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Many of us are still eating out less and dining at home more, which means we’re investing in kitchen appliances that make meal prep and cooking more convenient — including things like pressure cookers and air fryers. This also includes toasters: You’ve probably used one before, and it may have been a while since you’ve thought about owning one. But if you’re craving the simple pleasure of biting into a perfectly browned piece of toast (with minimal cleanup after), toasters do just that — and more.
“They don’t just do one thing anymore,” said Amy Suddleson, lifestyle organizer and owner of the Nimble Nest. “You can use them for all different types of toasts and waffles, and with some toaster ovens, you can roast or actually cook a meal.”
If you’re thinking about investing in a toaster or upgrading your current model, here’s everything you need to know, from the types of toasters out there to what features to look out for and what the best models are. You can also find toasters at reader-favorite retailers like Walmart, Target, Amazon, Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Wayfair and Best Buy, among others.
Should you get a toaster?
Most toasters come with basic temperature and time settings, depending on how dark you want your toast to be. Some toasters have specific buttons like a bagel button that toasts one side more than the other or a defrost button for frozen waffles and the like, explained Yenhsi Lin, the director of product management for small appliances at GE Appliances. In general, there are two different types of toasters:
- Pop-up toasters have two or four slots and are used for bread slices, bagels and english muffins, for example, said Lin. Toaster slots are typically made of plastic or metal, which vary in depth based on the model. Pop-up toasters are extremely affordable and easy to use, though they’re only really designed to make toast.
- Toaster ovens combine toasting and baking into one compact appliance. They use convection cooking to bake food and can be used as an alternative to a standard oven, said Lin. Convection cooking speeds up baking by raising hot air and sinking cold air within the appliance. Some even have additional features like air frying and broiling. They are typically more expensive than pop-up toasters and are a bit more complicated to use.
Best toasters of 2021
This affordable toaster oven is highly-rated on Amazon: It’s extra-wide — it can fit eight pieces of toast, a 9-by-13-inch pan or 12-inch pizza, and uses convection heating to cook food at up to 450 degrees. The model comes with baking, broiling, toasting and warming features, and a 60-minute timer. The model also has its own baking and broiling pans, so you won’t have to worry about making your existing kitchenware fit. Users can remove the crumb tray for an easy clean.
The Breville Oven Pro is loaded with features, including baking, roasting, reheating, warming and slow-cooking. It also has special buttons for bagels, pizza and cookies. While slightly more compact than the Black+Decker model, it can fit up to six slices of toast. The model has an interior light to help monitor cooking along with an LCD screen that shows cook setting, timing and heat setting. Users can also easily clean the oven, which has an interior coated in non-stick material.
This four-slice toaster has a motorized raise, which means you won’t have to tinker with a lever to get your toast to come up. While this model is a little wider than other pop-up toasters, which means using more counter space, it has features like an LED screen that shows toasting level and countdown. The model comes with defrosting and reheating features and has a removable crumb tray for easy cleanup. It also has a bagel feature that toasts only one side of the broad.
Oster’s affordable 2-slice toaster model is perfect for those with basic needs, or small households. The model has seven toast shade settings and five bread settings — bread, bagels, waffles, pastries and English muffins. There’s even a setting for gluten-free bread, which often toasts a bit differently. This toaster has extra-wide slots and a removable crumb tray for easy cleanup.
This smart, 2-slot toaster, popularized on social media, has an interactive, user-friendly screen and modern design. It offers five food settings — breads, bagels, English Muffins, waffles and toaster pastries — and three toasting modes: Fresh, frozen and reheat. Users can also select from seven different “browning” levels for their perfect shade of toast. It’s one of the most expensive toasters out there, but also one of the most aesthetically pleasing.
If you’re a fan of Smeg’s retro-inspired kitchen appliances, their toaster is no exception. The sleek toaster comes with two extra-wide slots (which can fit four slices of bread) and a removable stainless steel tray. It’s also relatively compact, which means you won’t have to sacrifice too much of your counter space. This model offers six different browning levels and three different toasting options — reheat, defrost and bagel. Smeg toasters come in seven different colors.
How to shop for a toaster
When shopping for a toaster, pay attention to the size and kitchen space, as well cleanability, price and additional features, said Lin. Toasters come in many shapes and sizes, and those that are combined with another appliance — like an oven or air fryer — will often take up more space.
If you want a toaster to do just that — toast — you may be better off just spending less on a pop-up model. One benefit of pop-up toasters over toaster ovens is that they don’t take up a ton of counter space, and are pretty affordable: Most run between $25 and $100. When shopping for a pop-up model, consider how many pieces of toast you plan to make in one sitting — if you’re a family of five that eats two pieces of toast each every morning, you may want to consider investing in a larger model. If you regularly toast larger things like Pop-Tarts or waffles, look for a model with deep slots, said Lin.
Toaster ovens, on the other hand, are typically much larger and require much more storage. Shoppers should think about what they want to cook — if you are looking for a complete replacement for your standard oven, you’ll need a much larger toaster oven, explained Lin. Some higher-end toaster ovens also have a rotisserie mode that can cook whole chickens or turkeys. Toaster ovens can range between $50 and $350, depending on the brand and additional features.
“Consumers should also consider features such as quick toast settings and a countdown timer to help them manage busy weekday mornings,” said Lin.
Other features to keep in mind when shopping for toasters include:
- Some models will have self-adjusting technology to make sure your bread toasts evenly, a “keep warm” setting to keep toast from getting cold and a “little longer” button to toast your food for a bit longer, said Holly Gleason, an appliance merchant for Lowe’s. She recommended looking for a toaster with an automatic shut-off option to eliminate worry of the appliance overheating or damaging your countertop.
- The physical features on your toaster are just as important as the tech features. For example, some toasters have adjustable slots that automatically compress your toast to make sure it’s toasted evenly, or have a high lift to push the toast higher up, so you can pick it up without burning yourself. Toasters with removable crumb trays are much easier to clean.