A kitchen without a toaster is barely a kitchen at all.
The world’s most consumed carbohydrate is bread [source: Harvard]
And there’s no better way to eat bread than toasted with a topping or two (or more).
It’s the perfect quick snack when you’re hungry and can even be turned into a full meal with little effort.
But if you’re going to make great toast, you’re going to need the best toaster, right?
Well, that’s where our Kitchen Authority Guide to Toasters comes in. We’ll give you the lowdown on all things toast and toasters.
Then you can pick the perfect toaster model for your family.
The History Of Toast And The Toaster
One thing that we know for certain is that toast wasn’t always just a way of adding a little boost to breakfast.
In fact, toasting would, for a fairly substantial period of time, have been a way to preserve bread in the days before plastic bags and preservatives.
Leavened bread, that is bread made with yeast whose dough rises when left to sit, was invented by the Ancient Egyptians or, at least, that’s when the earliest records are found.
The workers on the pyramids (yes, workers not slaves – current archaeological evidence shows that they were well paid, for the time, and well-treated workers) would have been paid, partly, in bread.
The Birth of Toast
This leavened bread was considered nicer and tastier than most bread but there was a bit of a problem. In the heat of the desert, it would quickly go stale and then become unpleasant to eat. The solution?
Set fire to it. Well, at least burn the outside. And thus, toast was born.
Though the word “toast” wouldn’t show up until much later in human history. It’s derived from the Latin word “tostum” which meant “scorch or burn”.
The Romans enjoyed their toast and would make it by laying bread on hot stones. Grilling (using a metal frame over a fire) would follow not long after.
The Electric Toaster
It took a little while longer for the electric toaster to arrive on the scene and it would be 1893 when Alan MacMasters, a Scot, invented the first one. It wasn’t very good. The iron wires he used were prone to melting and then setting fire to the surrounding area.
In 1905, in Chicago, they invented a fire-resistant alloy and by 1913 the automatic toast-turning electric toaster was born (you could now toast both sides of the bread for the first time) and the modern “pop up” toaster was delivered in 1919.
What made toast a permanent fixture in our diets, however, wasn’t the toaster. It was the invention of sliced bread. Otto Frederick Rohwedder (after more than a decade of disastrous incidents) made this possible in 1927. The toaster and sliced bread were a marriage made in a culinary heaven.
How To Choose A Toaster
When we talk about “toasters” here we’re talking about the “pop up” variety.
We’ve already done a Kitchen Authority Guide to the alternative, the Toaster Oven. Toaster ovens are great and we’re huge fans of them but they’re also a bit big and a bit of a pain to clean for just a few slices of toast iin the morning.
So, while we do own a toaster oven, we also own a “pop up” toaster. We can’t think of a household that doesn’t own a “pop up” toaster either.
There are a ton of options when it comes to choosing “pop up” toasters mainly because there’s so much competition out there.
We could easily find 2-300 models for sale at any one time and that’s without looking too hard.
So, you’ll want to consider these factors before you make your purchase:
- How many slices do you need to toast at once? If you’re a family and you eat together, a 2 slice toaster just ain’t going to cut it. Similarly, if you live alone – you probably don’t want the facility to cook 4 slices at a time.
- How wide do you need the slots to be? If all you toast is sliced bread – any “pop up” toaster will be fine but if you want to toast muffins, waffles, etc. then you want wide slots.
- How much space do you have for your toaster to live in? There’s no point in buying kitchen equipment that you can’t fit in the space you have for it. We use a toaster so often that ours has a permanent space on the kitchen worksurface. Where will you store yours? Make sure the toaster fits.
- You can spend hundreds of dollars on a toaster if you want to. We did, we bought a SMEG toaster for its retro cool and robustness. You can also spend $20 and get the job done. What’s your budget? Stick to it.
- If all you need is toast – then you’re covered by almost any model. If you want to do Waffle warming, muffin toasting, etc, then a smart toaster with settings for these extra uses is always a good idea.
- Cleaning stuff is a pain. A good “pop” up toaster ought to be completely painless to clean when needed. A nice crumb tray is always appreciated.
- Will it stay the course? If you’re going to spend some serious dollars on a toaster, it ought to be built to last.
We’ve tested dozens of toasters to come up with 5 awesome toasters that won’t let you down.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other great toasters out there but these are our favorites.
Best Luxury Toaster
SMEG Four-Slice Toaster (& Kettle) Set
We’ve already raved about SMEG Toasters in our full-length review here.
But if you’ve got the money to spend this retro toaster with a kettle is just about perfect.
It looks gorgeous, you’ll be the envy of your friends, and it is brilliantly designed and built.
You have the options for 2-slot or 4-slot toaster variants, we’re fine with the 2 slot which can still make 4 slices of bread.
It toasts perfectly and you’re never going to need to buy another toaster again.
It’s our favorite toaster of the year!
Best Novelty Toaster
The Magimix Vision Toaster
If you’re always frustrated by having to guess how toast will turn out based on the settings on the toaster – the Magimix Vision is the toaster for you.
This superb toaster lets you watch the bread as it toasts, then you can stop it when you’ve reached toasted perfection for your bread.
We absolutely love this visual toaster but once again, it’s a bit pricey for a toaster.
Its design makes it perfect for artisan bread, from bagels to baguettes it can handle it all.
Take advantage of great sale prices on the Magimix Vision Toaster!
Best 2-Slice Toaster
Breville Die-Cast 2 Slice Smart Toaster
Yes, Breville of the sandwich maker fame also make a 2-slot toaster and they actually make exceedingly good toasters.
This extra wide slot 2 slice smart toaster is much more affordable than our first two models though it’s not exactly cheap.
It’s electronic toasting engine is absolutely brilliant and controlling the perfect level of toasty-ness is really easy.
You can also “lift and look” at the toast at any time without breaking the toasting cycle. We loved that.
Take advantage of great sale prices on the Breville Die-Cast Toasters!
Best Budget Retro 2-Slice Toaster
Nostalgia RTOS200 Retro 2-Slice Toaster
If you want the retro look but can’t quite justify shelling out for a SMEG toaster, then this Nostalgia model may be right up your street.
Not only does it look fantastic but it’s got super wide slots perfect for artisan bread like bagels and muffins and it’s crumb tray is super easy to slide out and replace.
It’s also much, much cheaper than you might expect for something that looks this good and works this well.
I bought one of these for my daughter and she loved it!
Take advantage of great sale prices on the Nostalgia Retro Toaster!
Best Budget Family Toaster
Hamilton Beach Brushed Stainless Four-Slice Toaster
We are huge fans of Hamilton Beach.
We think they’re the best budget brand in cookware today and this four-slice toaster is no exception.
It looks great and it’s easier to clean than you might expect for a stainless finish and it happily tackles four slices of nearly anything (extra-wide slots) at a time.
We found it easy to pack away and clean too. This is super value for a family toaster, especially when you want many slices of bread quick.
Take advantage of great sale prices on the Hamilton Beach Toaster!
Final Word On Toasters
Pop up toasters are an essential part of modern life. Toast is tasty and nutritious and it’s so easy to slot into your day (excuse the pun).
You don’t have to spend a fortune on a toaster but we do recommend spending more than the bare minimum – the toaster you buy will last longer and work better if you do.
Then it comes down to examining the 5 criteria for seeking a toaster and deciding what’s most important for you family.
We hope that you’ve found this Kitchen Authority guide to the best toasters of valuable.
If you think there’s anything else that you would have found useful, please let us know.