How to buy the best toaster
Use our handy how-to guide to find the machine that will help you brown your bread evenly
When it comes to buying a toaster you need to know if it does two things well – does it brown (not burn) your bread? And does it evenly toast each slice, without leaving any patchy, soft sections? These may sound like simple tasks but we’ve found it can be tricky to create the perfect piece of toast, especially when some toasters don’t fit a whole slice of bread in the toasting slots.
Once you know your potential toaster can do the above (you can find that out using our latest reviews), there’s a range of other settings to pick from. And depending on what your requirements are (do you eat bagels? Store bread in the freezer? Prefer thick or thin slices?), you’ll prioritise some settings over others. And the number of extras may also increase the price – toasters can range from £10 to £200.
Here we explain the jargon behind toasters and what to look out for when buying. We’ve also included our top toaster reviews to help kick off your search for a new breakfast companion.
What to consider when buying a toaster
Before you part with any cash, make sure you think about the following…
Size: How much free space is there on your kitchen worktop? How big is your family? The answer to these two questions will determine the size of your toaster. They range from two-slice to six-slice models, so if you have a small kitchen go for a smaller model but if you have a large family consider buying a machine with more toasting slots.
Browning control: the elements fitted inside each toasting slot are responsible for browning your bread. So before you buy, take a look inside the slots. The further apart the elements are from each other, the more likely you are to get patchy, uneven pieces of toast.
Power: the more watts (power) your model has, the faster it toasts, although the type of bread will also impact this. The optimum level for two-slice toasters is 1200kW and for four-slice toasters is 1800kW or more.
Energy efficiency: to save energy, it’s worth seeing if you can choose how many slots heat up at once. Only using the number of slots needed will make your toaster more efficient and help reduce uneven browning – if you’re only toasting one slice of bread but two slots heat up, one side will end up being browner than the other.
Life expectancy: this will vary depending on the quality of the parts in your toaster and how often you clean it. A well-built toaster with high-quality elements - normally on the pricier side - usually has a longer life. Some manufacturers offer a repair service though, so make sure you check your model before you buy. Once it’s home, keeping the crumb tray clear will also help prolong its life.
Depending on what you want to toast, there are plenty of extra features to look out for. Here, we explain the most common.
Reheat: if you don’t manage to eat your toast before it goes cold or the rest of your fry up isn’t quite ready, this function will reheat it, usually on a one minute cycle.
Defrost: ideal for those who freeze their bread. This function will warm bread first then toast it, all in one cycle, so you don’t have to change the browning options half way through.
Crumb tray: this captures any loose crumbs during toasting and can be pulled out and emptied. It’s important to keep it clean as otherwise it can limit the life of your toaster.
Cancel: a basic feature which allows you to stop bread from toasting mid-cycle.
Extra lift: where toasting slots can be lifted higher than normal to make removing toast or smaller items like crumpets easier and without burning your fingers.
Bagel setting: this will only toast the cut side of a bagel or crumpet.
Countdown timer: normally on more expensive models, this feature shows how long is left before your toast is ready. This means you can make sure the rest of your
breakie is on the same time schedule.
Bun warmer: this will warm buns or croissants either with a separate rack which clips on top of the toaster or using an integrated version that you can access via a lever.
Sandwich toasting cage: these slot inside the toaster and have a solid bottom to stop ingredients dripping from them into the slots. If you’re a toastie fan, these are a great extra addition and save you having to buy a separate toastie machine.
Peek and pop: a nifty feature which allows you to pause toasting, raise the bread and check on it without resetting the cycle.
Four-slice toaster or two-slice toaster?
If your budget allows, generally four-slice toasters are the better option. It means you have more flexibility, as you can toast bread on one side and crumpets on the other, often with two different controls to optimise individual toasting time. They also cater for larger numbers, which is great if you have kids or share your home with one or two others.
Two-slice toasters are great if you’re short on worktop space though. But to solve this issue you could always go for a slim line two-slot option where the slots are longer and fit two slices of bread in each side.
Here’s our pick of the most popular reviews.
1. Dualit Classic Copper Four Slice Toaster: £199.99, Lakeland
- Four-slice toaster
- Hand-built and hard-wearing
- Replaceable parts
- Peek and pop feature
- Produces evenly browned toast
Find out more about four-slice toasters
2. AmazonBasics Automatic 4-Slice Toaster: £22.99, Amazon
- Slimline toaster which fits four slices of bread
- Produces evenly browned toast (although larger slices may need to go in sideways)
- Has a bun warmer feature
- Reasonably priced
Find out more about slimline toasters
3. Morphy Richards Chroma: £23, Amazon
- Two-slice toaster
- Produces evenly browned toast
- The crumb tray works well and is easy to clean
- Has a reheat setting
- Reasonably price
Find out more about two-slice toasters
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