Toast is a staple on the breakfast table for most families, big or small. A quality toaster can elevate your breakfast foods from meh to delicious, but choosing the right one for your family is essential. Toasters are pretty high-tech these days, but you can also choose a more retro model if that’s what you’re comfortable with. The key to choosing the right toaster is knowing which features are must-haves and which are luxury items you may never have experienced before.
This buying guide will help you choose the perfect toaster by explaining every important feature you’ll need to know about before making your decision, from warranty to toast quality and everything in between. With our help, you’ll easily find the best toaster for you and your family.
Toaster vs. Toaster Oven
Unlike a pop-up toaster that toasts your bread in slots, a toaster oven has a rack in an open space with a toast setting. Toaster ovens are much more versatile appliances to have than a normal toaster. Why? They do more than toast. They can be used as an ordinary (albeit miniature) oven to cook other types of food.
Toaster ovens require much more space on your countertop than an ordinary toaster, but they are the better option if you want evenly crispy toast since the convection technology circulates air 360 degrees around your bread, rather than using heating elements that aren’t as precise. They are also better for things like waffles since every groove receives heated air so the entire waffle is crispy rather than just the edges touching the heating element.
The best toaster ovens are made by brands like Hamilton beach, KitchenAid, Breville, and Cuisinart which also specialize in toasters. These kitchen appliances are quite similar to each other in terms of durability, toasting time, and value for your dollar. The main difference between these two small appliances is that the toaster oven can do things like broil while a toaster only toasts.
Features to Consider Before Buying a Toaster
The slice capacity of your toaster is one of the most important features to think about. There are two options: a two-slice toaster and a four-slice toaster. If you have a large family and will need to prepare many pieces of bread in a short time frame, you’ll certainly want the 4-slice toaster since it doubles the output of a 2-slice toaster. Four-slice models are the pricier option, but it is worth it if you consistently make bread for multiple people on a daily or near-daily schedule. Two slots will be enough for individuals and couples, but some couples may also choose four slots so they can both make their toast side-by-side and be ready to enjoy their breakfasts at the same time. There are two main considerations when choosing between the two: a four-slice model takes up more counter space and will cost more than a toaster that only handles two slices of toast.
Number of Toast Settings
Not everyone likes their bread toasted to the same degree, so having the right number of toast settings is crucial. This is especially true for larger families where everyone has a different preference. While the cheaper toasters may have 4-6 toast settings, which has been standard in the industry for quite a while, newer digital toasters may have 10 or more toast settings that allow for much greater customization of your toast colour.
Many modern toasters have countdown timers that tell you exactly how many seconds are left before your toast is ready. This feature is not only fun to watch but also allows you to plan better since you know precisely how long your toast will take. Whether you want to plan enough time to make toast for 6 or want to have your eggs finished at exactly the same time as your toast, a countdown timer makes it possible – and easy.
With so many different bread types out there, it’s important that your toaster is versatile enough to handle them all. This extends beyond various cook times for different kinds of bread. The slot size on your toaster will control just how many different types of bread you can cook. For example, rye bread is often a much longer slice than the average loaf of bread, so it usually requires that you cut the slice in half before you can toast it. Otherwise, only one-half of the slice will be toasted. A long-slot toaster eliminates this problem since it accommodates all types of bread. Not only is this more convenient for you, but it also cuts your breakfast prep time in half since both slices cook at once.
When looking at the slot size on your toaster, you must also consider the width. Some artisan bread, along with things like bagels, require extra-wide slots compared to normal slices of bread. If you want to toast bread that doesn’t fit in the average toaster slot size, you’ll need to prioritize a larger toaster with longer, wider slots.
Nowadays, you’re more likely to find a toaster with digital settings than not. A digital control display is highly recommended since it is more user-friendly, comes with dozens more options for all types of bread products, and cooks more precisely than the old knob models. Digital controls also usually carry the ability to keep warm, have a defrost setting, and be able to reheat foods – something ordinary toasters can’t do. Many digital toasters also have settings for various types of bread, so thicker types of bread will have longer cook times while specialty bread products have individual cook settings as well. The ease of use of a digital toaster far exceeds that of a manual dial toaster.
Particularly useful for smaller bread products like English muffins or pop tarts, a bread lifter is an incredibly helpful feature on a toaster. Rather than very carefully lifting your toast out with a butter knife (we know you’ve done it), you can use this handy lever to provide a safe handhold on your freshly toasted food without putting your fingers at risk. If you have kids in the home, this high-lift feature is a must-have so they can more easily reach their toast and be more independent at breakfast time.
Removable Crumb Tray
A removable crumb tray makes cleaning and maintaining your toaster so much easier. Older toasters don’t have crumb trays, so most of us end up tipping the appliance upside down to get rid of the old crumbs that make our toaster smoke and smell burnt whenever we use it. With a removable tray, crumbs are easily disposed of so they won’t build up, and you can continue to use your toaster without creating a fire hazard.
Bagels are as popular as toast for breakfast sandwiches or on their own with butter, peanut butter and jelly, or whatever else you like to put on your toast. Unfortunately, not many toasters are ideal for crisping up bagels. Luckily, many toasters with digital settings will have bagel controls. When this setting is activated, the toaster uses only one instead of both heating elements. This means you can cook only the cut side of the bagel while leaving the top unburnt, protecting the delicious toppings like poppy seeds or sesame seeds so your bagel tastes as it should.