featured in all except one of our finalists. The lengths hover between five and six inches, with the exception of the Breville Diecast Smart Toaster, which sports two unique 10-inch long slots.
Beyond simple toasting, there are several other pre-programmed features that may come equipped that change exactly how it heats a given food item. For example, the most common feature is the bagel setting, which makes a darker, crispier inside and a soft, warm outside by changing the intensity of the different heated coils. While all of our finalists have a bagel function, they are not all created equal.
Another popular setting is the frozen or defrost button, which is designed for food coming directly from the freezer. Again, all of our finalists have this feature, but it performs differently from model to model.
Some frozen settings simply increase the time of a given cycle while others actually lower the intensity of the heat or more gradually increase it to prevent burning the outside while not properly heating the inside of the food.
Other popular features to consider are levers and push buttons, LED displays, sound alerts, countdown timers, a cancel function, and the ability to lift the food high enough out of the slots to make removing it by hand easy and safe.
More expensive toasters almost always look sharper and sleeker, but they don’t necessarily make drastically better toast. Cheaper options may take a bit longer and produce less even coloring and texture than pricier models, which often have more wattage and more heated wires.
It’s likely that a more expensive model, made with higher quality, more durable components, will last longer. Some offer warranties while others don’t. In the end, your budget and personal preferences will help determine which one of our top seven will be your favorite.
How we tested
Speed and consistency
We wanted to find out how reliably each toaster produced the same shading and texture on the same medium setting over five toasting cycles. Everyone likes their toast a certain way, but can the toaster predictably create that certain way for you every time?
For this test, we used slices of Wonder Bread and set each finalist to its middle setting. We also wanted to see any difference between slots, so we cycled through the slots over the five consecutive toasting cycles.
All of the finalists we tested decrease the amount of time per cycle progressively as the machine gets hotter. The average time to reach a medium toast the first time around was two minutes, 47 seconds. That dropped to an average of two minutes, 15 seconds on the second round, with further incremental drops each round.
The toasters that created the most consistent toast from rounds one to five adjusted the time toast spent in the slots while also altering the intensity of the heat. The toaster with the smallest variance in time between rounds, the Oster Jelly Bean, also produced some of the most similarly toasted slices round after round. Other toasters that offered close to uniform consistency were the Cuisinart and the KRUPS.
Not only were the Cuisinart and Oster Jelly Bean toasters reliable, they were also the two fastest, both with first round times of two minutes and two seconds. At just under four minutes, the Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice was by far the slowest to achieve a medium toast.
After observing the speed and consistency of multiple rounds, we turned our attention to the quality of the toast itself. We wanted to see bread that had been evenly colored from left to right, top to bottom, and on both sides. The ideal toast would be crispy on the outside without being too dry or flaky all the way through — a bit of a crunch with a warm and light interior.
Many of the toasters provide an evenly shaded slice from left to right on the same side, but there is a discernable difference between the top and bottom, with the bottom almost always being a bit darker. There was also often a large variation from one side of the bread to the other.
Only the toast made with the Hamilton Beach toaster was the same on both sides of the bread. All of the others produced toast with a lighter side and a darker side. With some, the difference was very slight, like the Kitchenaid and Cuisinart, but many were noticeably darker on one side, as with the KRUPS toaster.
Making a taste comparison between the models is difficult, as everyone has different taste buds, different expectations, and different reactions. However, the toast that emerged from the Frigidaire toaster had a clearly different texture than all the others. It seemed denser and compressed, and the edges crumbled and flaked with even the most careful handling.
All of the toasters on our list of finalists include a bagel setting. Most also have a decal near the slots that illustrates what direction to face the sliced side of the bagel. The goal is to toast a bagel with a golden brown, crispy cut side and a warmed but still chewy opposite side. We used fresh bagels that we cut in half right before toasting.
The bagel setting works by increasing the heat on just one side of the slot. Clearly this technology has been well-developed, as we were pleased with most all of the bagels that popped up. The one disappointment was the Oster Jelly Bean, which seemed to do the exact same thing to both sides of the bagel. The medium bagel setting was also much darker than we would have expected.
In order to test the ability of the direct-from-the-freezer setting, we set each toaster to either frozen or defrost and lowered a Pillsbury Toaster Strudel into the slot. The goal was a crispy, flakey exterior and a warm — but not too hot — gooey filling inside. In addition to our texture and taste observations, we used an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of both the outside surface and the inside filling of the pastry after one, and if necessary, two rounds of toasting.
Both the Cuisinart and the KRUPS needed two rounds on frozen set to medium to cook a finished product that was ready to eat. After just one cycle, the pastry was just barely warm to the touch, with a cool, less-than-delicious center. The other models all succeeded in making a Toaster Strudel with an interior temperature above 160 degrees after the first cycle.
While all the toasters we tested are marketed as having large, wide slots, we wanted to see how the machines actually handled larger slices of bread. We cut several loaves of french bread into ½-inch, one-inch, and 1½-inch-wide segments and ran them through our finalists. For reference, a slice of Wonder Bread is about half an inch.
As the slices get wider, they get closer to the heated wires inside the slots, and the edges darken quicker and more dramatically than the middle surface area of the bread. If you typically enjoy traditional sliced toast at a given setting, you may want to decrease the setting for thicker slices since it will toast quicker.
For some of our finalists, one-inch-thick bread came out a bit uneven in terms of shading and quality. Several toasters, including the Hamilton Beach and the Oster Jelly Bean could not accommodate the 1½-inch cut pieces; their slots were simply too narrow. The others performed with varying degrees of success, with the clear winner in this category being the Breville.
Obviously the inside of the toaster will be hot, but the outside should remain relatively cool to be handled easily after use. Again, we used our infrared thermometer to take the temperature of the outside surface of the toaster after one and two rounds on the medium setting.
Most of our finalists hung around the mid 80s and low 90s (F°) for surface temperature, which is warm but not dangerously hot. However, the Oster Jelly Bean shot up above 100 after just one round and to 122 degrees after the second. At this temperature, the toaster was very hot to the touch and couldn’t be moved without oven mitts for several minutes.
Finally, we tried to take into account all the other aspects of the user experience that are hard to quantify but are still important. We looked at how easily the crumb trays are removed and cleaned and how efficiently they trap crumbs inside the machine. We spent hours assessing how intuitive and easy each toaster is to use.
We observed LED screens, timers, lever lifts that raise the toast higher out of the slots, and push buttons that automatically lower and raise the food. We compared dings, beeps, and the feeling you get from using and simply looking at the toaster in the kitchen to help determine the best of the best.
The best toaster overall
Across all of our testing, the Cuisinart toaster performed extremely well. It is incredibly consistent, very fast, and shades the entire surface of sliced bread evenly. The four slots are wide enough to accommodate large, 1½-inch-wide food, the dual crumb trays catch a large majority of debris, and the stainless steel finish looks sharp. It’s a well-performing tool and a great addition to any kitchen.
During our test for consistency, the Cuisinart continued to decrease the time bread spent lowered into the slots, ensuring that a medium toast looked the same after five rounds as it did after the first.
The toast was also well-colored from top to bottom and side to side, with just the slightest detectable difference front to back. The outside was hot and crispy while the inside maintained a moistness and chewy mouthfeel that was just perfect.
At just two minutes and two seconds to complete the first round of medium toasting, the Cuisinart toaster is the fastest four-slot toaster and matched the fastest two slot, the Oster Jelly Bean. Four slices of toast in just over two minutes puts the Cuisinart toaster in a league of its own.
Cuisinart Touch to Toast Leverless 4-Slice
The Cuisinart stands out as the most consistent, even when toasting lots of toast back to back.
Because of the shorter toasting time, the Cuisinart does not accumulate the surface heat that other machines do. In fact, the Cuisinart is the only finalist we tested that stayed below a 90-degree surface temperature after multiple runs. It can safely and easily be moved around the kitchen immediately after use.
The one test the Cuisinart toaster failed to hit out of the park was frozen food. It required a second round of toasting to bring the interior temperature of the Toaster Strudel up to the desired heat. While that may not be ideal, it still got the job done in a timely manner.
The bagel setting functions as it should, and the bagels we enjoyed from the Cuisinart toaster were expertly crisped on the cut side and warm and soft on the outside. Just place the bagel in the slots as pictured on the machine and press the bagel button.
The extra-large slots can handle food items that are 1½ inches wide, so toasted sandwiches, frozen pretzels, or left-over pizza can easily be accommodated in a toaster bag. Keep in mind that you may want to lower the setting for extra-wide foods, as they do get close to the heated wires.
We also really like the design of the Cuisinart. The push-button automatic chamber feels futuristic, and the heating mechanism slowly squeezes the food once it’s lowered to guarantee an even, complete toasting. The large LED screen is easy to view, and the settings are intuitive.
At just under $85 for high-quality components and craftsmanship that make great toast and can handle so many more common cooking tasks, the Cuisinart four-slot toaster is our pick for best overall.
- The Cuisinart toaster consistently produces the same high quality every time it’s used.
- It creates evenly colored and crisped toast, with settings that are easy to adjust on an LED screen.
- Its four 1½ -inch-wide slots accommodate a variety of food.
- It toasted faster than any other four-slot toaster.
- The push button mechanical lowering and automatic raising is luxurious and futuristic.
The KRUPS 4-Slice Toaster, around $65 on Amazon, is made of shiny stainless steel and has a clean, modern look. Like the other four-slice toasters, it takes up a large amount of counter space, but its rounded edges give a sleeker, more circular appearance.
It proved itself as one of the most consistent toasters in the top seven. It reliably produced the same shading, texture, and temperature across five slices of bread in our consistency test. However, it toasted one side of the bread more than the other, and the bottom right corner didn’t toast as well as the rest of the slice.
Bagels toasted perfectly with the KRUPS toaster. The inside was crunchy and a toasty golden brown, and the outside was warm without getting too crisp.
It took the KRUPS toaster two minutes and 45 seconds to toast our first slice, but the toasting time dropped to two minutes and 15 seconds for the second slice, since the toaster had warmed up. After the first toasting, the outside temperature of the toaster was 86 degrees, which increased to 93 degrees following the second toasting.
The KRUPS is a reliable, and somewhat less expensive, alternative to our top pick Cuisinart.
It doesn’t beep when it’s done toasting, and its automatic popping sound is fairly subtle. If some extra lift is needed when removing a slice, the toaster offers some extra lift with the manual lever. When it’s fully raised, smaller slices of bread and our breakfast pastry did not clear the edges of the slot, making pulling them out tricky, with lots of care needed.
As with the Cuisinart toaster, the Toaster Strudel needed a second round of toasting on the defrost setting in order to warm the pastry filling inside. After the first toasting, the crust was 111 degrees and the filling was 88 degrees, but after a second round, the filling jumped up to 195 degrees while the crust reached 235 degrees. Needless to say, we let it cool for a minute before biting into it. After a short wait, it was perfect.
During cleaning, we found that the KRUPS has two separate crumb trays, which are well-hidden under the front panel. Each side was very easily removed and cleaned.
- The KRUPS toaster makes consistent and even toast round after round.
- It’s excellent at toasting bagels, with a crunchy sliced edge and soft, warm exterior.
- Its two crumb trays pick up a lot of pieces and are easy to remove and clean.
The most versatile toaster
The Breville toaster, about $180, is a two-slot toaster unlike all others. It can fit four regular slices of bread, two bagels, or two larger pieces of bread within its two 10-by-1½-inch slots. This can come in handy when toasting irregular slices of bread, making paninis, or reheating a slice of pizza with a toaster bag.
Its modern matte stainless steel design features a motor that slowly lowers and automatically raises the slices when they’re toasted without the user manually pushing down a lever and eliminating the need for a sudden pop-up when the toast is done.
During the evenness tests, we found that the Breville’s toast was close to the same shade across the slice, but the crust was slightly darker than the middle. However, after toasting five consecutive slices, the toast increased in doneness, and by the last slice, the edges were burned.
The toaster continued to accumulate heat as our testing progressed and it was hotter to the touch at the end of several rounds than most other toasters we tested. After one toasting, which lasted two minutes and 40 seconds, the outside temperature was 85 degrees, and after the second, one-minute, 55-second toasting, it was 91 degrees.
During our frozen pastry test, the Breville performed very well, and the Toaster Strudel was perfectly toasted after just one round on the frozen setting — even though the outer edges ended up a bit more toasted than the middle. The outside crust came in at 210 degrees, and the inside filling was 162.
When it came to toasting bagels, we found that the bagel setting performed as it should; the outside was still soft but warmed up, and the sliced inside was browned and toasted. However, the inside of the bagel was a bit too dark on the medium setting. Those who don’t want their bagel too brown should take it down to a lower level.
The Breville can accommodate bread just a bit wider than 1.5 inches, and a slice much longer than any other toaster we tested. However, it did brown the edges of the bread more than the middle, which is a pretty common trait as breads increase in thickness.
The Lift & Look button allows the user to move the slices up and down slightly during the toasting process to observe the shade of the toast. As it toasts, its LED display shows a visual countdown of when the toast will be done. When it’s finished toasting, it slowly raises the slices and emits a soft beep, which is adjustable in volume.
After we finished the testing, it came time to clear the crumb tray. We found that it’s easy to remove but doesn’t cover a large amount of surface area under the toaster. Compared with other toasters, many more crumbs were caught on the floor of the toaster and less ended up in the crumb tray.
- The Breville is a perfectly sized toaster for artisanal breads from the farmer’s market or for reheating leftover pizza.
- It has a large footprint, due to its capacity to toast four slices at once and accommodate extra-long food.
- We like the LED tracking light that displays the progress of the toast.
The best two slice toaster
If a four-slot toaster gives away too much precious counter space and you’re in the market for something more compact, the Hamilton Beach toaster is the right choice. And at under $25, it offers the best value.
The Hamilton Beach toaster offers even shading over the entire surface of bread on both sides. However, it does tend to toast darker in consecutive uses, so you may want to adjust the setting as you go, if you’re making lots of toast or bagels.
A compact and inexpensive toaster that's great for those who only need to toast two slices at a time.
Both the defrost setting and the bagel setting operate extremely well. Our breakfast pastry was a hot 225 degrees on the outside and a warm 185 degrees on the inside, perfect and ready to eat after just one round. Our bagel had the optimal temperature and texture on both the crust side and cut side.
The compact design of the Hamilton Beach toaster means slightly smaller slots, measuring just past 1¼ inch wide. While that may somewhat limit your options, it is a necessary trade for a smaller footprint and a high-quality product.
One thing the Hamilton does better than any other machine we tested is making it easy to remove your food. The lever can be raised beyond its neutral resting position to bring the food clear of the hot slots. This allows you to get your food out without having to resort to a utensil or worrying about burning your fingers.
- The Hamilton Beach toaster has a compact design and quality results.
- Its toast boost lifts food higher for easier removal.
- It offers evenly crisped and shaded toast, as well as perfectly cooked frozen foods, at a very affordable price.
The other finalists
The other toasters we tested performed well while making toast, crisping bagels, and heating frozen foods. However, there were some discernable differences in user experience and results that led us to our conclusions.
The Oster Jelly Bean toaster is a two-slot machine that produces a medium toast that looks exactly the same every time. It also does it faster than any four-slot toaster, popping out medium toast in under two minutes in every round after the first.
While the Oster does have a bagel setting, it does not appear to operate any differently from the traditional toast setting. Our bagel came out crispy and a bit dry on both sides.
The Oster’s exterior also heats up much more than our other finalists. After just two cycles on medium, the sides of the machine were 120 degrees, nearly 20 degrees hotter than any other toaster and very hot to the touch.
The Frigidaire toaster is a reliable four-slot machine that can accommodate thick cuts of food in its extra-wide slots. We like the reflective stainless steel finish and the digital LED countdown timer that lets you know exactly how long until your food is ready.
Where the Frigidaire failed to impress was toast quality. There was clearly a darker side and a much lighter side on every slice we tested. It was also by far the slowest machine, taking more than three and half minutes for the first medium toast to pop out. The increased time spent in the slots may also lead to the crumbling, dry texture of the toast, which was noticeably different from the other product testing. The toast felt denser and more compressed while the edges flaked and fell apart.
The Kitchenaid toaster is a sleek, high-end, two-slot toaster that looks the best out of our top seven when sitting on the kitchen counter. It too has the automatic push button lowering that is fun to use and adjusts to different sizes of food. The crumb tray is also very well-designed, released by pushing on the back instead of pulling from the front.
During our testing, we observed that the Kitchenaid toaster failed to modify the time and heat intensity in consecutive uses. Each slice of toast was darker and drier than the one before. There was also a clear difference between the bottom and top of the bread itself. The bottom half emerged darker than the top. The Kitchenaid performed very well on both the bagel and the frozen food tests, however.
The bottom line
Slot toasters are incredibly efficient and provide the perfect texture and toast shade quicker, easier, and more reliably than other methods. With the use of reusable toaster bags, a good toaster becomes a versatile and almost essential appliance for any kitchen.
Our pick for the best slot toaster is the Cuisinart Touch to Toast Leverless 4-Slice Toaster because of its consistency, usability, and value. The four slots are wide enough to handle almost any food, the pre-programmed settings for bagels and frozen food work exceptionally well, and it looks and feels sharp and modern.
We also recommend the KRUPS 4-Slice Toaster, which makes great bagels and offers easy-to-clean dual crumb trays.
For a bit more versatility, the Breville Diecast Smart Toaster offers unique 10-inch-long slots that are perfect for artisanal breads or reheating pizza. It also includes great features like A Bit More, which gives your food just a little more toasting, and Lift & Look, which lets you quickly see the food without halting the heating cycle.
Finally, if a compact 2-slot toaster is the right decision for your kitchen, the Hamilton Beach Classic provides the best quality without sacrificing a lot of counter space. It’s a good value and makes great toast every time.
Top Pick: Cuisinart Touch to Toast 4-Slice Toaster
The Cuisinart toaster performed best across the board in our testing, and produces the most consistently high-quality toast when compared to all of our finalists.