Prices are accurate at the time of publication.
- A good toaster should toast bread evenly and consistently, and each slot should perform equally well.
- Ideally, it should also accommodate bagels, and English muffins should be easy to retrieve.
- Find out more about how Insider Reviews tests and reviews kitchen products.
Above all, a good toaster should be able to handle one task and handle it well: brown bread evenly and consistently across every slot. Beyond that, the best toasters can also accommodate sliced bagels, quickly defrost frozen waffles, and pop up English muffins forcefully enough so that you don't have to fish them out with a knife (or your fingers). That's why we tested every toaster in this guide to see how they handled all of the aforementioned foods (you can find a more detailed look at our methodology here).
Performance aside, there are two main factors to consider when picking the toaster that best suits your needs: the number of people in your household and the size of your kitchen. If you live alone in a one-bedroom apartment and countertop space is at a premium, a two-slice toaster will probably do the trick, while a four-slice toaster will make mornings easier for a family of six in a suburban home.
If you're looking for a more versatile countertop appliance, you may want to consider getting a toaster oven instead; in addition to toasting bread, they can perform tasks like bake cookies, roast chicken, and cook frozen pizzas. You can check out our guide to the best toaster ovens for recommendations.
Here are the best toasters of 2021
- Best toaster overall: Breville Bit More Toaster
- Best budget toaster: Cuisinart CPT-122 2-Slice Compact Toaster
- Best toaster upgrade: Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Toaster
The Breville Bit More delivers beautifully browned toast every time, and its special features make it easy to optimize the toasting cycle for bagels, frozen waffles, and more.
Pros: Toasts evenly, "A Bit More" button adds time to underdone toast, easy to clean, elegant design
The true test of a good toaster is, of course, whether or not it consistently produces evenly golden-brown toast. And, out of the nine toasters we evaluated, the Breville Bit More's toast was some of the most impressive (outdone only by the Breville Die-Cast's), with few white spots and no burnt edges. This model also performed perfectly consistently; we toasted four batches of white sandwich bread and the color and texture of the toast was identical when done on the same setting.
While most toasters' special features don't add all that much (we found that bagels toasted on a "bagel" setting typically turn out the same as those done on standard toast mode), this model has two genuinely useful additions: the "Bit More" and "Lift and Look" buttons. The former allows you to add an extra 30 seconds to underdone toast without interrupting the toasting cycle, while the latter allows you to raise the carriage to check on your toast (or give smaller carbs like English muffins an extra boost so you don't have to fish them out of the toaster's slots with a utensil).
The Breville Bit More easily accommodated puffy bagels during our tests, and it defrosted frozen waffles quickly and thoroughly in both "defrost" and regular mode (medium settings 3 and 4 worked best for this purpose). Its crumb tray also detached smoothly, making cleanup swift and easy.
The Cuisinart CPT-122 is compact, speedy, ultra-affordable, and turns out toast just as evenly golden-brown as many of its much pricier competitors.
Pros: Speedy, compact, toasts evenly, wide toasting slots, generous warranty
Cons: Not as consistent as our top pick, plastic lever feels flimsy
The Cuisinart CPT-122 doesn't have too many bells and whistles, but the simple and effective design is part of the appeal. There's an outer knob to adjust the darkness settings (from 1 to 7), three buttons for additional modes (bagel, defrost, and reheat), and a fourth button to cancel the toast cycle. Despite the fact that this is one of the few plastic toasters we tested (as opposed to metal), its construction feels sturdy, with the exception of the lever, which tends to wiggle a bit when you press it down.
It took a bit of trial and error to find the optimal settings on the CPT-122. For example, in our experience, 3.5 to 4 was ideal for sliced sandwich bread, while the tops of bagels began to scorch on anything higher than 3. But once we had the settings down, this model produced breads just as golden brown and evenly toasted as many of its' notably pricier competitors. And, speaking of bagels, we didn't have to squish them to fit them in the slots.
The CPT-122 was also one of the faster toasters we tested; it popped out fully-toasted bread in about a minute and a half (we found that the average was a little over two minutes). And, it was one of the most compact, making it ideal for small living spaces.
This 4-slice toaster produces near-perfect toast, is solidly made, and offers dual controls so you can toast on two different settings at once.
Pros: Toasts exceptionally evenly, "A Bit More" button adds time to underdone toast, can toast on two different settings at once, storage space for cord at the bottom
Cons: Somewhat bulky
If you really want to ensure that you're getting the most evenly golden-brown toast possible, it's worth investing in the Breville Die-Cast 4-Slice Toaster, which produced the best results out of all the toasters we tried. Like our top pick, the Breville Bit More, the Die-Cast leaves bread with almost zero white spots or burnt edges, and it performs with exceptional consistency.
The similarities between the Die-Cast and the Bit More don't end there: both feature Breville's patented "Bit More" and "Lift and Look" buttons, which allow you to add 30 seconds to underdone toast and raise the carriage to check your toasting progress, respectively. And they both easily accommodate bagels, leave English muffins evenly browned, and defrost frozen waffles so that they're crispy on the outside and chewy inside.
Where the two toasters differ (aside from the Die-Cast's slightly higher performance), is in the Die-Cast's dual controls, which allow you to toast on two different settings at once. So, if one person in your household wants a bagel for breakfast and another wants Eggos, you can toast both to perfection in one go.
Revolution Toaster: While the Revolution Toaster's touchscreen interface is certainly fun to look at and intuitive to use, we found that it toasted too unevenly (particularly on the English muffin setting) to justify the $300 price tag.
Cuisinart CPT-160: We found that the countdown performed just as well as the CPT-122. But, even though it's a bit more solidly made, you're paying more than twice the price of our budget pick for identical results.
All-Clad 2-Slice Toaster: This model didn't perform consistently enough for us to offer a solid recommendation, and often left toast white around the edges.
Dash Clear View: We liked the idea of watching our toast brown through a glass window, but we were unable to fit two standard slices of white bread in the Dash Clear View side-by-side, and the overlap resulted in uneven browning.
Cuisinart Countdown: While our previous top pick is a decent option if you're looking for a 4-slice toaster with dual controls in the $100 range, our current top pick and upgrade topped its performance.
We put every toaster in this guide through the same set of objective tests in order to evaluate them for these main attributes.
Ease of use: We noted how intuitive each toaster was to use, taking care to test out any special settings. We also cleaned each toaster, docking points if their crumb trays were particularly difficult to remove.
Special features: If a toaster had special features like a bagel mode, defrost setting, or "Bit More" button (a Breville feature that allows you to add time to underdone toast), we tried them out.
Aesthetics: While it wasn't a main consideration, we took note if a toaster was particularly well-designed, or unnecessarily bulky.
Longevity: I tested our top three picks consistently for three months, and have yet to notice any decline in quality. I plan to reevaluate them again at the six month mark.
Toasting performance: We toasted four types of food in every toaster, and performed each test at least eight times — twice on four different settings (labeled 2, 3, 4, and 5 on most models) — allowing the toasters to fully cool in between rounds. (We found that toasting anything on setting 1 produced barely noticeable results across the board.) Certain tests were performed a ninth and tenth time on toasters with special settings (for example, we defrosted frozen waffles an additional two times in toasters with a "defrost" setting).
- Bread: Since evenly toasting bread is a toaster's most important task, this test was given the most weight. We ran eight rounds of Whole Foods 365 white bread through each appliance, noting how quickly, evenly, and consistently they toasted.
- Frozen waffles: We evaluated each toaster to see how well they defrosted Eggo frozen waffles on four different settings. We also tried the "defrost" mode on toasters with that additional setting, although we found little difference between heating up an Eggo on defrost versus normal toast mode.
- English muffins: We noted how evenly each toaster browned Thomas' English muffins, and tried out the English muffin setting on models with that feature. We also considered how easy it was to remove English muffins from each toaster — in models with less powerful pop-up mechanisms, we sometimes had to fish them out with utensils.
- Bagels: We took note if the slots on a particular model couldn't accommodate a sliced Whole Foods 365 plain bagel. We also tested the bagel setting on toasters with that feature.
Heat Buildup: For our top picks, we ran three additional back-to-back testing cycles with white bread, to see how the toasters performed when toasting one batch directly after another. In all three cases, the third cycle of toast was slightly darker than the first, but not so much that we'd recommend waiting for the toasters to cool before loading them again.
Speed: We timed how long it took each toaster to pop out a fully done piece of toast.
What's the difference between a toaster vs toaster oven?
In our guide to toaster ovens, Roxanne Wyss, co-author of the toaster oven cookbook Toaster Oven Takeover, said "the versatility of the toaster oven outshines the regular toaster. You can toast a wide variety of bread sizes and often toast the number of slices you need for a larger family…the toaster oven easily toasts English muffins, bagels, rolls, and a wide range of specialty rolls, pastries and buns."
While this is true — most toaster slots aren't wide enough to accommodate a pastry or roll — a toaster may better suit your needs if you're mostly looking for something to toast bread, bagels, waffles, and English muffins, rather than an appliance that functions as a mini oven. Toasters are also typically less expensive and take up less countertop space.
How long should a toaster take?
During our testing, we found that the average toaster took 2.5 minutes to toast bread on the medium setting. Of course, if you're working with frozen foods, putting your toaster in defrost mode will add some time — about 25 to 30 seconds in most cases.
How do you keep a toaster clean?
Best cleaning practices will vary from toaster to toaster, so it's important to reference the instruction manual for your particular model. That being said, this cleanup routine generally works.
1. Unplug your toaster.
2. Wait for it to cool down completely.
3. Remove and clean the crumb tray. Most modern toasters come with a removable crumb tray. If yours does, pull it out, shake off any loose crumbs, and wash it in warm soapy water. Then set it aside to dry before reinserting it.
4. Turn your toaster upside down and shake it out. If your toaster doesn't have a crumb tray, you'll probably have to shake it out over your sink or garbage can to dislodge any loose crumbs. If there are still any stubborn toast bits left in there, try loosening them with a pastry brush before upending your toaster again.