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Is there any bagel or slice of rye that’s not more delicious with a dark, golden hue and crispy crunch? The answer, of course, is no. That’s why the humble toaster is one of the most important appliances in anyone’s kitchen. Toasters come in two basic varieties: conventional slot toasters and toaster ovens. The best slot toasters only do one thing—and they do that thing really, really well. As a bonus, they take up very little space in your kitchen. But if you want to crisp up lots of different foods, from grilled cheese sandwiches to tater tots to, well, toast, a toaster oven might for you. Just remember that toaster ovens will take up more real estate in your kitchen than a slotted toaster does.

When choosing the best toaster for you, consider what kind of food you’ll want to prepare most often. Have a frozen waffle habit? You’ll probably want a regular toaster. If frozen pizza is in your dinner rotation, you may want to look into a toaster oven. Either way, before you pull the trigger, you’ll definitely want to assess your counter space and figure out how much room you’ve got for a new appliance. Now let’s get shopping.

Things to consider when shopping for the best toaster

When picking out the best toaster for your kitchen needs, ask yourself what you’ll be cooking most often. If you love bagels, you’ll probably want one with wider slots. If you’re looking to cook a variety of food, you’ll want a toaster oven. How many people will you be feeding, and do you need something with two, four, six, or even eight slots? How much counter space do you have? And as always, pay attention to build quality—buy an appliance that will give you years of quality service.

How many slices do you need?

It’s such a basic question, but one that sits at the heart of anyone thinking about buying a slotted toaster. If you’re on your own, or you favor small breakfasts, a two-slot toaster might serve you well. And for students in dorm rooms or people with smaller kitchens, cluttering up a counter with bulky appliances doesn’t make a lot of sense. On the other hand, if you enjoy starting your day with a hearty meal or you’ve got a family to feed, having a six-slot toaster that can pop out everyone’s waffle at once is a dream come true.

In the end, it’s about balancing your appetite, available space, your budget, and time. Pick your priority and follow your heart … or at least your stomach.

Best toaster for making lots of toast at once: KitchenAid 4-Slice Toaster with Manual High-Lift Lever

Toast More

A four-slot toaster from a top-rated company that has simple controls and accommodates extra wide bagel slices. Amazon

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This stylish KitchenAid toaster features four 1.5-inch wide slots designed to hold bagels, thick-sliced toast, or English muffins. A simple five-position knob controls the toasting from light to dark. And speaking of bagels, a special button drops the temp by 50 percent on one side, allowing you to gently brown the bottom of the bagel while toasting it completely on the face. The manual high-lift levers let you raise even the smallest pieces of bread up above the toaster’s top, so you don’t burn your fingers when you remove it. At 12.5-inches wide, it’s a bit larger than some of the toasters out there, and that’s something you’ll have to consider if space is tight.

Can the toaster fit long slices of bread?

Toasting slices of sandwich bread or English muffins is all well and good, but some of the best bread comes from larger, artisanal loaves. These slices can run twice the size of a normal, square slice of wheat. Many times, to brown this bread, you need to stick it in an oven.

Toaster ovens can do the trick, of course, but while they’re usually long enough to accommodate these extra-large loaves, they can’t always fit more than one slice at a time. And besides, what if you’re already using the toaster oven to keep something else warm? There’s not a lot of room in there.

Slot toasters have solved this problem by using extra-long slots. On one hand, they’re designed to handle four slices of bread, or two bagels, at a time. But this makes them perfect for longer, rustic loaves, rye loaves, or anything that goes beyond the typical square-shaped slice. Because they handle basic toasting so well, they’re often our choice for all slices, long or short.

Best toaster for large slices: Hamilton Beach 4 Slice Extra Wide Long-Slot Stainless Steel Toaster

How Wide Is Your Slice?

A toaster with extra-long slots to accommodate larger slices of bread. Amazon

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Hamilton Beach’s four-slice toaster uses two longer slots instead of the usual four, which allows it to handle the longer slices that you might get from a rustic bread loaf. The extra-wide slots make it perfect for sub rolls, too. The appliance has a full array of pre-sets, including bagel, defrost, and warming and a simple dial lets you manually select the level of browning

Want a smart toaster?

Toasters have been around for generations, and for the most part, their design and function haven’t changed dramatically. But this is the 21st century, and modern smart technology has revolutionized every corner of our lives—and that even goes for the most humble of kitchen appliances.

Touch-screen controls, custom algorithms for different types of bread products, fast-heat technology, and smart temperature sensors all play a role in delivering the best bagels, the crunchiest English muffins, and perfectly browned buns. It’s not so much about introducing new features as it is about optimizing the current features to deliver the absolute best performance. All that translates into tastier toast.

Best smart toaster: Revolution Cooking R180 High-Speed 2-Slice Stainless Steel Smart Toaster

Supreme Control

A modern smart toaster that isn’t light on features. Amazon

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Let’s get this out of the way: Upwards of $250, the Revolution toaster isn’t a casual purchase. But you get some premium technology under the hood for the money. The first thing you’ll notice is the large, color touch screen interface. This lets you access the company’s proprietary InstaGlo heating system, which can achieve desired temperatures in just two seconds for fast, even toasting. Toasting algorithms for bagels and English muffins—yes, there is such a thing—are designed to brown evenly and lock in the food’s flavors. And to avoid the bane of toast aficionados, an auto-glide level lowers and lifts the toast so it doesn’t get stuck. It’s not a flying car, but it is a tasty vision of the future.

Want a toaster that will last?

We won’t lie: Some kitchen appliances are built cheap, and last for maybe a year before needing to be replaced. And that’s a problem, because not only does it get expensive, but throwing all that technology away has a negative impact on the environment.

While spending more for the best toaster might sting at first, the money saved in the long run by owning an appliance that can last for years more than makes up for it. Quality craftsmanship also means that the toaster will perform as expected over and over again, preparing your food just the way you like it breakfast after breakfast. That’s important when you’re dealing with an appliance that uses heating elements that climb to hundreds of degrees, and has moving, spring-loaded parts that pop up again, and again, and again. Wear and tear take its toll, but much less so when the product is built right in the first place.

Finally, a nicely made toaster just looks good in the kitchen. This is an appliance you’ll use every day, and it lives out in public on your countertop. Why not add a dash of style?

Most durable (but stylish!) toaster: Wolf Toaster

Upgrade Your Kitchen’s Looks

High-priced, professional-quality two-slot toaster. Amazon

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The Wolf Gourmet two-slice toaster has a classic, industrial look, with sturdy, stainless steel construction and a hefty, chunky shape. The giant knob for setting one of the seven browning levels is an eye-catching red, and the extra-wide slots can accommodate anything from sliced bread to bagels. Of course, this level of quality comes at a high price, $329.95, so you’ll have to decide if your budget and needs warrant it.

Do you want to make meals—not just toast?

Slot toasters do an exceptional job browning things like bread, hamburger buns, bagels, frozen waffles, and English muffins. So if that suits your culinary needs, this is the appliance for you.

On the other hand, toaster ovens open up a world of cooking by adding baking and broiling to their arsenal. Cooking frozen pizzas, roasted veggies, chicken nuggets, and whole, toasted sandwiches are a snap. Ironically, these versatile appliances aren’t always as good when it comes to plain old toast—because the food sits closer to the heating elements, they sometimes have trouble heating the bread evenly. It’s a classic trade-off: Specialization versus versatility.

Best toaster oven: Calphalon Quartz Heat Countertop Toaster Oven

Most Versatile

An extra-large, fast-heating toaster oven that can handle a variety of dishes. Amazon

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Calphalon’s toaster oven features a quartz heating element that delivers 40 percent more heat and preheats faster than a conventional tube. The appliance is big enough to fit a decent size frozen pizza, multiple hamburger buns, a feast of tater tots, or a whole batch of cookies. The downside, of course, is that it’s going to take up a lot of space—more than 18.5 inches wide and almost 16 inches deep. But 11 preset cooking functions cover many of the basics, including baking, broiling, toasting, roasting, defrosting, warming, and dehydrating. It features controls for temperature and toast time, and comes with a baking pan, pizza pan, dehydrator rack, and wire rack.

How much do you have to spend?

A nice design doesn’t have to break the bank. With the best budget toasters on the market, you can enjoy an evenly browned, crispy slice with your breakfast and put all that money you saved toward a tasty takeout dinner.

Best toaster for under $50: Keenstone 2 Slice Retro Stainless Steel Toaster

Beautifully Affordable

Subtle art deco design with modern features. Amazon

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We like the Keenstone for its two extra-wide slots, bagel and defrost settings, and six different browning settings. The extra-height lift lever makes it safe to remove bread from the hot appliance, and a slide-out crumb tray helps keep things clean.

Best toaster brands to know

The companies listed here have all produced home and kitchen appliances trusted by both families and professionals to deliver quality products for decades.

Cuisinart

Cuisinart was founded in 1971 by Carl Sontheimer, an MIT graduate inspired by his love of French cooking. The company was known initially for its food processor. Cuisinart rose to prominence thanks to a close association with celebrity chefs in the 1970s. The company ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1989, and it was ultimately scooped up by appliance giant Conair for a cool $27 million. But while the original founder is long gone, the company has left an indelible mark on the cooking world and continues to produce fine appliances.

Hamilton Beach

Hamilton Beach has been around since 1910, making it the grand-pappy of the appliance world. One of their earliest products was a milkshake machine called the Cyclone Drink Mixer, and many of their kitchen tools were based on the company’s own inventions, including a high-speed fractional motor. Its classic drink mixer was ubiquitous at soda fountains and drug stores across North America. The company continues today, bringing more than 100 years of experience to people’s kitchens.

Calphalon

Calphalon started life as a company called Commercial Aluminum Cookware in 1963, supplying the restaurant industry and other professional food services. Its founder, Ronald M. Kasperzak, is credited with inventing hard-anodized aluminum cookware in 1968 using a process adopted from the aerospace industry. The result is cookware that was more resistant to corrosion and warping than similar products at the time. Its inventor called this new product Calphalon. By the 1980s, the company had expanded into the consumer markets, and in 1992, the company officially changed its name to reflect its product.

KitchenAid

Founded in 1919 by the Hobart Manufacturing Company to produce stand mixers, KitchenAid eventually expanded into all sorts of appliances, including dishwashers in 1949. The company increased its product line in the 1990s to include small appliances. It boosted its brand awareness by sponsoring the PBS show Home Cooking, and by putting its mixers into the hands of celebrity chefs like Julia Child and Martha Stewart. Today, KitchenAid mixers are staples in many kitchens.

The final word on shopping for the best toaster

A good toaster is an indispensable part of any kitchen, and today’s models don’t skimp on details and features that can tackle many different cooking tasks. Whether you choose a slot toaster or a toaster oven will depend greatly on what type of food you want to prepare, as well as the available space in your kitchen. Dedicated bread lovers might be happy with a four-slot appliance, while more ambitious cooks should look at toaster ovens and the different cooking options they provide. In the end, follow your stomach—and double-check with your wallet—to find the best toaster for you.

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