Now many do so much more than brown bread and will handle thicker bagels, teacakes and crumpets with ease. From neat two-slice toasters to technologically advanced four-slot machines, there’s so much on the market right now it’s hard to know what’s best to choose.
What size should I buy?
If you’re short on space then a two-slice model is best, particularly as some of the four-slice options have pretty big footprints. They’re a good choice for couples and small families but not always great if you want to evenly toast loaves, such as sourdough, that are generally bigger than a standard slice.
A four-slice model is a better choice for bigger families, as it will make toasting for larger numbers a breeze. If you’re after a particular look, many styles come as both two and four-slice options, and some have a matching kettle available too.
Toasting on test
To find the best of the bunch, we looked at three key things. Of course, first and foremost each of the models we tested had to toast evenly and efficiently. Then we looked at functions – how many each had and how useful, from easy-to-remove crumb trays to defrost modes and toasting settings. Finally, as most toasters sit out on our worktops, we considered the stylishness or otherwise of each machine and how much space it took up.
We tried a variety of loaves, including normal white sliced and artisan bread, plus crumpets, English muffins and pitta (where the slot size allowed). For the models that had them, we also checked out how effective their warming features for rolls and croissants were, as well as any bagel toasting modes.
Dualit Classic NewGen 4-Slice Toaster
£200, John Lewis
Best for: Those looking for a toaster for life
Key specs – Slots: 4; Colour options: 20; Browning levels: Variable timer; Size: H36 x W21 x D22 cm; Functions: 3 – reheat, defrost, bagel; Extras: Removable crumb tray, extra-high lift, adjustable rear foot for uneven surfaces
This toaster may not be as technologically exciting as some of the other models we tested but Dualit has been hand-building them in the UK since 1945, so they are extremely reliable. In fact, each toaster made carries the name of the person that assembled it, which is a lovely extra touch.
Dualit claims the patented ProHeat elements are pretty much indestructible, although if anything does go wrong, Dualit will happily repair your machine, which reflects its belief that this is a toaster that will last you a lifetime.
That level of workmanship comes at a higher price though, but this machine is durable and easy to use. It looks good, too, with a 1940s aesthetic that reminds us of toasting at Grandma’s. The slots are wide and plenty big enough for toasted sandwiches if you invest in the accessories that make that possible.
It’s not automatic, you just lower and raise your toast in manually using a lever, and the browning control is a timer that counts down. Checking toast is easy, too – just raise the lever to see the slices without stopping the toasting process. There’s also a high lift-up, so you can remove the toast if it’s browning too much without burning yourself.
Toasting took two minutes, although multiple slices didn’t need as long, while the browning was even throughout. There are also defrost and keep warm functions available.
Breville VTT470 Impressions 4-Slice Toaster
Best for: A budget choice
Key specs – Slots: 4; Colour options: 5; Browning levels: 9; Size: H27 x W30.9 x D19 cm; Functions: 3 – defrost, reheat, mid-cycle cancel; Extras; Removable crumb tray, extra-high lift
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At roughly a tenth of the price of the most expensive toaster on our list, this wasn’t the fastest for a medium-brown toast but neither was it the slowest.
Its slots are wide enough for chunky slices, although there’s no bagel mode, and the controls are simple to use. The slider lets you choose from nine browning levels, where we found a higher setting worked best initially but once the toaster warmed up we could go slightly lower – useful to know if you’re using it in a busy household.
If you’re not sure how the toasting is going, there’s a useful lift function that lets you take a look at your bread to see if it’s done, without cancelling the toasting altogether. We also liked that there were different controls for each pair of slots, allowing you to set different browning levels to cater for varying tastes.
It has the usual defrost, reheat, extra lift (so you don’t burn your fingers) and cancellation buttons. But it also has a pretty big footprint, so not the best choice for smaller kitchens. It does look attractive on the worktop though, and with five colours to choose from, there’s probably a shade to suit every interior.
Smeg TSF01SSUK 2-Slice Toaster
£129.95, John Lewis
Best for: Retro styling
Key specs – Slots: 2; Colour options: 9; Browning levels: 6; Size: H19.8 x W31 x D19.5 cm; Functions: 4 – reheat, bagel, defrost and cancel; Extras: Removable crumb tray, cable store, extra-high lift
It’s all about the aesthetics with Smeg appliances – its fridges are now a kitchen icon – and these toasters don’t disappoint. With an exterior that brings to mind the retro American motorhomes of the 1950s (we tested the stainless steel model), you could easily be mistaken for thinking it’s all style over substance. But we quickly discovered that’s not the case.
While small, it packs a punch with six toasting levels – we opted for mid-way for the first few slices then dialled it down a bit once it had warmed up to the task. It also has a defrost button, which is handy if you’ve forgotten to take the bread out of the freezer, and there’s a function for bagels that browns on just the cut side.
The wide slots cope with standard white-sliced bread as well as bigger slices carved from an artisan sourdough loaf, and the self-centering racks keep the bread neatly in place. We also liked the generous pop-up, which ensured we didn’t singe our fingers when removing smaller crumpets.
The sturdy crumb tray had a satisfying pop-out function but unlike some others, it’s removed from one side, which might be an issue if you’re packing things onto your worktop. The integrated storage cable is a nice touch though, as are the anti-slip feet.
Magimix 2-Slot Vision Toaster
£160 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Keeping an eye on your toast
Key specs – Slots: 1 (large); Colour options: 4; Browning levels: 6; Size: H22.5 x W39.5 x D18.01 cm; Functions: 2 – reheat, defrost; Extras: Removable crumb tray, extra-high lift
The USP of this toaster is clear as soon as it’s out the box – a glass central section that allows you to see just how brown your toast is every step of the way. The clear and, importantly, heatproof panels are encased in steel with gently rounded edges that stop it feeling too space age.
It’s not the cheapest on the market though, so we hoped it had more going for it – and it did. Rather than two smaller slots it has one long, wide one with automatic centering that’s plenty big enough for two slices, or for one long loaf slice, such as artisan bread or pitta.
It’s plenty wide enough for crumpets and English muffins too, although there’s no one-sided bagel function. It features the usual defrost and cancel toasting buttons, plus one we’re sure is only found on a French-built machine – a baguette function, which produced long crusty slices that were ideal for topping with brie.
The way it heats is slightly different to other toasters we tried, so instead of standard side elements that toast slices from the side, there are two coiled ones at the base of the machine, which heat the bread from below. Before we tried it we were concerned that this might result in unevenly toasted slices but were happy to discover they were pretty even from top to bottom.
KitchenAid Artisan 5KMT4205 4-Slice Toaster
£289, John Lewis
Best for: Blowing the budget
Key specs- Slots: 4; Colour options: 2; Browning levels: 7; Size: H20.5x W34.8x D30.4 cm; Functions: 3 – reheat, defrost, bagel; Extras: Automatic lift and lower, toasted sandwich rack
If you’re in possession of one of KitchenAid’s iconic Artisan mixers, then this toaster might be the perfect partner and will certainly look as impressive on the worktop. It’s a stunning machine both in the way it looks and the way it cooks. Although, it’s the most expensive toaster we tested and has the largest footprint. Weighing in at an impressive 7.5 kg, it also took two of us to get it out of the box.
But once it’s out though, you can feel and see the build quality. We were wowed by the super-smooth automatic lower and lift mechanisms that operate on two individually controlled pairs of toasting slots. It’s high-tech toasting, gently lowering the bread into the toaster then lifting it up in one smooth movement once the toast is done.
It also features LED countdown controls, and all the functions you’d expect to find in a machine of this price and build. If you’ve popped off to shake the kids from their beds, then after 45 seconds the auto sensor will lower the bread back down to keep it warm for up to three minutes. We let our slices reheat and they were still warm enough to melt butter and didn’t feel drier.
A sandwich maker accessory is a nice touch too, and it makes lovely crispy toasties, although you shouldn’t use a cheese with a high fat content or you’ll end up with a gooey mess at the bottom of the toaster – try Edam. Like the Dualit, it’s a considered buy and it’ll need plenty of worktop space in a kitchen to really show it off.
Bosch TAT6A913GB Comfort Line Toaster
£50, John Lewis
Best for: Compact kitchens
Key specs – Slots: 2; Colour options: 1; Browning levels: 6; Size: H17 x W30.7 x D18.8 cm; Functions: 1 – defrost; Extras: Safety switch off, removable crumb tray, high-lift function, integrated warmer rack
This neat, basic little toaster is never going to be a worktop star in terms of looks but its design is still modern with a sleek-looking exterior and solid build – plus, it’s a reasonable price.
Results from this machine were some of the most consistent we saw and the two slots are wide enough for crumpets and thick toast. The automatic centering feature ensured that everything we toasted, including bread, bagels and crumpets, was browned evenly every time.
The high-lift function means items such as crumpets and smaller slices are easy to remove without burning your fingers, and while there’s no setting for just browning the cut side of a bagel, we didn’t mind that ours was gently toasted on both sides.
On one end there’s the push-down toaster lever and at the other a handy switch that controls an integrated warmer and crisper rack, which pops up when the dial is set to two. This was great for gently heating a croissant, although you can’t do many at a time. While the size means it’s not great if you’re planning to make heaps of toast at one time, it’s a perfectly good little machine for a compact kitchen with limited space for appliances.
Kenwood KMix 4-Slice TFX750 Toaster
Best for: A coordinated look
Key specs – Slots: 4; Colour options: 4; Browning levels: 5; Size: H21 x W28 x D27 cm; Functions: 3 – bagel, reheat, defrost; Extras: Removable crumb tray, preview function, cord storage
If you’re buying for a new kitchen and want all your countertop appliances to match, then this is a good option. Other products in the KMix range include mixers, blenders and kettles, so you’ll be able to kit out your entire space with ease.
If you fancy something with stand-out appeal, go for the red model, or for something more subtle, go for cream. Whichever you choose, you’ll get a solid machine with four wide slots. Each of the two front controls activate a pair of slots, so you can toast slices at different browning levels or use it to cook bagels and toast at the same time.
For smaller slices of bread and crumpets, we felt the lift could have been a bit higher, as at some points our fingers were perilously close to the hot metal. It is slightly more expensive than some of the mid-range models we tested, however, this machine has a real feeling of quality, particularly with the control levers, that some of the lower priced models just couldn’t match.
The individual pop-out crumb trays are located at the back – with “Oh, crumbs!” written above them – just in case you weren’t sure where they were, and the cord storage helps to keep the worktop neat.
Morphy Richards Vector 4-Slice Toaster
From £39.99 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Contemporary design
Key specs – Slots: 4; Colour options: 4; Browning levels: 7; Size: H19.5 x W30.4 x D31 cm; Functions: 3 – cancel, reheat, defrost; Extras: Removable crumb tray, high-lift function, cord storage
The modern, faceted design of this stylish toaster means the light plays off the angles in a very pleasing way. It’s certainly one you wouldn’t mind leaving out on the worktop for friends to admire and, as with many of the other toasters, there’s a kettle to match.
The first slice of white bread was a little uneven but the second was spot on, so we’re allowing for a little warming up time out of the box here. It toasted crumpets well, giving just the right amount of crispness to the outside without drying out the centre. And with separate controls for each pair of slots, you can use different browning levels at the same time, which is ideal if you’ve got picky kids. It was a shame there was no bagel setting, though.
Tefal Loft TT60140 4-Slice Toaster
Best for: Designer style on a budget
Key specs – Slots: 4; Colour options: 3; Browning levels: 7; Size: H18.8 x W28.1 x D29.9 cm; Functions: 3 – defrost, reheat, cancel; Extras: Removable crumb trays, high-lift function, cable store
Created for Tefal by design company Seymour Powell, the fluted texture of this toaster’s exterior was inspired by classic British ceramics. It certainly has a striking look that wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary, high-end kitchen.
The two pairs of toasting slots operate independently and you can toast at different levels in each, while the centralising slots ensure bread is toasted evenly, whatever the size.
We tested it with thick crumpets as well as medium-sliced bread and it toasted both well, although we did have to play about a little with browning levels. After a little experimentation though, we found it best to toast items on a slightly higher setting than others on this list.
The high-lift function ensured even the smallest slice of bread was easy to get out, while the crumb trays are quite narrow but easy to get to, and the cord storage is a great added extra to this reasonably priced machine.
Sage by Heston Blumenthal BTA825UK The Smart Toaster
£95 (price correct at time of publishing), Amazon
Best for: Gadget lovers
Key specs – Slots: 2; Colours: 2; Browning levels: 5; Size: H18.8 x W28.1 x D29.9 cm; Functions: 4 – defrost, reheat, cancel, quick peek; Extras: Automatic raise and lower, removable crumb trays, high-lift function, cable store
Available in two finishes, cherry red or sleek steel, this toaster really is a gadget lover’s delight. Like the KitchenAid machine, a motorised button lowers bread automatically into the toaster with a pleasingly smooth action and slowly rises once it’s done.
It’s compact and probably not the best choice for busy families but we found it toasts pretty quickly, so shouldn’t hold you back during the morning rush. As well as the automatic lift and lower, it has a ‘quick peek’ button, which raised our toast momentarily mid-way through the process so we could check how brown it was getting.
We also liked the ‘a bit more’ function, which we could press after the initial toasting was done to lower the slice back down if it wasn’t quite brown enough. There’s a defrost function, plus a special setting for doughier breads such as crumpets, fruit loaf and bagels, which ensures they’re done to perfection, although as we discovered, this does depend on you putting them into the toaster pointing a specific way.
As you’d expect from one of the best professional chefs around, there’s also a leaflet explaining the Maillard reaction (what happens to food when it is exposed to heat) and how different breads react to toasting. We’ll certainly never look at browning a slice of crusty white the same way again.
This article has been updated. It was originally published in November 2018.
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