Every kitchen needs a toaster. Toasters can add a delectable crunch to a bagel or perk up slices of bread that are a bit stale. Most models are simple to operate, sporting only a dial and a level. The simplicity of it all poses a challenge to consumers, though: how can you pick the best toaster if they all seem so similar?
We’ve provided some suggestions to get your hunt started, but more importantly, we’ve hashed out the features that you’re looking for in a one so that you can decide which is right for you.
Top 10 Best Toasters Comparison
|Product Name||Slice Slots||Toast Colour Settings||Wattage||Our Rating||Price|
|4 wide slots||5||1800 watts|
|2 wide slots||3||850 watts|
|2 wide slots||6||1200 watts|
|2 wide slots||4||1400 watts|
|4 wide slots||9||2000 watts|
|2 wide slots||4||1200 watts|
|4 wide slots||5||2400 watts|
|4 wide slots||7||1800 watts|
|2 wide slots||Adjustable||800 watts|
|4 wide slots||8||1100 watts|
Before Toasters, There Were Toasting Forks
A quick look at the history of toaster technology will shed light on the features you would want from yours. Bread should be toasted, but toasters didn’t exist before the invention of electricity, and so people used toasting forks. These forks skewered a piece of food, which was held over an open flame. They were less than ideal for several reasons, all of which drove the development of the toaster.
First, hands-on time was required for the person making toast, preventing them from performing other food prep tasks. Second, the toasts were completely inconsistent.
One piece of toast might be held slightly closer to the fire for too long, causing it to be burned, whereas the next might be held too far, thus not becoming toasted enough over the same period. The distance between the food and the fire was unmeasurable and subject to a high amount of variation between users.
The lack of integrated time measurement was another flaw of the fork. Users could use a watch to time the process, but it’s easy to imagine how time spent watching the clock could lead to inattention to the distance between the food and the fire, defeating any attempted consistency.
Finally, toasting forks required skewering of food to function, which meant that more delicate varieties wouldn’t fare as well. There were a few alternatives that didn’t require skewering the food, but they still suffered from all of the other issues with the forks.
From Electricity to Toast
The invention of electricity led to electrical toasters relatively quickly thanks to scientific research conducted by Joule in the 1840s. The study stated that electricity could be used to heat a length of wire, provided that the wire was sufficiently electrically resistant. Once electricity was in common use, electrical heating elements were of great interest.
The only barrier to making electrical systems which generated a lot of heat in a wire was the lack of a suitable alloy that could withstand high temperatures without melting. A young engineer saw the potential applications for such an alloy, and quickly developed a suitable one, called Nichrome. Nichrome is an outstanding resistor and doesn’t readily melt, and so it was soon used in heating elements everywhere. With electrical heating elements figured out, making toast would get a much-needed technological upgrade.
In 1909, the General Electric D12 entered the market. The D12 wasn’t the best toaster because it lacked a timing element to remove the slice from the heat, but it would soon be followed by other models, which were also flawed. Early models lacked double-sided toasting, basic fire safety mechanisms, timers, and appealing enclosures.
Toasters Gain Modern Features
The first toasters were widely recognised as useful appliances and permeated society rapidly. The downside was their propensity for causing fires, burnt toast, and burns. Many of these problems met their end with the invention of the pop-up toaster.
The first pop-up models also incorporated double sided toasting and a basic enclosure system. Unlike modern ones, they had no levers or dials and turned on via the pressure of the slice on the pop-up lever.
Around the time of the first pop-up models, wider slice slots to accommodate bagels and other pastries began to become commonplace. These would become commonplace, along with selectable heat.
In the past, manufacturers split between giving the user control over the amount of electricity running through the heating element and giving the user control over the duration of the toast’s time close to the heating element.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the models out in the market provided the user with control over heating time as early household electricity systems would frequently blow a fuse in response to the hefty energy demands of toasters. Eventually, users would be able to control both the duration of as well as the intensity of the slice’s colour.
Toasters Begin to Shape Up
As manufacturers came to a consensus over the general components that a toaster should have, there were still many different bizarre designs. The Great Depression was critical in thinning the herd of small manufacturers and encouraged the survivors to find the most efficient and most appealing designs.
The toaster began to take on a more familiar form factor which was iterated on by manufacturers until eventually landing on the archetypal model. Consumers didn’t fully appreciate the new form factors as much as the manufacturers had hoped, however. Futuristic looking ones like the 1-A-1 Toastmaster were ahead of their time, but they couldn’t save their manufacturer from going out of business.
The form factor standardisation of toasters solidified a few more elements. By the end of the 1960s, all models would be loaded from the top, have a pop-up element, a timer, and a heat-resistant shell which would shield the user from the heat. Whatever model you are thinking of buying should have these at the bare minimum.
Modern Toasting and Beyond
The toasters of today are far more advanced than their ancestors and have even more features. Many of the additional elements involve toasting foods which were beyond the purview of the historical models.
Today it’s not surprising to see someone warming up waffles, croissants, frozen bread, vegetables, or pastries. To buy the best toaster, you’re going to need to start thinking about what things you’re interested in popping into it that isn’t bread.
If you’re interested in being able to toast your crumpets, you’ll need a toaster with an adjustable heating element or wider – one that can fit a bagel.
If you’re interested in buttering your crumpets before popping them in, to get that delicious melting, you’ll need a model that can be easily cleaned off.
Bagels share many of the same toasting needs as crumpets but can make use of an additional rare toaster feature: slicing. Yes, there are some models out there that can slice your bagel into perfect halves immediately before popping them in. These are probably unsuitable for anyone who isn’t a bagel enthusiast. If you’re looking for the best sandwich toaster, looking at the best bagel toasters is a step in the right direction.
Croissants combine the wideness requirements of bagels and crumpets with the need for delicate heat control and effective crumb cleanup. Unlike normal toast, bagels, or crumpets, croissants are quick to burn and prone to being especially crumbly.
Low heat toasting for an extended period is the best approach, but not all toasters can turn the temperature as low as a croissant demands. Furthermore, if it doesn’t have a removable crumb tray, the flakes will sit at the bottom of the heating element indefinitely, creating a fire hazard.
Think about how convenient it’d be to grab a slice of frozen bread from the freezer and pop it directly into the toaster without any time spent thawing. The primary danger of toasting anything frozen is that the water droplets caused by rapid thawing will damage the toaster.
If you’re interested in exploiting the convenience factor of being able to thaw frozen food you should probably buy one which advertises as being able to do so. Most models should be able to handle a few droplets of water without causing a fire or breaking entirely, but not all are created equal.
Sliced Vegetables or Fruits
Sliced vegetables can easily be slid into your toaster, too. Sliced vegetables require waterproofing components just like frozen bread.
Vegetables can also be extremely quick to burn, however. If you’re interested in roasting fruit or vegetable slices, the best toaster will be one which incorporates waterproofing and sensitive heat control.
An additional concern for sliced fruits and vegetables is the tightness of the clamp that holds them in position. If the clamps are too tight, the vegetable or fruit will get deformed and become unsightly.
Hot Dogs and Sausages
Some people heat their sausages and hot dogs in a toaster. While it’s possible to cook these oblong meats in one, it really isn’t designed for it, the heating will likely be very uneven because the heating coils don’t apply heat directly to all of the sausage’s circumference.
There are models which have sausage ports which do the trick by making a large spiral heating coil instead of the traditional small and thin heating coils. The hot dog slides down the middle of the large heating coil and heats from all directions to perfection.
The Toaster Features you may need
Aside from your propensity to toast things that aren’t bread or bagels, there are some other components which you need to consider before picking a toaster.
How many slices do you want to toast at once? If you have a large family that will be clamouring to be served immediately, it’s probably wise to invest in one that can warm up more than one or two slices at a time.
High capacity toasters are less versatile than others and may blow a fuse when operated at high heat due to their increased electricity consumption about smaller units. High capacity models are also less suitable for roasting vegetables or other sensitive foods, as there is considerable heat spillover from the other sets of heating coils. The best four slice toasters also have this issue, so think about your potential applications carefully.
The number of slices that you can load up on your unit depends on how wide they are. You’ll be very hard-pressed to find a model which can toast eight bagels simultaneously, although four may be possible.
Well-designed high capacity models will have adjustable clamps that can accommodate either a bagel or a slice of bread, but will seldom do either with perfection. As mentioned before, the tradeoff is between high capacity and quality. An industrial capacity unit won’t give the perfectly even toast that a normal sized can.
What kind of toaster would look the best in your kitchen? There are many opinions on how to pick the most attractive appliances, but the decision is yours to make. Most models on the market have a few options for colour but share the same form factor. If the physical footprint is important, you might have to compromise on features.
It’s also essential to think about who is going to be using the toaster when picking a form factor. If it will be used by children or potentially careless people, picking a form factor made with aluminium or weak plastic will probably leave you with a scarred unit. The most durable form factors are usually a bit less visually appealing, but at least they won’t be covered in dents and scratches.
Some form factors have a transparent window on the side that you can use to observe your slice as it is heated. These are for the toast enthusiast, as the moment to moment process is nearly imperceptible. Monitoring the toast’s progress by glancing through the window is a nice feature to have, but staring at it and waiting for it to be done defeats the purpose of having a timer.
Remote Access and Information Technology
Do you want your toaster to connect to the Internet? For most homemakers, this really isn’t something worth considering. If you’re a techie, having one which you can monitor via Wi-Fi might be amusing. Parents could also monitor when their child is using the toaster – this could be useful for safety.
For the amateur scientist, having a heat sensor which provides a readout of the toast’s exact temperature may be entertaining. The most advanced toasters will have this, but most users won’t find them to be much of an added value.
Remote access does have another advantage for the busiest consumer: scheduled toasting. Load up your toaster overnight, and schedule it to start just as you’re waking up. Scheduling removes another step from your morning routine, and the scent of toast is a potent alarm clock. It may seem like a fire hazard, but with information technology, it’s entirely safe.
The colour is a minor feature that you only have partial control over. Most toasters will come in black, white, silver, brushed aluminium, or red. Aesthetic choices won’t have any impact on the toaster’s functioning, but not all come in multiple colours. If your heart is set on a particular look as well as a certain set of features, you may need to shop around for a different toaster than the first one you come across.
Ease of Cleaning
The best toasters have crumb trays which make cleaning a snap. Most aren’t endowed with cleaning elements, however. Especially in those which will see a lot of use by children, crumb trays are critical. As mentioned before, crumb buildup can burn.
Aside from crumb trays, a removable heating element helps with cleaning tremendously. Though rare, toasters with a removable heating element are the easiest to clean comprehensively. Even caked grime or melted cheese can be removed if you have full access to the toaster’s interior.
For most models that aren’t endowed with easy cleaning, there is still hope. A pipe cleaner or simple brush can typically safely dislodge anything in the toaster’s innards, provided that it’s turned off. When in doubt, unplug the toaster and invert it while shaking it over the sink.
Other Novelty Features
Ever wanted your toaster to shoot your toast six feet into the air? Probably not, but there’s a toaster that can do that if you’re interested. Other novelty toaster components include printing things onto the toast’s surface or soldering.
Top 10 Toaster Reviews for 2017
Now that we’ve gone over the history, the potential use, and the features to look out for, it’s time to review some the models on the market. How do they stack up to your needs? Let’s look at ten toaster reviews to find the best toaster in the UK.
1. De’Longhi CTJ4003 Brillante
The Brillante is an extremely attractive toaster that has the features to match. The black or white faceted surface combines postmodernism with the old fashion “toast colour” knob to make an aesthetically pleasing package. The Brillante is more than just pretty, though: four wide slots mean that you can make bagels for most of the family in one go.
With two separate pop-up levers, it’s even possible to start two sets of toast at different times, though they’ll all cook to the same colour. The Brillante also has a few separate heating modes, allowing for easy reheating, toasting, or defrosting. As though it wasn’t featured enough already, the Brillante has a deep crumb tray and an additional cleaning configuration, two huge bonuses. The Brillante is a bit expensive for a toaster, though.
- Beautiful exterior
- Four slice capacity
- Electronic control of colour settings
- Two separate pop-up levers
- Good insulation of form factor makes it safe to move even while in operation
- Large form factor
2. Breville VTT570
The Breville VTT570 is a no-nonsense toaster. It sticks closely to the tradition of the standard toaster in its aesthetics as well as its functionality. A simple silver vented form factor is compact and unassuming but hides a peeking vent which can be used to examine your toast’s progress. The heating controls are basic but effective.
This model is inexpensive and can handle two slices simultaneously. The insulation of the form factor isn’t great, and it will get quite hot. This product is notoriously difficult to clean, but it’s an effective toaster for those who need only the basics.
- Peeking vent
- Archetypal toaster aesthetic
- Thin form factor
- Difficult to clean
- Can’t accommodate bagels or other wider slices
- Thermal insulation allows heat to escape and make the form factor very hot
3. Tefal TT550015
The Tefal TT550015 is an exciting product because it combines the functionalities of a toaster with those of an egg maker. For those who love eggs in a basket, this combination machine is a godsend.
The Tefal’s two toasting positions are wide enough for bagels or croissants, too. The egg maker can hard boil four eggs or poach one egg at a time. It’s also quite inexpensive, given its diversity of function.
Because of its dual functionality, the Tefal doesn’t look very appealing. The ungainly shape is mostly a result of the egg maker, which is awkwardly glommed onto the side of the toaster. The egg maker is also small capacity, only capable of handling one egg at a time. It’s also tough to clean, with neither the egg maker nor the toaster containing removable components.
- Can make eggs as well as toast
- Small form factor
- Great value
- Hard to clean egg maker
- Hard to clean interior of toaster
4. Breville VTT233
The Breville VTT233 is a visually appealing toaster with a decent capacity. The black oblong shape is unassuming but sophisticated. It is of an average value and can accommodate bagels or English Muffins as easily as sliced bread. The four slices sit in two rows of two, which makes for easier loading but potentially uneven toasting at the inside edges of the toasts, however.
The form factor is good looking but is somewhat offset by the grey plastic heating knob, pop-up lever, and underbelly. Finally, the buttons on the 4 Slice Toaster light up red, which can make it appear a tad demonic at times.
- Four slice capacity
- Can reheat or defrost
- Lifts completed toasts extra high for safer removal
- Crumb tray makes cleaning easy
- Internal edges of crust may not be heated evenly
- Underbelly, knob and pop-up level makes the product appear cheap
5. Breville VTT470 Impressions
The Breville VTT470 Impressions is a gorgeous toaster which comes in black, white, red, cream, and damson. It boasts backlit control buttons, multiple colour settings, and four wide slots with a removable cleaning tray to match. The toaster also comes with two separate pop-up levers. Remarkably, it is also a good value and has an extremely simple interface.
This product has a large form factor and a heavy weight, so it may not be suitable if you want one to go in-between a cabinet and the counter. The form factor is also a bit slippery on the edges, which can make transfer harder.
- Two pop-up levers
- Many colour options
- Great heat insulation
- Good value
- Cleaning tray
- Bottom pad is a bit slippery
- Large form factor
- Interface may be hard to use at a glance
6. Dualit 20245
The Dualit 20245 has many top of the line features, including a crumb tray, high lifting levers, extremely durable exterior, and extra wide slice slots. The heating element is also designed to be faster and more powerful than other comparable two slot toasters. It is available in different colours – black, white, red, cream, silver, blue, green, and gunmetal. Each one is handmade and caters to the toast enthusiast.
The Dualit is built like a tank, but also extremely heavy as a result. The heavy build aesthetic is not for everyone and can come off as extremely ugly despite the wide colour selection.
- Many colour options
- Excellent heat insulation
- Extremely durable
- Very expensive
- Only has two slice compartments
- Very heavy
- Ugly exterior
- No automatic shutoff may be a safety concern
7. Russell Hobbs 22400
The Russell Hobbs 22400 combines plenty of elements under one hood at an affordable price point. It can accommodate up to four bagels at a time, and easily handles bread that’s as frozen as an icicle. Remarkably, it is also extremely cleanable, boasting both a crumb tray and the ability to open up the form factor to clean hard-to-reach places. It isn’t the most attractive toaster, but it’s not the ugliest either. The buttons and pop-up levers are plain and don’t appear durable.
- Handles frozen bread easily
- Four wide slice capacity
- Good insulation
- Extra high feet keep toaster off of the countertop
- Good value
- Can open up form factor for cleaning
- Large form factor
- Boring aesthetic
- Buttons are unappealing
8. Morphy Richards Accents
The Morphy Richards Accents Toaster is a feisty little thing that combines aesthetic attitude with a standard four slice toaster. It can’t accommodate wide slices, but can easily toast frozen slices. The price point for this product is a little up there given its limited functionality, but the knockout aesthetics may be worth it for some consumers.
- Spunky colouring and form factor
- Crumb trays make for easy cleaning
- Electronic display is easy to interpret and use
- Cord is removable for easy storage
- Can’t accommodate wide slices
- Crumb trays aren’t fully effective at catching crumbs
- Poor insulation makes it very hard to move after using
9. Andrew James Lumiglo
The Andrew James Lumiglo Toaster is a bit of an oddity. It eschews the traditional aesthetics to provide a two slice toaster with an integrated warming rack above the heating compartment. The warming rack will heat anything placed on top of it while it is toasting below.
The Andrew James’ unique looks suit it just fine, but its functionality is lacking. Food placed on the warming rack won’t be heated evenly whatsoever and may burn from the bottom up. The Andrew James also can’t accommodate wide slices and seems to take up a lot of space considering that it has a low capacity.
- Heating rack for other foods
- Can defrost or reheat slices
- Interesting aesthetic
- Good value
- Good insulation
- Heating rack doesn’t heat evenly
- Form factor is large
- Small capacity
- Can’t toast larger slices
10. Dualit 46205 Lite
The Dualit 46205 is a fully featured four slot toaster with an extra-high pop-up and a peeking functionality to boot. True to its name, it is lighter than other toasters of comparable functionality and capacity. It has a powerful functionality rarely found elsewhere: two separate heating control knobs.
This product has average aesthetics and is quite expensive. The insulation is also quite poor as a result of the exposed metal element in the form factor. It also lacks a crumb tray of any kind, which means that cleaning it will be extremely difficult.
- Two separate heating knobs
- Four wide slice capacity
- Peeking function
- Poor insulation
- Mediocre form factor visuals
So, which of the products we’ve reviewed is the best toaster in the UK? Overall, the Russell Hobbs 22400 is the best four slice toaster. It combines a good capacity with good looks, all for a great price. It is versatile and can be the most comprehensively cleaned of any of the toasters that were reviewed. It’s also equipped to toast four bagels at the same time, whether they’re fresh or frozen.
Any of the toasters that we’ve reviewed would make effective companions to your other kitchen appliances. If you’re not into the Russel Hobbs, check out one of the others. Picking the right toaster specifically for your needs requires a lot of research and introspection, but if you don’t have time for those things, the Russell Hobbs will probably do the trick.