Today's toasters come in all shapes and sizes, from two-slice to four-slice and long-slice options for fitting your favorite artisanal loaves. Most toasters now feature a variety of settings to meet your needs, and toaster ovens offer even more versatility. Want your bagel with a warmed outside and a toasty inside? Extra time to defrost the waffle that came directly from the freezer? Or do you just want to see how much more browning your toast needs? We tested the most popular models side-by-side to determine which toasters and toaster ovens are best.
Best Overall, Two-Slice
Hamilton Beach Keep Warm 2-Slice Toaster (22811)
Chimes when finished toasting
Toast boost easily removes food
Bagel and defrost settings work well
Easy to clean
Unpleasant smell on first use
Stainless steel gets smudged easily
For two-slice toasters, nothing beats the speed, quality, consistency, and ease of use of this Hamilton Beach model. This appliance is the standard for smaller households, and it performed well in all of our tests. The easy-to-operate, illuminated buttons let you choose between regular toasting, a bagel setting, and defrosting, and a numbered dial allows you to choose your desired crispiness level. There's also a keep-warm setting to maintain the perfect temperature for up to three minutes (it shuts off automatically after that).
We were happy with how well the appliance toasted both sides of a regular piece of bread, leaving no area untoasted. We also liked that the bagel setting cooks the inside of the bread without making the outside overly crispy. The toaster also has a lift feature called “toast boost” that makes your toast easier to remove without burning your fingers. Finally, the exterior of the toaster remains cool to the touch even after making breakfast for the whole family, so you can scoot it across the counter or store it away in the cabinet without having to wait for it to cool down. It may not work as well for extra-long artisanal slices, but it handles standard sandwich bread and bagels beautifully.
Price at time of publish: $49
Capacity: 2 slices | High-Lift Lever: Yes | Removable Crumb Tray: Yes | Dimensions: 11.3 x 7.48 x 7.48 inches | Weight: 3.47 pounds | Power: 750 watts | Warranty: 1 year
"It performs reliably and has several settings, making it a worthwhile investment for any home." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Overall, Four-Slice
Cuisinart CPT-T40 4-Slice Touchscreen Toaster
High-lift lever and +30 second feature
Single-slice toasting feature
Bagels are a tight fit
The CPT-T40 4-Slice Touchscreen Toaster exceeded our expectations, especially given its price tag. Touchscreen controls on the front of the toaster and six shade settings give precise control whether you’re toasting sandwich bread or English muffins. Features include bagel, defrost, and single-slice toasting, as well as a +30 second button and a cancel button.
Two levers each control a pair of toast slots, and each pair can operate separately, so you can simultaneously toast bagels lightly while toasting bread to a dark shade. This toaster’s display rests in standby mode when it’s not being used and wakes up at the touch of an icon. In our tests, bread toasted to a nice golden brown on medium and high settings, with the highest coming out evenly dark without being burned. We did have to manually help thick bagels into the slots, but they came out with a golden brown cut-side and a soft crust, even on the highest setting. The crumb tray is removable when it comes time for cleaning, though the easy-to-wipe exterior easily collects fingerprints.
Price at time of publish: $74
Capacity: 4 slices | High-Lift Lever: Yes | Removable Crumb Tray: Yes | Dimensions: 11 x 10.35 x 7.2 inches | Weight: 6.0 pounds | Power: 800 watts | Warranty: 3 years
"It looks so, so sleek. This is a toaster you would be proud to leave on your counter."
Best Toaster Oven
Breville BOV800XL Smart Oven
Temperature calibration is nearly perfect
Nine preset functions
Includes broil rack, pizza pan, baking pan
Needs circulation space on both sides
If you’ve been thinking about upgrading to a tech-savvy toaster oven, the Breville Smart Oven is a perfect pick. The large-capacity countertop oven not only fits six pieces of bread or a 12-inch pizza, but it can also bake cakes and cookies just as well as your regular oven. The Element IQ transfers heat across five quartz elements, which results in very even cooking.
We were impressed with the oven's temperature calibration and speed in particular. After using the oven to bake a variety of premade products (using the manufacturer’s suggested time and temperature), every one of them was done on time. We tried out the oven's versatility by making cookies, dinner rolls, store-bought pizza, and homemade pizza. We even broiled a steak, which turned out fine but produced a lot of smoke.
Whether you tend to bake in small batches or don’t want to heat up your kitchen in the summer with your regular oven, this is the ideal model for you.
Price at time of publish: $270
Capacity: 6 slices of bread/12-inch pizza | Dimensions: 15.7 x 18.5 x 11 inches | Weight: 22.8 pounds | Power: 1,800 watts | Warranty: 1 year
"Breville’s Smart Oven may be compact, but it can do nearly everything a full-size oven can." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Breville Die-Cast Smart Toaster
Fits long, artisanal slices easily
Easy to increase toasting time
Sleek and beautiful
Smart features aren't that impressive
Fitted with extra-long slots for all kinds of bread, this Breville smart toaster is a surprisingly unobtrusive addition to your countertop. You simply set your shade level on the slider, put in your bread, and allow the motorized lift to quietly lower it into the toaster. The LED lights indicate your toasting progress, and when it’s done, the toaster quietly raises your bread and dings (there's an option to lower or mute the sound).
We used the toaster with white bread, frozen bagels, and thick artisanal bread, and we found that everything came out perfectly, with each slice being toasted evenly. As for the controls, the Breville Die-Cast has some unique and intuitive button options. Besides the bagel and defrost settings, there are also “lift and look” buttons that raise the motorized carriage so you can check your toasting progress without starting over. Lastly, there is an “a bit more” button, which we found to be especially handy. While we appreciated the extra features, the "smart" designation might be a bit misleading.
Price at time of publish: $200
Capacity: 4 slices of sandwich bread or two long slices | High-Lift Lever: Yes | Removable Crumb Tray: Yes | Dimensions: 14.9 x 7.7 x 7.5 inches | Weight: 8.25 pounds | Power: 1,600 watts | Warranty: 1 year
"You can check on your bread as it toasts without stopping and having to start over—something that I think sets this model apart from others." — Lindsay Boyers, Product Tester
Smeg 50s Retro-Style 4-Slice Long-Slot Toaster
Polished, retro design
Includes bagel and defrost features
Toast sometimes pops out of toaster
Smeg is coveted for its retro-style appliances and trendy color options that add pizazz to any kitchen. The exterior of this toaster is powder-coated steel with polished chrome accents, but not only is it one of the most attractive designs on the market—it's highly functional, too. Anti-slip feet keep this firm on the counter, and the removable crumb tray makes it simple to clean.
We praised this toaster for its consistent performance; the brownness corresponded to the toaster's shade selection every time. When you’re using the bagel setting, it toasts slightly lighter, but does get a great golden-brown color on the cut side if you crank it up high. It also has reheat and defrost settings. One qualm we had was that although we enjoyed the toast popping all the way out of the toaster, the pieces could easily end up on the floor.
Price at time of publish: $269
Capacity: 4 slices | High-Lift Lever: Yes | Removable Crumb Tray: Yes | Dimensions: 15.9 x 8.1 x 8.4 inches | Weight: 7.5 pounds | Power: 1,400 watts | Warranty: 1 year
"It performed the sliced-bread test very well, but you're really buying this for the design."
Best for Bagels
KitchenAid KMT4115 4-Slice Toaster
Dings when done
Classic color options
Hard to keep clean
Forcing half a bagel into a too-narrow toaster slot isn't a pleasant experience. To avoid rips and crumbs and jams, it's smart to invest in a toaster with wide slots if you eat a lot of bagels or thicker breads. During testing we had nothing but nice things to say about the KitchenAid 4-Slice Toaster, which is available in three colors and features five shade settings, a manual high-lift lever, and 1.5-inch-wide slots perfect for fluffy bagels.
This model repeatedly toasted beautiful bagels on all settings. Just put the bagel in, press the bagel function, and when it dings, you'll have a bagel with soft crust and an even, golden-brown crispiness on the inside. Just note that we found that this toaster skews a bit darker on the regular settings. It also appeared to show fingerprints, but it was very easy to clean.
Price at time of publish: $60
Capacity: 4 slices | High-Lift Lever: Yes | Removable Crumb Tray: Yes | Dimensions: 11.5 x 12.5 x 8.3 inches | Weight: 7.2 pounds | Power: 1,440 watts | Warranty: 1 year
"When it comes to bagels, the coloring is almost perfect."
BLACK+DECKER TR1278B 2-Slice Extra Wide Slot Toaster
Easy to use
No settings indicator light
Top gets very hot
You don’t have to spend a lot to get a quality toaster; this Black+Decker model is very affordable and delivers reliable results. It has an integrated, easy-to-empty crumb tray to keep things tidy, and the cord can be wrapped around the base for easy storage.
While the controls on this appliance aren’t as high-tech as some of the others on this list, you do still have the option to select whether you’re toasting plain bread, a bagel, or a frozen item, which ensures you get the best results possible. Simply press either the bagel or defrost button before pushing down on the toasting lever to choose between the settings. The shade selecting dial offers seven different toasting levels, ensuring that there’s a right setting for everyone. Since the slots are extra wide, there's plenty of room for bagels and thicker slices of bread.
Price at time of publish: $35
Capacity: 2 slices | High-Lift Lever: Yes | Removable Crumb Tray: Yes | Dimensions: 8.58 x 9.09 x 12.32 inches | Weight: 2.77 pounds | Power: 850 watts | Warranty: 2 years
Best Small Toaster Oven
Hamilton Beach Toaster Oven
Heats up quickly
Controls aren't very intuitive
If you have limited counter space but still want the versatility of a toaster oven, this Hamilton Beach model is a great compact option that packs all the same functionality of broiling, baking, toasting, and warming in one compact appliance. Some reviewers complain that the controls aren’t very intuitive to use, but most users are extremely pleased with this toaster oven’s performance (especially at this price point). It's an extremely affordable addition to your countertop.
The Hamilton Beach has a four-slice capacity and can fit up to a 9-inch pizza. The single rack and smaller size limit how much you can cook at once, but it’s a great fit for a dorm kitchen or small apartment. There are three knob controls for cook setting, temperature, and timer as well as an included oven rack and baking pan. It even has a designated bagel toasting feature, so you really do get the full functionality of a regular slice toaster in addition to the baking and broiling capabilities.
Price at time of publish: $58
Capacity: 4 bread slices or a 9-inch pizza | Dimensions: 8.58 x 9.09 x 12.32 inches | Weight: 2.77 pounds | Power: 1.100 watts | Warranty: 1 year
"I love a small toaster oven because it is only a little bit bigger than a toaster and you can lean on it to help roast things, like a few chicken wings, toasted nuts, or a small pizza." — Heather Ramsdell, Editorial Director
For the best two-slice toaster, we chose the Hamilton Beach 2-Slice Toaster because it's easy to use and performed well in our tests. If you're looking for a budget-friendly option, we recommend the Black+Decker 2-Slice Extra-Wide Slot Toaster.
How We Tested
We sent toasters to our home testers and also tested them in our Lab using various types of breads, including bagels, waffles, and more. We tested 20 four-slice toasters in our Lab in addition to over a dozen two-slice toasters. Each toaster was rated on design, performance, features, ease of cleaning, and overall value. Our testers then offered additional insights on each toaster's strengths and weaknesses. The results varied widely, with ratings ranging from 2.4 all the way up to 5.
What to Look for in a Toaster
Types of Toasters
While the focus of this buying guide is slot toasters, it’s worth noting what differentiates a toaster from a toaster oven. Toaster ovens (which are small countertop ovens) do not have the slots of a classic toaster. Instead, there's a door and a small oven that can handle bread and bagels, roasting vegetables and meats, broiling fish, heating frozen pizza, making baked goods, and warming up leftovers. Some toaster ovens even have air frying and dehydrating functions.
While these typically occupy much more counter space than a slot toaster, you get more functions. This appliance may be worth it to you if you can see yourself relying on the appliance for more than just toast. A regular oven can do everything that most toaster ovens can, but toaster ovens use less electricity, heat up your kitchen less, and are great for smaller items if you don't want to take the time to preheat a full-size oven.
The most common types of slot toasters are two- and four-slot toasters. Two-slot toasters are more compact, which is ideal for a kitchen that’s short on space. Four-slot toasters are bigger and allow larger families to crank out fresh toast at the same time. The number of slots should not affect the evenness or consistency of the bread that you’re toasting; the quality of toast from a two-slice toaster is just the same as a four-slice toaster. Two-slice toasters are also ideal because they’re lighter and easier to maintain and clean.
Number of Slots
Most toasters offer two or four slots for toasting bread. When choosing what you need, consider how frequently you make toast and how much you like to make. If you’re consistently cooking breakfast for four and only have a toaster that can accommodate two slices of bread, the process will be time-consuming. That said, the more slots you opt for, the more counter space the appliance will take up. If kitchen space is limited, a smaller two-slot toaster may be a better option, despite its smaller capacity.
Once you’ve decided how many slots you want out of your toaster, the next characteristic to consider is the size of those slots. If you’re just planning to toast up thin pieces of sandwich bread, then a basic-sized slot should be fine. If you’ll be toasting bigger items like bagels, heartier slices of bread, croissants, or waffles, a wider slot is probably your better option.
Typically, the wider and larger the slot, the more likely it is to have settings for toasting on just one side. This is optimal for bagels. Toasters with long slots can toast longer slices of artisan bread or long pieces of French bread for sandwiches. In our tests, toasters that boasted a bagel setting but had too narrow of slots to actually fit a bagel received low scores.
If you’re just looking for an appliance to crisp up a slice of sandwich bread, it may not be worth your money, counter space, and mental clarity to have a field of extra buttons to squint at in the morning. If you’re planning to use your toaster for more, however, you may appreciate the special functions for defrosting frozen items, toasting on one side (ideal for bagels), keeping toast warm after it’s done, or gently reheating the toast you forgot about (it happens to the best of us).
While some toasters have simple button or dial controls, others have high-tech touchscreen displays that can give more precise control and be easier to see.
Motorized or High Lift
Some toasters are equipped with motorized levers that can sense when you drop bread into the slot and will lower the lever automatically. While this feature can be nice, most users find that using a manual lever is just as easy. Removable crumb trays also make for a much easier cleaning process.
Other toasters have levers to lift the finished toast extra high so you don't have to fish out your toast with your fingers or other objects.
"A Little Bit More" Settings
If you want your toast just a tad darker, another common feature of some toasters is “a little bit more” or +30 seconds to toast your bread for just a little bit longer.
The most common flaw with an appliance like a toaster is that it is inevitably going to break down at some point. These are not lifetime investments. That said, you still want a toaster that is durable and going to last you as long as possible. Glass toasters have a bit of a reputation for kicking out earlier than most, followed by plastic.
It’s also worth considering if the toaster you’re buying comes with a warranty. This varies as some brands will offer one year, some three years, or none at all. A toaster that is easy to clean is going to last you a long time, so features like a removable crumb tray will make maintenance easier and prolong the life of the appliance.
The material that your toaster is made of will be a good indicator of how hot it will get while it’s being used. Plastic toasters can tend to feel like they're on the cheaper side, even though these models can still offer the bells and whistles of higher-end versions. Plastic is generally less durable than metal, and when the control buttons and levers are made of plastic, they’re more likely to break.
Metal toasters are the most common because this material is sturdier. It’s important to look for a toaster that will remain cool to the touch during use, especially if you have small children around. The least common material is glass, which allows you to see your food as it’s toasting but often leaves a white rim and vertical lines across the bread.
You can snag a toaster at all different price points, but since a higher price tag doesn't guarantee better results, prior research is key. For example, glass toasters are typically more expensive because you’re mostly paying for aesthetics and the benefit of seeing your toast as it cooks, but they don't tend to yield better results.
If you’re looking for a motorized lift, Breville makes a slot toaster with this feature. While it comes at a pretty penny, this is definitely a nice splurge option. It’s sturdy, sleek, and produces consistent slices of toast. These toasters often come with a “lift and look” feature as well as a “little bit more.”
If you’re looking for a toaster option with wide slots, KitchenAid makes some great options in both two- and four-slice capacities. KitchenAid toasters are compact, stylish, and consistent. While they’re not the cheapest on the market, they have enough features to justify the price tag.
Cuisinart is known for quality across all sort of kitchen appliances. Though the brand offers a wide variety of toasters, some of the most notable include a motorized lift lever and wide slots for bagels. On the other end of the spectrum, it makes manual-level, plastic toasters that are just as efficient at churning out perfectly toasted slices of bread.
If you find yourself with a toaster that doesn’t have a high-lift function, you can always get a pair of bamboo tongs. This way, you don’t have to worry about burning your fingers when it’s time to take your toast out. While it might go without saying, never stick metal tongs inside a toaster. Plastic isn't the best option either, as it may melt if it comes into contact with the hot inner workings of your machine.
A fun accessory for your toaster is a sandwich cage, which helps keep your sandwich together as you lower it down into the toaster slot and let it cook. When you lift it up, your sandwich comes out easily in one piece.
If you have a toaster that doesn’t have a removable crumb tray, it might be worthwhile to get a brush to help dust off the hard-to-reach places in the toaster. The last thing you want is a large pile-up of stale crumbs burning at the bottom of your toaster.
Cleaning your toaster is important if you want your appliance to last as long as possible. The most important thing when it comes to cleaning a toaster is to make sure that it is completely cooled down and unplugged when you begin cleaning. Never put it in a dishwasher or under running water. The frequency that you’ll need to clean your toaster will depend on how often you use it. If you use it on most days, it’s good to get in the habit of clearing out the crumbs every week or two.
Most toasters are designed with a removable crumb tray, which you’ll find near the base. When it’s time to clean your toaster out (and the toaster is cooled down and unplugged), begin by removing and discarding the contents in the crumb tray. This tray is positioned to catch all of the particles that fall as you toast your bread.
What do the numbers on a toaster mean?
The answer to this depends on your toaster; if you purchased a timer-style toaster, the numbers refer to the number of minutes it will toast. These tend to be the more expensive brands, like Smeg.
If your model runs on a capacitor, like a toaster most people own, the numbers refer to a rate of resistance. This correlates to the amount of time it takes the capacitor to charge and pop your toasted item out. Older models operate on a bimetallic strip that bends as they heat up, and the numbers on these types of toasters refer to how much electricity goes through the switch. Lower numbers equate to higher current, which heats up quicker and leaves your toast less toasty.
What does the bagel setting on a toaster do?
Toasters are constructed with two heating elements to toast both sides simultaneously. A bagel setting powers down the outer heating element to produce a crusty inside and just-warmed outside of your bagel.
How do you clean a toaster/toaster oven?
To clean a toaster, just unplugging and cooling the toaster, shaking any crumbs loose, and wiping off the exterior will usually suffice. This can be done anytime you notice crumbs and fingerprints accumulating. For deeper cleaning, you can mix up a solution of water, dish soap, and some vinegar for the exterior and brush crumbs away from the interior while the toaster is unplugged.
To clean a toaster oven, unplug it, remove and wash racks or trays if they're dirty, and shake the oven to remove crumbs from the interior. You can also mix up a quick cleaning solution and apply it to a sponge or cloth to wipe off the interior and exterior.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Anthony Irizarry is a freelancer who writes roundups for The Spruce Eats. Having previously worked as an appliance reviews editor, he's no stranger to kitchen appliances.
This article was updated by Katya Weiss-Andersson, a writer and editor who has nearly a decade of experience as a professional chef. Katya is a New Yorker and unapologetic carb eater who loves a good toasted bagel and toasting up slices of sourdough rye bread from her local farmer's market.