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Today’s Top Toasters

by Maryellen Driscoll

fromFine Cooking
Issue 78

Toasters just keep getting savvier. These days, many models can toast bagels on the cut side only, reheat toast without further browning, defrost bread, or cancel at the touch of a button. Nice as these extras may be, they’re not what makes a toaster a keeper. What matters most is how well a toaster can toast. After testing 11 of the more cutting-edge models on the market, we found that the best ones were those that could consistently toast bread just the way you like it—whether pale or nearly burnt—in just one cycle.

In our tests, the toasters that met this standard had a full browning spectrum: At the lowest setting, a slice of white bread came out pale yet crisp and warm. At the highest setting, it came out burnt. And in between was that ideal golden slice. If a toaster can’t deliver this range of browning intensities, it’ll have trouble handling different kinds of breads (heat that nearly burns plain white bread is just what a moist English muffin or a dense slice of sourdough needs), and you’ll get stuck toasting your bread for two cycles—or worse, one and a half—and hovering over it to make sure it doesn’t burn. Now, that’s no way to start a morning.

Break in your toaster Most new toasters need to be used a half dozen times or more for the heat elements to adjust and work properly.

Nearly all of the toasters in our tests had their merits, but after toasting loaf after loaf of bread, the five machines shown below stood out as our favorites.

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How we tested
Top picks

DeLonghi Brushed
Aluminum Toaster
(model DTT900)
$129.95 at Cooking.com

Even browning: excellent
Range of browning: excellent
Features: cancel button, warming rack, extra-wide self-centering slots, removable crumb tray

This is one impressive toaster: It automatically lowers bread, and a soft bell rings when the toast is done. Toast rises well above the slots, so no high-lift feature is needed. The lowest setting can reheat toast without further browning. A warming rack that can be set on top of the toaster is the one feature that failed to impress.

KitchenAid
(KMTT200)
$89.99 at Kitchenaid.com

Even browning: excellent
Range of browning: excellent
Features: bagel and reheat modes, extra-wide self-centering slots, removable crumb tray, stay-cool sides, extra-lift lever

When toasting just one slice, most toasters brown one side more than the other because heat radiates from the empty neighboring slot. KitchenAid’s newest model was the only double-slotted toaster in our tests that didn’t do this. Ironically, with two slices you get one side that comes out a little lighter than the other.

Russell Hobbs
Glass Toaster
(model RHG2T)
$92.86 at Kitchendirect.com

Even browning: very good
Range of browning: very good
Features: bagel mode, cancel button, extra-wide self-centering slot, removable crumb tray, stay-cool sides, extra-lift lever

There’s much to love about this toaster: above all, the single long slot that can fit oblong slices from an artisan loaf. The lowest setting can reheat toast without further browning. The tinted glass panels on the sides of the toaster stay cool, but the protruding chrome top gets quite hot.

Dualit Lite
$79.95 at Bakerscatalogue.com

Even browning: good
Range of browning: very good
Features: bagel mode, extra-lift lever, removable crumb tray

Dualit recently introduced this relatively affordable model—not to be confused with the high-end Dualit Vario. It’s pretty no-nonsense and does a great job toasting just about any kind of bread. Our main quibble is that when you toast a single slice it’s noticeably darker on one side than on the other. You can use the lowest setting to reheat toast.

Oster Counterforms
$39.99 at Oster.com

Even browning: good
Range of browning: very good
Features: defrost, reheat, bagel, waffle, and pastry modes; extra-lift lever; cancel button; extra-wide self-centering slots; pullout crumb tray; stay-cool sides

This model toasts well at an affordable price. It handles two slices better than single slices (which come out somewhat uneven). The high-lift lever locks into place, so it’s easy to remove English muffins without burning your fingers.

Worthwhile extras

Groovy extra features can make a great toaster even better.

  • Reheat mode – This feature warms (dry) toast without continuing to brown the exterior or dry out the interior.
  • Bagel mode – In the best toasters, this setting toasts only the sliced side of the bagel while warming its rounded exterior.
  • Extra lift – The toaster’s lever raises up to lift small items like English muffins out of the hot slots.
  • Self-centering slots – Vertical wire racks in the slots adjust to bread’s thickness so it doesn’t tilt and toast unevenly.

Photos: Scott Phillips

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