Is your toaster stuck in the 1950s, when all bread was white, skinny, and square? As recently as 2017, sandwich bread made up only 17.8 percent of bread sold in America, according to market research firm Statista. Bigger, heartier loaves made up 68 percent of bread sold: 37.9 percent were “crusty/hot hearth” breads, and 30.2 percent were “artisan.” Home cooks love to bake bread, too. So why can’t most toasters handle it?
The last time we tested toasters, our winner, the Magimix Vision Toaster, was unique because it had one extra-long, extra-wide bread slot that fit any kind of bread. It toasted evenly, using responsive quartz heating elements. It also boasted glass walls that let you watch your toast and a “stop” button to halt toasting at your exact browning preference. The downside? At $249.95, it’s a staggering investment, even for someone who’s fussy about perfect toast.
But there’s hope: Recently, a handful of “long-slot” toasters have appeared on the market at a range of prices. We bought eight models, including our old winner, priced from $36.03 to $249.95; all had one or two long, wide slots. We toasted artisan loaves, big bagels, and (of course) white sandwich bread. We tried light, medium, and dark settings and recorded the average speed of the toasting cycles. We filled the toasters to capacity and made full batches of toast in rapid succession. We checked whether the models’ exteriors got too hot. Finally, we made 365 consecutive pieces of toast in each of our top three contenders to simulate a year’s worth of use. The goal was efficient, consistent, uniform toasting of a variety of breads at the browning level we’d selected, with intuitive controls, easy toast retrieval, simple cleanup, and durability.
When you set your toaster for light, medium, or dark browning, what do you get? Most toasters let us down. We think the lightest setting should brown a little, not just warm the bread; none of our models managed this. On the darkest setting, we want deeply browned toast, not charcoal. A few toasters burned the bread solid black, filling the kitchen with smoke. Aside from these extremes, the problem was that for most toasters, getting medium–golden brown toast was a cumbersome, lengthy process. Only two toasters gave us one-and-done, reliable browning that corresponded to the controls without endless fiddling and retoasting.
Even if they generally hit the right color, evenness was often a problem. Some toasters gave us very patchy brown-and-white blotches across each side of a slice of bread, while others made toast that looked evenly golden on one side but completely different on the other side. Only a few toasters gave us mostly uniform browning across both sides.
And how long should you have to wait for toast? We calculated the average time to make a single slice of toast on the medium setting and found that the cycles ranged from just under 11/2 minutes to 3 minutes. Our front-runners came in right around 2 minutes.
Some science is involved when soft bread turns into crispy toast: At 280 to 330 degrees, the surface of bread dries, its proteins and carbohydrates undergo the Maillard reaction, and sugars caramelize and brown. This changes its color, texture, aroma, and flavor, producing appetizing toast. Most toasters work by heating rows of thin metal wires that line both sides of the toasting slot. They turn a bright red when the power is on. We counted wires and found that the best toaster in this style had 15 wires on each side of its toasting slots; lower-rated models had as few as six or eight. Two toasters (including our previous winner) heated using rods made of quartz instead of wires on each side of the toasting slots. Quartz heats and cools much more quickly than metal, and we liked the even, golden toast these models produced. But in the end, our top two models were split: One used metal wires, the other quartz rods.
We liked another feature they shared, though: Both let you check on browning while toasting—one with a window, the other with a lever to “lift and look” without stopping the cycle (plus an “A Bit More” button to add time to the cycle, if needed). These features help prevent that familiar toaster failure where you put toast back in for a little more color and end up burning it.
It was refreshing to use these long-slot toasters for giant slabs of artisan toast, but you also can use them for regular-size sandwich bread by placing two slices side by side in the same slot. The trouble is, some of the long slots were just a little too short for this, so bread sometimes got stuck at the top and didn’t descend when we depressed the toasting lever, crusts got torn, or slices bent and toasted unevenly. Slots ranged from 10 to 10.5 inches long, but only those longer than 10 inches were big enough for two slices of sandwich bread to slide right in without being cramped.
Depth also mattered: Bagels and large bread stuck out of the tops of shorter models, leaving big, white untoasted stripes. Toasting slots ranged from 4.75 to 6.88 inches deep, and anything less than 5 inches was too shallow. Surprisingly, depth of the slot didn’t correspond to how easy it was to retrieve bread once it was toasted. Some models left finished toast sitting maddeningly low in the slots, and while a few provided a bread-lift lever, we preferred models that automatically ended the cycle with the bread protruding high enough to grab without an extra step. Two toasters had the opposite problem: Toast sometimes literally flew out of the machines when the carriage popped up, landing on the toaster, the counter, or the floor. We deducted points for flying toast.
We found two toasters to recommend at far more affordable prices than our old winner. The Dash Clear View Toaster ($36.03) has many of the same features we’d admired in our previous favorite. Instead of the two windows of the Magimix Vision Toaster, it has just one; like the Magimix, it toasts with quartz elements and has a “stop” button. But its toasting was even more reliable, especially on high settings. While the Magimix performs beautifully if you keep the dial turned down, settings above the midpoint often led to burnt toast. (We confirmed this on four separate copies of the model.) The Dash toaster held up through more than 365 pieces of toast, producing consistent quality throughout testing. Best of all, we loved its bargain price of $36.03. Frankly, this model would have won, but we couldn’t get past the fact that toast sometimes sprang up so forcefully that it flew through the air and landed outside the toaster. Because of this potentially toast-ruining unpredictability, we’re naming this model our Best Buy.
Our new winner is the Breville A Bit More Toaster ($79.99). Its solid performance ultimately won the day. Fifteen wires on both sides of its two long slots gave it plenty of heating power to produce crisp, uniform, golden toast every time, whether we wanted a single slice or were toasting batch after batch. We enjoyed its “A Bit More” button for extending toasting time without burning and its “Lift and Look” lever to check progress without interrupting the cycle. While we wish its slots were just a smidge longer so two slices of sandwich bread could slide into the same slot more easily, this was our only quibble. Other features we enjoyed included a bar of lights to show progress at a glance and a brushed stainless-steel exterior that resisted fingerprints and stayed cool. And after making 365 consecutive pieces of toast, we feel confident in this model’s staying power.