Who doesn’t love a hot buttered slice of toast? Whether it’s good-for-you wholemeal, artisan sourdough, wheat-free or just a simple sliced white, toast has a place at every meal. With marmalade for breakfast, yummy smashed avocado at lunchtime and piled high with beans for a simple supper, it’s a go-to almost every day.
So, how can we make sure this meal-time staple is as delicious every time, with just the perfect amount of browning? With one of our best toasters, of course!
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Why do I need a toaster?
Simply put, it’s a kitchen staple that has ben saving us time since it was invented in the early 20th Century. Unless you prefer to constant check your bread under the grill to see if it’s ready, a toaster really is the easiest and most efficient way to make perfect toasted bread, bagels and crumpets.
More than 100 years after the first, basic model was patented, our kitchens really wouldn’t feel complete without one. There are hundreds of different models on the market, from simple two slot bread toasters to all-singing, all-dancing four-slot machines, so we’ve checked some of the best two- and four-slice models to help you decide which one’s for you.
How much should I spend on a toaster?
Prices vary hugely, from £15 for a supermarket own-brand two-slot to iconic designs made to match your high-end appliances. If you’re just after one that will quickly and efficiently make your morning toast, then there are plenty of perfectly serviceable models on the market with a sub-£30 price ticket. If you want a little more, however, including good looks and quality engineering as well as great performance, then you could end up paying as much as £250!
Should I buy a two-slice or four-slice toaster?
If there’s just one or two of you and you’re not a fan of fancy loaves then we’d say a simple two-slot model with just a couple of functions will probably suffice. Two slot models are also better if you’re a bit tight on space as it’s a product that usually has a permanent, easy to access home on your worktop.
For couples and families a four-slot or four-slice model is a better option – ensuring preparing toast for your brood at breakfast-time or simply serving up eggs on toast for two is an altogether speedier affair. If you’re fixated on a particular look, don’t despair, many brands produce two- and four-slot toaster models that look the same and many even come with the best kettles as companions!
1. Breville Impressions 4-Slice Toaster
Best budget 4-slice toaster
This machine’s certainly got the looks and although it has a fairly big footprint it is comparatively light. It still feels well built, though, despite the plastic outer casing, as the chrome accents give it a bit of shine and pizzaz. It’s a great price, too – in fact, it’s a 10th of the price of the most expensive four-slice model we tested.
Easy to unpack, the instructions are clear and simple to follow. That said, there’s not much to get confused about here, as the fascia controls are really intuitive. We loved the fact that the four slots had two different control settings, perfect for juggling the needs of picky family members with varying tastes.
It has a satisfying and audible noise as the toast pops up, too, meaning you’ll probably never need to use the keep warm function. There are the usual stop and defrost buttons, too plus an easy to access crumb tray.
Although it wasn’t the fastest toaster in our test, the results were pretty consistent, although if you’re doing big quantities, swiping the lever a touch to the left after the first batch will prevent further slices overdoing a tad as it warms up to its task. The extra high lift feature meant we didn’t have to dig smaller items such as crumpets out of the slot, either.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
2. Smeg TSF01 2 Slice Toaster
Best retro-looking toaster
With an exterior that’s pure 1950s Americana – the shape’s not unlike that of a classic 1950s Airstream motorhome – we thought it might be all about the looks with this machine. Luckily, that’s not so.
Although it’s not huge, it does everything you need it to, and it does it all well. There are six browning functions; we opted for mid-way but noticed that once the toaster was warmed up, we could dial it down a bit.
It also has a defrost button so there aren’t any ‘Oh no, I forgot to take the bread out of the freezer’ moments, while the one side toasting function is good for bagels and the reheat perfect for those of us that sometimes get distracted and leave the toast to cool.
The two wide toasting slots were more than big enough to cope with doorstop slices carved from a whole farmhouse loaf, as well as standard supermarket medium pre-cut bread. The self-centering racks keep the bread neatly in place and there’s a generous pop-up so you don’t end up burning your fingers trying to remove small items.
The removable crumb tray comes out from the side, which might be an issue if you’re short on space but it had a satisfying pop-out function.
Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
3. Magimix 2-Slot Vision Toaster
Best for keeping an eye on your slice
You’ve got to feel sorry for Ricky Gervais’s side-kick Karl Pilkington. Ever the butt or Ricky’s jokes, he thought he’d scored a winner with his idea of a toaster with see-through sides, only to discover to his horror that Magimix had got there first.
Of course, it’s a fun idea, so that’s no surprise and the machine itself is really funky – with clear, heatproof glass panels surrounded by a sleek steel casing with ergonomic round edges. It’s fairly pricey though, so we hoped there was more to recommend it than a see-through body.
Luckily, there is. Rather than two slots it has one long, wide one big enough for two slices, or, and this is a feature we particularly loved, you can pop in one long loaf slice – round artisan soda bread or pitta for instance – without having to cut it in two. Perfect for one-slice of avocado on toast or creating a pocket to stuff with hummus and salad.
The usual defrost and stop buttons are joined by one that we’re sure could only be found on a French-built machine – a baguette function. It heats differently, too. Replacing the standard side elements are two coiled ones at the base of the machine, which heat and toast the bread from below. We were worried this would result in an unevenly toasted slice but it was pretty consistent all the way up.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
4. Dualit New-Gen four-slice toaster
Best for quality and durability
Hand-built in the UK since 1945, we love the fact that each toaster still bears the name of the person that assembled it – have a look on the bottom if you don’t believe us. The price reflects the fact that its makers believe it’s a toaster that will last a lifetime.
While it’s claimed the unique patented ProHeat elements are virtually indestructible, if anything should go wrong, parts are super easy to replace or repair. OK, so does have fewer bells and whistles than other machines, instead priding itself on ease of use, quality build and durability.
There’s no automatic pop-up, although it does have lovely wide slots, you just lower your toast in manually using the lever at the front then turn the browning control to the desired setting and it starts to count down. Check toast is done by raising the lever to expose the toast without stopping the browning process, then lowering it back down if it’s not done enough or turning the dial to zero if it’s ready. There are settings for toasting one, two, three or four slices at a time, and defrost and keep warm functions. It browned faster and more evenly than most other models on test, producing perfectly browned bread in a little over a minute and a half. Most others took more than two minutes and while 30 seconds might not seem much, if you’re rushing to get the kids to school, that could make all the difference.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
5. Bosch ComfortLine Compact Toaster
Best 2-slice toaster for small kitchens
Modern and neat this toaster is never going to set your heart on fire like the KitchenAid or the Dualit, but it has an sleek exterior and solid build at a reasonable price. It has six browning settings but, as with all the others we tested, we set it to half-way first to see what that produced. And the results were pleasingly consistent.
The two slots are wide and the automatic centering feature means that the all items we toasted – bread, bagels and crumpets – came out with evenly browned exteriors. As with most others toasters we looked at, it has a high-lift function making things easy to remove without getting burnt.
There’s no setting for just browning the cut side of a bagel but as we don’t object to ours gently toasted on both sides, rather than the more traditional one side, that didn’t pose a problem.
On the opposite end to the push-down toaster lever, there’s a switch that controls an integrated rack that pops up that, when the dial is set to two, works as warmer and crisper. This was great for warming and crisping a roll to have with our lunchtime soup.
Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Buying a toaster – what key features should I look for?
What can it toast?
First and foremost, of course, a toaster needs to, well, toast. Bread obviously, but also thicker items such as crumpets and English muffins, and some even have warming features for rolls and croissants. If you like your bread thick sliced, or hand-cut then, look for one that has slots made to accommodate any size, with mechanisms that hold bread central, whatever it’s width. A four-slice model with a single slot is a good for toasting pitta or artisan breads.
A bagel-toasting programme will brown the bread just on the cut side but if you like yours crispy front and back then it’s an extra you might not need or use.
Can it defrost bread and keep my toast warm?
As well as a decent variable control to give you your chosen perfect shade of brown, you should also look for defrost and keep warm functions.
Look at build quality and maintenance
Look at the quality of the build as well as the design. After all, it’s probably something that will be used every day so you’re going to want it to last and perform well for years. Easy to remove crumb trays are also important, as is a surface that’s clean with just a quick wipe.
A high ‘pop-up’, which ensures you don’t get your fingers burnt when removing smaller slices of toast or crumpets from the machine is also a good idea, particularly if you have children.