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The best toaster is the one you will least hate
If you find the best toaster you should really buy then I am afraid I have some bad news for you: Toaster ovens are in my humble opinion, mostly terrible. It may be a difficult truth to hear. For generations the toaster is a reliable and crispy companion on the worktop – a toaster that also acts as a second small oven – and offers faster pre-heat times! The problem? Most things that you want to toast, such as bagels or bread, are better off in a toaster, and most things you want to toast are better off in an oven. In any case, you compromise from the beginning.
Most toaster ovens are also bulky ̵
Maybe you do not have a stove and you need a toaster – or you just want one, damn it. I get it. This is a popular kitchen item that we talk about, and my tasty hot version is probably a minority report. And as I said in the second sentence of paragraph 2, there is a lot to like about toasters!
But splurging does not always make sense. Would you like to add modern luxuries such as built-in food cameras, barcode scanners and intelligent cooking aids? Techie toaster ovens by names likeand can cost between $ 350 and $ 995, but most of these extras are above average kitchenware.
It makes more sense to use “Upgrade Pick” toaster ovens like the entertaining, well-calibratedor a rugged, robust oven like the that we both reviewed a few years ago – and loved -. However, at $ 125 or $ 245, these models are also out of the mainstream in a world where a standard toaster is available for less than $ 20.
That’s why I decided to look at some of your lower cost options to see if I’m a good value. I immersed myself in popular, well-priced models that cost between $ 50 and $ 100, and used convection heating – a trick that uses a fan to circulate hot air and cook more evenly – as a basic function you have to have.
We tested all the above upgrade tips here on CNET Appliances, but the only one we’ve ever bought for us is the FlashXpress. It’s a fun, quirky cooker that uses infrared heating elements for toasting and baking with fast precision. It might not be big enough for everyone, but that also means it does not take up more space than it needs on your countertop. Even now, six years after our first test, it’s still easy to recommend it as the best toaster or even as a toaster upgrade
Chris Monroe / CNET
It’s definitely not cheap for about $ 250, and there’s nothing smart about it in terms of a cloud connection, but the Breville Smart Oven cooks just about anything you would expect from a tap-top oven. It’s also sturdy, attractive, and comes with extra cooking modes that you might actually find useful. It’s a great choice if you do not have an oven or want to use your toaster almost every day.
Tyler Lizenby / CNET
The Bialetti 35047 offers the same power of 1,800 Watts as Breville, but costs less than half at $ 99. You also get a modern black stainless steel case with a user-friendly digital display that allows you to dial into the desired cooking level each time you toast. Another little feature that I love? The “A little extra” button for times when your toast takes only a minute longer. Be warned: this extra power means that the Bialetti boil quickly – and we have the burnt pizza to prove it.
Tyler Lizenby / CNET  I hate that the door of this toaster opens more than 90 degrees. The glass can bounce directly against the corner of your worktop if it is not pressed completely against your upstand angle. If you can still forgive this design flaw, you will love the way this device cooks. Available from Costco for around $ 65, it was a top finisher in each of our cooking tests. This kind of reliable, predictable cooking is exactly what you expect from your toaster oven.
Other toasters we tested
- Black & Decker TO3265XSSD: The latest model in toaster ovens replaces the convection setting with a tricky “Air Fry” mode for everyone. For the price, it’s fine if you need a wide design with extra space for toast.
- Hamilton Beach 31123D: One of Hamilton Beach’s “Easy Reach” models, the slightly underpowered 31123D, makes it a little easier. The “Easy Reach” sloping door, which can be lifted to open, lets you look in while cooking. Too bad that Hamilton Beach has stamped a large logo on the glass to obscure your view.
- Nostalgia Retro RTOV220RETRORED: The kitsch, retro red design makes it look more like a toolbox than a toaster, and it felt a bit cheap. Nevertheless, this eye-catching model did pretty well in our tests.
- Toshiba AC25CEW-BS: The digital controls are nice in this chic-looking black stainless steel option, but offer a learning curve because toasting is under-loaded and baking is overburdened.
What options do I have?
You have absolutely no lack of toasters to choose from. Names like Black & Decker, Hamilton Beach, Easter and countless others have been causing a sensation for generations. The real bargain deals cost less than $ 50. If you’re ready to spend a little more, you should expect some kind of convection cooking, as well as a wider cooking space, some additional presets, digital controls, a non-stick coating or a nicer look design.
The Bialetti and Toshiba models I’ve tested are made of black stainless steel to match a modern, large-scale trend, and the Toshiba model also has a built-in rotisserie rack. The nostalgia model offers a unique red-bodied structure, while more cost-effective options from Hamilton Beach and Oster serve as simpler budget options.
How we tested toaster ovens
Testing of toaster ovens requires a lot of cooking. So I put on my trusted tanning apron and got down to work. In particular, I set out to prepare a wide range of common toaster oven food. With the exception of toasting tests, where I considered the individual settings of each toaster for light, medium and dark toast, I used standardized temperatures and cooking times and followed the box recommendations for everything I cooked wherever possible.
Toast tests galore
Bread made up most of my test food – after all, what most of us probably do most often with these things is still toast. Most low-end toasters use a built-in kitchen timer to set the baking and roasting times. Normally, these timers include a few toasting presets – medium toast, dark toast, and in some cases a setting for light, barely toasted bread.
For finer models with an LCD display, you can usually dial into a specific cooking level while toasting. In general, you can choose from six or seven settings, each with preprogrammed roast times. This is more accurate than turning a timer knob and it is worth it if you are an engraver for the perfect golden brown tone.
For my purposes, I have roasted two slices of thin, white sandwich bread in each toaster with the version of the three general settings: light, medium and dark. After each test I photographed the results and made sure that the toaster has cooled back to room temperature before I test again. The most important thing I was looking for was a nice, even color in medium settings as well as the ability to easily adjust up or down from there.
The models with digital display – Bialetti and Toshiba – were the easiest to use, because you dial in on a six- or seven-point scale to the desired degree, instead of guessing with a timer button. Four out of seven was a touch too dark for my taste with Bialetti, but it would be easy enough to leave it at 3 (it was also the only toaster that visibly toasted the bread at the brightest toast setting). I also appreciated that it was the only toaster in the series that included an “A Little Extra” button for those times when your toast needs an extra minute.
In the meantime, Toshiba’s toast was a bit too bright in 4 out of 6 and too light in the darkest setting. The other four toasters I’ve tested use all the timers with small markers for different settings. I’m not a fan of this approach, especially on a model like the Hamilton Beach 31123D, where tiny markers for medium and dark toast are placed side by side on the dial. Although they are separated by a full 3 minutes of toast time, you have to bend down very carefully, blink and turn the knob if you want to beat anything in between with some sort of consistency.
The best of the bundle of manual control? That would be the Easter TSSTTVCG05, which always delivers a satisfactory golden brown toast in medium settings in a shorter time than Bialetti, and which also offers the best setting for people who like a dark toast, but not anthracite black.
Speaking of the darkest setting, I did not disapprove of the toaster ovens that were burning to hell out of my bread, because this darkest setting is often needed to toast out of the freezer. To test this, I’ve roasted several batches of frozen eggplant in each toaster at the darkest setting. It’s likely that those who made black toast on the same shot did the best job, even though the black & Decker toggle’s Eggos were a bit too good even at the darkest setting.
Pizza and other frozen snacks
I also baked some frozen pizzas – DiGiorno’s personal size pepperoni pies, to be exact. The box recommends bake at 425 F for 17 minutes, so I did that with every toaster. The results were all exaggerated, but not terribly surprising. The Hamilton Beach Toaster was a little weak in the toast tests, and it was followed by a baked pizza, which took a few minutes in the oven. The most powerful toaster, the Bialetti, gave us a burnt pizza, which was prepared much faster than expected.
Toshiba also burned the pizza. This was more surprising as my toast tests had the opposite problem. Like Bialetti, it offers a special pizza frame. For both models, the result was basically the same – burnt pizza following the directions in the pack. The best-cooked pizzas in the group came from Oster and Black & Decker, while the bright red, retro-styled nostalgia toaster also made a decent cake.
In addition to DiGiorno’s, I’ve also tested a number of other frozen snacks, including mozzarella sticks (short baking time), pizza bagels (medium baking time) and waffle fries (long baking time). Again, I was mostly less interested in how things tasted than in how much each toaster matched the recommended temperature and recommended cooking time compared to the instruction manual. The results were largely consistent with the results of the pizzas. However, if you would like more details, you can read my full test notes here.