A common breakfast-making tool, toasters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and features. We find out more about buying this popular kitchen appliance.
First, remember it’s just a toaster. Don’t get swept up with all the features available now. Are you really going to use them all?
Look for a shade selector with at least 3 settings (light, medium, dark). Much more than that, however, is a bit of overkill.
Don’t pay more for a defrost button. Regular toasting can easily defrost frozen bread.
Look down the toaster slots and check out the nichrome wires (the ones that heat up). Close wires will provide even toasting.
Units with more than 1,000 watts make for a shorter toasting time.
Check the timing mechanism. Mechanical toasters turn off when a small wire heats up and bends to a certain angle. Electronic models are more consistent.
To figure out if it’s mechanical vs. electric, press down on the lever on an unplugged machine. If it stays down, it’s mechanical.
If you toast bagels and thicker waffles, look for a model with wide slots.
Cool-touch housing keeps the outside of the toaster cool to help protect counters and walls.
Most toasters have an automatic shut-off if the toast gets jammed. However, in our tests only one toaster turned off before it started smoking, even though they were all tested by Underwriter’s Laboratory, an internationally recognized safety tester. Our advice: Don’t rely on shut-off systems and DON’T leave toasting bread unattended.
We tested a whole range of toasters with a few different types of bread in a toast off:
- Procter Siliex (simple, light-dark slider, mechanical): $15.99
- Phillips (wide-slot, bagel button (toasts only one side), electric): $42.00
- Oster Perfectionist (claims to adjust to temperature and voltage changes, 63 toast options): $92.00
- KitchenAid Ultra Power Plus (one long wide slot, digital controls, microchip, tons of options): $169.99
The Phillips was the most consistent toaster.
The KitchenAid was the only one that shut off on its own in our safety test. The Philips made a lot of noise instead of shutting off.
OUR TOP PICK
We preferred the Phillips toaster for its simple features and consistent results. However always remember to pay attention to your toaster while it’s in use in order to prevent potential kitchen fires.