- Although the humble toaster is a small appliance, it remains a vital part of your kitchen lineup.
- At the least, a great toaster will provide tasty toasted bread and at the most, it offers special features.
- The Cuisinart Countdown 4-Slice Toaster is the best thanks to its many settings and features.
When making toast at home, there are two major types of toasters: toaster ovens and traditional pop-up toasters. In this guide, we focused on the more common pop-up toasters, which come in either two-slice or four-slice options. If you’re looking for a larger but more versatile toaster oven, check out our guide here.
Which toaster is right for you depends on both the size of your family and the size of your kitchen. If you are single and living in a cozy studio apartment where countertop space is at a premium, a two-slice toaster will probably do the trick. A family of six in a suburban home? A four-slice toaster can clearly make your mornings easier.
Many modern toasters feature defrost settings, bagel settings, warming trays, and some even use smart technology. But all the bells and whistles in the world don’t really matter if you don’t end up with great toast. Ideally, a toaster should brown bread evenly, consistently, and fairly quickly. It should also be able to handle a variety of different bread or food products, be safe, look good, and fall within your budget.
Here are the best toasters in 2021
- Best toaster overall: Cuisinart Countdown Four-Slice Toaster
- Best toaster on a budget: Oster Jelly Bean Two-Slice Toaster
- Best high-end toaster: Breville Die-Cast Four-Slice Toaster
- Best design-conscious toaster: SMEG Two-Slice Toaster
- Best two-slice toaster: Cuisinart Two-Slice Classic Metal Toaster
The Cuisinart Countdown Four-Slice Toaster’s sleek, stainless-steel design stands out, and it delivers beautifully-brown toast time and again.
Pros: Great value, stylish, modern LED features, high-quality bagel function
Cons: Noisy, occasional uneven browning
The Cuisinart Countdown Four-Slice Toaster’s seven browning settings ensure that you can take your toast however you like it — from a barely-there brown sheen right up to super crispy. But the versatile settings on this toaster are just the beginning of what makes it so much better than the competition.
The 1.5-inch wide slots allow you to toast a variety of items including artisanal bread that you slice yourself, English muffins, pastries, and bagel halves. Two sets of controls toast bread on different settings simultaneously. A bagel button reduces the heat on the uncut side of the bagel. It’s also no problem if you want to pop a frozen waffle or other bread product right into the toaster. The defrost button will thaw out your bread before toasting it. Additionally, the reheat button expertly warms up forgotten toast, without further browning.
The blue LED screens inform you what setting you’ve selected and exactly how long you have to wait until your toast is ready.
The Cuisinart Countdown Toaster comes with a three-year warranty, so you’re covered if you run into any problems. It may be pricier than that cheap toaster you bought in college all those years ago, but it is the most easy-to-use and fully featured toaster you can buy.
Best on a budget
The Oster Jelly Bean Two-Slice Toaster features all the settings and functions of a more expensive toaster at a wallet-friendly price.
Pros: Affordable, stylish, consistent, versatile, easy to use, easy to clean
Cons: Although slots are wide, they are not very deep; no method to wrap or retract the long cord
Some say the Oster Jelly Bean Toaster resembles a Volkswagen Beetle. The tiny toasting machine weighs in at just 3.44 pounds and is only 7 inches wide, but don’t let its cute appearance fool you.
It has many of the same features as our top pick, including seven browning settings, and bagel, defrost, warm, and cancel functions. It also offers wide slots and auto-adjusting bread guides that automatically center the food for an even browning. In test after test, the Oster Jelly Bean Toaster consistently produces evenly browned bread.
Why does it work so well? Oster uses something called Toast Logic in all of its toasters. This means that it adjusts the toasting time to compensate for the toaster’s temperature and voltage input during the toasting cycle.
The Oster Jelly Bean is easy to use and easy to clean. The low-tech knobs are self-explanatory. The cord is almost two feet long, and since the toaster is so compact, you can move it around their kitchen or even store it in a cabinet. To clean the toaster, you simply take out the removable crumb tray and wipe it with a damp cloth.
Best high-end toaster
The Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Toaster is unmatched in versatility and ease-of-use, and it’s built to last so your investment is well worth it.
Pros: Stylish, solidly-made, consistent toasting, fun extra features
Australian company Breville is renowned for producing top-notch small home appliances, and its Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Toaster has all the bells and whistles of our top pick — and then some.
A whopping twelve browning settings are accompanied by five other setting buttons including frozen, bagel, and cancel. Breville also offers two trademarked buttons: the “A Bit More” button allows users to instantly add a little extra toasting time, while the motorized “Lift & Look” button automatically raises and lowers the carriage so you can check the toasting progress without interrupting the toasting cycle.
We love the LED panel that illuminates according to the selected setting, and it also counts down how long is left in the toasting cycle. The beep that indicates a completed cycle can be made louder or softer and is a more pleasing sound than the one our top pick makes. It is also virtually the only sound you will hear from this blissfully quiet appliance.
The Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Toaster is a solid machine that is built to last. Should something go awry, you’re protected by a one-year warranty, and Breville is renowned for its customer service. It has been known to quickly send replacement units. The 36-inch cord is removable, but also has a neat storage space on the bottom of the unit. Unlike many other toasters, the Breville remains cool to the touch. To top it all off, the all-metal exterior looks sharp and cleans up easily with a damp cloth.
The SMEG Two-Slice Toaster is retro-chic, but it’s more than just looks. It also browns bread beautifully.
Pros: Super stylish, sturdy, fast, and consistent toasting, excellent bagel function.
Cons: Expensive, the unit warms up quickly, unattractive and unmanageable cord
Founded in 1948, SMEG is a family-run Italian business that makes eye-catching, high-end appliances. When it launched in 2014, the SMEG Two-Slice 50’s style toaster nabbed a Good Design award given by a Chicago museum, and the following year, it picked up two more prestigious design awards.
The toaster comes in several colors, including red, black, cream, pastel blue, pink, pastel green, and chrome. Its sturdy powder-coated steel body looks great and cleans easily. The backlit chrome knob and chrome base add to the sophisticated design, while the stainless steel ball lever knob is a perfectly-placed accent.
While the SMEG Two-Slice Toaster may look old-fashioned, it is a thoroughly modern machine. It comes with many of the features found on today’s other highly-regarded toasters, including six browning levels and bagel, defrost, reheat, and cancel settings. The removable crumb tray is extra wide and pops out easily with the push of a button.
Best two-slice toaster
The Cuisinart Two-Slice Classic Metal Toaster is sleek, toasts perfectly evenly, and despite its small size, it still includes a tidy crumb tray in the bottom.
Pros: Sleek design, fast and consistent toasting, simple features
Cons: Some reviewers complain about uneven toasting, though I haven’t experienced it with mine
Cuisinart has been a leader in kitchen appliances for nearly five decades, so it should be no surprise that its toasters are nearing perfection at this point. My family has had this toaster for well over a decade, and after having survived the careless, clumsy mitts of my younger brother (who I’m sure has knocked it off the counter more than once) it’s still going strong as can be without even the slightest hint of trouble. Granted, it’s a simple appliance.
Still, I have owned other toasters within a similar price range and had terrible experiences with inedibly burnt bagel halves on one side and under-toasted ones on the other. But I suppose what I like most about this toaster is its sleek design, which keeps the kitchen looking clean and sleek as well.
Other toasters with busy interfaces tend to make kitchen counters look somewhat cluttered, but I barely even notice this toaster is there, which, apart from perfectly golden toast, of course, is exactly what I want from a toaster — or any appliance for that matter. — Owen Burke
Check out our other great small appliance guides