An electric Toaster has to do one thing : Evenly toast a slice of bread.
There are over a thousand different electric toasters on the market and most of them can't even do that.
Most won't even brown a full slice from a standard sliced loaf, let alone a Warburtons Toastie!
Next to sealed sandwich (Toastie) makers, electric toasters are the most disappointing modern kitchen appliance.
Most people have either forgotten what a proper slice of toast tastes like or never had one.
We would think that after nearly 120 years of trying someone would get it right, it seems easier to build a spaceship than to get a toaster to take a proper slice of bread, toast it evenly and do it right every time.
Vintage 1910 toaster, no timers no pop up, but it did the job!
Despite many technological innovations, exotic heating elements, full micro processor controls, all types of sensors and some eye watering prices, in our opinion not one manufacture has yet made a reliable electric toaster that can make toast as well as a grill.
Here's how to choose the best of whats available and our recommended best buys.
What to Look For in a Toaster
Traditional 2 slice and 4 slice:
If you need a family toaster or eat large amounts of toast a 4 slice toaster is preferable. If you are having one or two at a time then go for a 2 slice taster.
If your needs are varied our Recommended Best Buy 4 slice toasters have a 2 or 4 toast setting, use it on 2 for day to day and on 4 for when more toast is needed.
2 slice Toasters tend to be small enough to sit unnoticed on the worktop, 4 slice ones are bulkier. The Expensive and gimmick loaded toasters are really big.
If you need a 4 slice toaster then make sure it has a 2 slot setting so you can use 1 side only without wasting energy heating up empty slots.
Independent browning controls for each set of slots let you choose different settings for each side (ie.... dark and crispy in one side, light brown in the other)
Conveyor Toasters: These are catering Toasters, the ones you see in hotel breakfast bars or in very busy cafés. You get better results from these as they are grilling the toast.
Put the bread in the top and it passes through the machine over and under a fixed grill coming out at the bottom perfectly toasted.
If you have a toast munching family and deep pockets then this is the toasting machine for you, decent ones will cost from £600 upwards.
Breakfast Toasters: If started in America (where else?) with toasters designed to make all the ingredients for their breakfast sandwiches (the breakfast muffins sold by burger chains)
Now we have our own toast and egg and toast and bean makers, I cant see the point but they seem very popular.
You need 4 things in a Toaster
1. An adjustable timer or browning control which once set stays there, giving you toast your way time after time.
This Bosch has deep wide slots with centre springs
2. Deep wide slots, that can can take full sized thick bread, crumpets, bagels etc... in them.
Good ones will have wire springs inside the slots which will center the bread so it browns evenly on each side.
4. A sturdy crumb tray which is easy to remove, clean and put back.
Most decent Toasters will also have a cancel button which stops the toaster and pops up the bread and a defrost button to deal with frozen bread.
Some offer a reheat function which is supposed to reheat the toast if you've let it cool.
These vary and can overcook the toast or leave it too cold.
We find the best way to reheat cold toast is to put in back into the Toaster, slowly count to 10 then press the cancel button.
The Russell Hobbs Classic crumbtray
The controls on the Bosch styline toaster
Extra Useful Features:
Anything else on a toaster does absolutely nothing to make your toast any better.
These are the extras which are helpful, others such as motorized lifters and advanced electronic gadgetry (such as smart toasters) are gimmicks that add nothing except more to the price.
The more gimmicks, the more to go wrong!
One Sided toasting : If you like toasting bagels / crumpets on one side only some toasters have a bagel feature which will toast only one side of what you put in the slot.
Presets: These allow you to press a button for, different breads, buns etc... and the Toaster 'decides' how long to Toast them for, useful if you toast a variety of bread and buns and don't want to be constantly fiddling with the timer.
Pause: (sometimes called 'stop & peep' or 'lift & look') This feature allows you to stop toasting mid cycle so you can have a peep at your toast to see how it's doing, without restarting the timer from the beginning.
Countdown timers : These let you know how long you have to wait for your toast to finish, a nice idea which allows you to get your mug of coffee ready just before the toast pops up.
Bun / Croissant warmers : These are racks that sit over the top of the Toaster using the rising heat from the elements to warm them the problem is they only warm one side (the underneath) turn them over and the top gets cold.
Sandwich toasting cages : These are cages that clamp around a sandwich then drop into your Toaster, they have drip trays to stop any filling dripping into the Toaster.
You can also get toasting bags, or mesh strips that do the same job, great for the occasional toastie but if you are a toasted sandwich fan then your better off with a sandwich maker. See our Sandwich Maker Buying Guide.
With electric toasters spending more does not get you better toast:
We found that our Recommended Best Buy £25 Russell Hobbs 2 slice toaster gave better toasting results than our best styled £480 Bugatti VOLO, has a better guarantee and broke down less.
A cheap 2 slice toaster can cost under £10, a top end 4 slice domestic toaster can cost many hundreds. A decent good quality 2 slice Toaster with a 2 year or more guarantee would be around £30 - £60 and a 4 slice one about £10 to £15 more.
This is the maximum we would advise paying for an electric toaster.
Despite the claims of superior product, durability and reliability these 'High end ' toasters only have 1 year guarantees (Dualit guarantees its heating element for 2) and their toasting performance is not much better than our cheaper best buy models.
Our best performing Magimix 2 slice toaster is also expensive but at least it has a 3 year guarantee.
We have we included some more expensive High End 2 slice toasters for those who want a little more to an appliance than just good toast.
Take a look at our Recommended Best Buy Toasters. each has a short review on the product page