best in class

The 10 Very Best Toasters

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

I’m a self-professed toast snob, which has made me a little obsessive about finding the right toaster. In my mind, a toaster should produce a hot and crispy slice, no matter the sort of bread, within the blink of an eye. I prefer my toast to be ombré like a sunset, with a lemon-colored center and amber edges, but you should have a number of shade options for whatever you’re feeling. In this toaster-scape that’s chock-full of choices, it’s hard to find one that does this all easily.

So I talked with 11 fellow toast-heads and tested four different models — though I lost count of how much toast I’ve eaten over the past few months. There are the simple, industrial-inspired options — like your KitchenAids and your Cuisinarts — the retro-inspired, and even the avant-garde, like an Italian-designed Alessi covered in plissé pleats. But regardless of the look, the best toasters will make the perfect piece of toast every time you press that lever; here are some of my favorites.

Best overall | Best (less expensive) | Best long-slot | Best with extra-wide slots | Best (less expensive) with extra-wide slots | Best high design | Best (less expensive) high design | Best overall oven | Best (less expensive) oven | Best steam oven

What we’re looking for

Slots: Toasters are usually available in either a two- or four-slice capacity, and often the same model can come in either capacity. Where there’s more variability is in the width and length of the slot, which is why your favorite slice fits into one toaster but can’t even make it halfway through another. So let me introduce two industry terms: long-slot and extra-wide slots. A long-slot toaster is usually at least 14 inches long, with an almost exaggerated shape, and it is good for accommodating slices from artisan loaves. Extra-wide slots tend to be marketed as 1.5 inches wide, and those are nice if you’re dealing with a lot of bagels. These terms aren’t standard, and are all somewhat abstract, so I’ve called out if a toaster brands itself in a particular way — but read the descriptions from our experts to better understand slot specifics. In general, I found that toasters with extra-wide slots were the most versatile.

Browning settings: You’ve probably set a toaster dial wrong and ended up with a slice that looks like it was accidentally dipped into a black paint can. So even though most toasters have some sort of dial to represent different levels of brownness, these can vary between models. (A “1” on one may be the same as a “3” on another.) Here, I’m calling out how many levels of done, as well as if there are any specific adjacent functions.

Size: So you know if a toaster will fit into the spot you have in mind.

Extras: You could spend $20 or $200 on a toaster. They essentially do the same thing. But the more high-end you go, the more you (generally) get. That could include lights to make numbers easier to read for barely awake eyes. Maybe there are bread-specific features, like for white versus whole grain. Or it might be all about the design. This is an item that’s probably going to get prime kitchen real estate — so it should look the part.

Best overall toaster

4 extra-wide slots | 5 browning settings | 11.4” x 11.62” x 7.48” | High-lift lever

I tested this KitchenAid toaster for three months (and am still using it at least three times a week), and from the time I put it on my counter to now, it’s popped out perfectly golden toast. It’s got five browning settings, each of which is distinct; 1 gives you a barely there blond, while 5 gets you to scorched territory. I prefer a 2, which produces that sundown shade I talked about earlier, whether I’ve put in a slice of an already brown multigrain from the bag or a hand-cut chunk of ciabatta.

There are two features that really make the design stand out from all the other toasters I have tested and owned. First are the extra-wide slots, which have let me toast slices from thicker loaves — something I couldn’t do with my past toasters. The high-lift lever also means I’m able to delicately take toast from the top without having to play the saddest game of hot potato. Plus, the KitchenAid lets out an assertive beep when toast is ready — so I never have to chew through cold toast because I couldn’t hear a ding. I have put it through the wringer with Pardilla family brunches, where pancake-like stacks of toast are passed around. That KitchenAid quality is no joke: One Amazon review I read before the brand sent it over described the toaster as “built as solid as a 1957 Buick.” I have accidentally banged the toaster around and there’s not a scratch on it. And there’s a certain Jetsons-like charm to it — I could see it lasting well into the future.

Best (less expensive) overall toaster

2 extra-wide slots | 7 browning settings | 7.25 x 12.75 x 9.25 | Self-centering guides on slots

I heard about this Black+Decker toaster from Alexandra Shytsman, recipe developer and founder of recipe blog The New Baguette. Though this toaster doesn’t have the bells and whistles of others, it’s reliable and has earned a permanent place on Shytsman’s countertop for the past two years. It’s small but mighty: Its extra-wide slots are as advertised, and Shytsman puts everything from thicker-cut bagels to Ezekiel bread inside. The self-centering slots ensure an even toasting, and like our pick for best overall toaster, the lever on the Black+Decker helps Shytsman get the tinier items out of the toaster, like English muffins, without having to reach in with a tong.

Best long-slot toaster

2 long-slots | 5 browning settings with progress bar | 7.7” x 14.9” x 7.5” | One-touch lowering, LED lights, “A Bit More,” and “Lift & Look” features

“It’s the toaster for toast people” is how Ali Slagle, author of I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To), described this Breville Die-Cast. The big selling point is the toaster’s duo of wider long-slots, designed for up to four slices. This allows you to get toast to a shade resembling the inside of a toasted nut, Slagle says.

But it also has a number of features to satisfy even the most discerning of toast people. “This might sound funny, but it’s a graceful machine,” Slagle says, adding that it “dings kindly when it’s ready.” Michael East of Griddle King likes that it doesn’t “pop” like other toasters, so crumbs aren’t left all over the place. There’s the cheekily named “A Bit More” button that you can press if you really just want a little extra bit of browning and “avoid doing a full second round of toasting,” Slagle says. “Lift & Look” is for those who are “nervous you went too high on the setting or are trying to really fine-tune the browning,” says Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio, who owns a similar version of this specific model. As does Laura Arnold, a culinary producer and cookbook consultant, who promises that “this toaster does all the work for you.”

Best toaster with extra-wide slots

2 extra-wide slots | 6 settings with progress bar | 8.2” x 7.9” x 13.4” | Preset toast types, “A Bit More” and “Lift & Look” functions

Anna Stockwell, a food stylist and recipe developer, hasn’t found anything bread that doesn’t fit through the wide-slotted Breville Select Luxe. “The slots are plenty wide for bagels and thick slices of sourdough,” she says. It’s an updated version of the Breville, above, and it comes with preset settings including for whole wheat bread and muffins. But Stockwell’s favorite function is “frozen,” as she keeps her gluten-free bread fresh in the freezer, which accounts for defrosting without sacrificing toastiness. This toaster also gets brownie points for aesthetics, which Stockwell describes as “ retro-chic.”

Best (less expensive) toaster with extra-wide slots

2 or 4 extra-wide slots | 6 browning settings | Manual lift-lever, LED indicator lights

As a more affordable alternative, the Cuisinart Classic comes recommended by recipe developer Rebecca Firkser. The 1.5-inch toaster slots are the same thickness that Firkser typically cuts bread. Even with these extra-wide slots, it’s small enough for her kitchen. Firkser only has “a weirdly deep corner between the stove and sink that can’t do much else but store stuff,” and that’s where this toaster sits. It has been a fixture in her kitchen even after eight years, four apartments, seven roommates, “and many (many) slices of bread.” It’s lasted through high levels of heat, too — she prefers charred (but not burnt) pieces of toast. “It’s nothing fancy, but it does exactly what you need it to do, and does it well,” Firkser promises. Food stylist María del Mar Cuadra owns the also “unobtrusive” four-slice version and favors it to too-slow toaster ovens.

Best high-design toaster

2 or 4 slots | 6 browning settings | 13” x 11.75” x 7.5” | Ball lever knobs, non-slip feet, enamel finish 

The retro Smeg toaster is a staple on wedding registries and new homeowner wish lists, and you can spot it on celebrities’ kitchen countertops, like Saturday Night Live’s Chloe Fineman and Food Network star Molly Yeh. And the aesthetics are a large part of the appeal. “It feels like the logical adult upgrade to the Easy-Bake Oven I loved so much as a kid,” says Hadley Sui, author of Oishisou!! The Ultimate Anime Dessert Cookbook. Sui always gets “a crisp surface with some chewy give in the middle of the slice” on the lowest setting. I tried it on everything from Arnold’s country-style white to Pepperidge Farm’s whole grain and frozen Belgian waffles from Trader Joe’s and never had to switch the dial over from 1. It’s not perfect: I found that sesame seeds can catch on the top edge of the toaster, and the Strategist’s kitchen and dining writer Emma Wartzman is convinced that her Smeg leaves one side of toast darker than the other. But if you’re able and willing to spend the money, and want a toaster that’ll mostly get the job done, the Smeg will definitely look the part.

Best (less expensive) high-design toaster

1 long-slot | 7 browning settings | 7.7” x 6” x 7.7” | Warming tray on top

Hay is one of our most-written-about brands at the Strategist, known for its playful designs. This toaster is a member of Hay’s colorful Sowden collection, named after designer George Sowden, who created the pieces from his Milanese studio. It’s joy inducing, resembling a toy you’d find in a kid’s pretend kitchen. The red dial on the blue version reminds me of a clown’s nose even. But don’t be deceived by how the toaster looks, however. The Sowden means business. I found that cleaved-off pieces of ciabatta become perfectly crunchy and crispy-edged. Though the very tip of a taller toast might stick out. The tray top also doubles as a place to freshen once-flaky pastries.

Best overall toaster oven

From $158

No slots | 5 browning settings | 13” x 10.25” x 12” | Temperature control, adjustable interior brightness, LED indicator lights, pre-set cooking functions

“If I could have one appliance, and one appliance only, it would be a toaster oven,” writes Strategist contributor Sarah Leon. In the middle of a renovation, she had to improvise a makeshift kitchen, and this Panasonic became an essential, if unexpected, star of it. Part of the toaster oven’s magic is based on its “smart sensor,” which automatically turns the machine’s heat on and off to keep what’s inside at just the right temperature. “It heats up very quickly and doesn’t have to be on for a long time,” she explains. And her husband has even cooked lobster in it. “Something about the infrared technology also means that it makes the best toast. I can’t explain it; you’ll have to trust me,” Leon says.

Best (less expensive) toaster oven

No slots | Three toast-specific settings | 9.88” x 16.54” x 13.11” | Additional functions including for baking and broiling, adjustable temperature, three knobs

You can only choose between three toast-specific settings on this Hamilton Beach, but that’s more than enough for Snackable Bakes author Jessie Sheehan. Each is represented by a drawing of toast on the right side of the last dial — the middle of the three gives Sheehan a super-hot slice that becomes perfectly butter-soaked in spots. Deli-style bagels are also just a turn of a dial away. In between “bake” and “broil,” a convenient “bagel” function toasts the side of a bagel that’s cut while purely warming the round part. It also helps her make a mean chicken parm for her younger son, while her husband relies on it to roast pepitas destined to go in salads. “There’s absolutely nothing sexy about it, and yet it is a workhorse that has never failed me,” Sheehan says.

Best steam toaster oven

No slots | 15 settings on timed dial | 14.1” x 12.6” x 8.2” | Modes for sandwiches, artisan breads, and pizza, with optional oven temperatures 

This is the tricked-out toaster made famous by Emily Mariko. “The Toaster Oven” — as it’s called, designed by Japanese home-appliance brand Balmuda — is double the price of Panasonic’s. But it really is the Ferrari of steam ovens. In Balmuda’s case, you pour a teaspoon of water into a top opening to heat up what’s inside. It’s undoubtedly unique — the company sent me one to try out — with toast getting a lighter texture compared to other toasters. Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner, a food writer and editor who also owns one, supplied a more scientific explanation for this: As “the steam replicates a professional bread oven,” the crust becomes crunchier, while the center of bread stays moist and corners get crisper. The effect really re-creates the taste of just-baked bread, as promised.

But it’s the bonus features you’re getting that helps that $300 price tag. I got gooey, better-than-panini-pressed grilled cheese with the sandwich-specific setting. Hoeffner uses the pizza function to get as close to a box-fresh slice as possible. Even her croissants turn “extra fluffy and fantastic to pull apart.” Hoeffner adds: “It’s the perfect countertop appliance,” especially if you don’t have much to spare.

Our experts

Carrie Carrollo, copywriter and digital content creator
• Michael East, owner of Griddle King
María del Mar Cuadra, food stylist
Rebecca Firkser, recipe developer
Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner, food writer and editor
Sarah Leon, Strategist contributor
• Alexandra Shytsman, recipe developer and founder of The New Baguette
Ali Slagle, author of I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To)
Hadley Sui, author of Oishisou!! The Ultimate Anime Dessert Cookbook
Anna Stockwell, food stylist and recipe developer
Jen Trolio, Strategist senior editor
Emma Wartzman, Strategist kitchen and dining writer

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