It’s an interesting fact, often overlooked by enthusiasts of the baker’s art, that while the exact date of the invention of bread is forever lost in the mists of time, the invention of stale bread followed not long afterwards.
As luck would have it, though, the arrow of time was pointing in the right direction for mankind on this occasion and, as such, mastery of fire having arrived earlier, toast was suddenly on the menu.
Yes, toast; bread browned to perfection by radiant heat, rendering it king-fittingly crunchy, and not only an integral part of the Full English but also a tasty, almost instant, treat when topped with cheese, fruit-flavoured preserves or – for the perverse out there – Marmite.
But just how browned do you like your bread? Like tea, coffee and Martinis, everyone has their preference and views of what signifies perfection, whether that’s weird lightly warmed bread, a perfect golden-brown happy medium or burnt to a blackened crisp, psychopath-style.
Fortunately, however much you like your bread, bagels or baguettes burnt or not, today’s toasters are nothing short of precision incineration instruments designed to deliver toast to your exacting taste time and again, some capable of handling bread of all sizes and shapes and others even able to brown your bread to palatability perfection from frozen, all while bringing a sense of style to your kitchen that other small appliances simply cannot.
So, which style toaster is the perfect pick for you? Two slots? Fours slots? Sandwich baskets? Bun warmer? Gluten-free setting? Slick, stainless-steel design? Classic retro stylings? There’s a lot to consider.
But to help narrow it down, I’ve been busy inserting bread into no fewer than 15 top-end toasters, all in the name of ES Best.
Come with me and let’s see what pops up…
Best two slice toasters
Russell Hobbs Emma Bridgewater Polka Dot
Best for: Multi-coloured mornings in the kitchen
Currently reduced from £70 to £42 in the summer sale, the Emma Bridgewater-designed Polka Dot toaster from kitchen appliance pro Russell Hobbs is the perfectly playful way to bring a bit of brightness to your breakfast. Okay, polka dots are not for everyone, but before we fully emerge ourselves in a world of brushed stainless-steel bread-browners, consider this lighter (and less expensive) side of toasting.
With wide slots to let your toasting antics extend beyond the boundaries of mere standard sliced bread, three toast settings make it easy to get bread just the right shade to tempt your tastebuds, a high-lift function stops you from also toasting your fingertips when fiddling about with, say, smaller slices, while cancel, reheat and defrost settings gives you complete command over your bread-blazing world like some bizarre toast tyrant.
And who doesn’t want to feel than kind of all-powerful potency of a miserable morning?
Buy now £42.00, Emma Bridgewater
Sage The Bit More 2 Slice BTA720UK
Best for: browning indecisiveness
A two-slicer with a few tricks up its toaster sleeve, the The Bit More from Sage may have an odd name – and we’ll come to that in a minute – but what it also has is a Lift and Look function which allows you to, well, lift and look at the state of toasting progress without cancelling the cycle, a bagel setting that serve to only sear the cut side, five fire-up settings, an LED display with timer countdown, and four buttons to deal with bread from frozen, another to heat crumpets to their crowning glory, one to cancel the whole heating cycle and one for – ready? – a ‘Bit More’ time toasting! Yep, it was all in the name, all along.
Finished in timeless stainless steel and with minimalist styling, if you want a modern, modestly sized model to bring some true toasting class to your kitchen two slices at a time, then treat yourself to The Bit More.
Buy now £72.00, AO
Best for: 50s’ toaster looks and talent
Famed for oozing retro style across its entire appliance range, Smeg has recently rolled out new additions to its two-slice TSF01 toaster range in rather stunning Gold and Rose Gold metallic finishes, securing its position at the very upper echelons of the shiny toaster tree.
Featuring self-centring racks (like some people I know!) to ensure even toasting, the Smeg let’s you toast, defrost bread ready for toasting, brown one side of bagels and, yes, even reheat the toast you forgot about while you were busy defrosting bread and browning bagels.
With a simple set of controls to let you do tend to your toasting in any way you wish, the Smeg TSF01 is the ultimate fusion of style and substance, while the fancy new finishes bring a welcome splash of opulent splendour to any kitchen worksurface.
Buy now £190.00, John Lewis
Best for: A welcome window on bread warming
Surprisingly, the Vision from renowned appliance expert Magimix is the world’s first see-through toaster.
Now, this may be surprising for a few reasons. Maybe you imagined the world was already full of see-through toasters. Maybe it never occurred to you that the world needed see-through toasters. Maybe the mere concept of a see-through toaster has utterly turned your world upside down and now you can’t think of anything but see-through toasters. In any event, the fact of the matter is Magimix’s is the first. In the world.
So, why a see-through toaster? Well, first of all, the marriage of brushed stainless steel and dual side windows of gleaming borosillicate glass are an architectural delight. Second, not only do you get the four precision settings for toasting, reheating, one-sided toasting and defrosting but, with the ability to watch your two slices of generic soft bread, one large slice of bloomer bread or four slices of baguette progressively tan inside, you can cancel the toasting cycle at the press of a button at any time you deem it done enough.
Built like a toasting tank and featuring extra-wide slots and an extra-lift lever to keep fingers scorch-free, if you’ve never experienced the bizarrely hypnotic sight of bread evenly browning before your very eyes, then cancel the Netflix subscription and fix your eyes on the Magimix Vision.
Buy now £170.00, Amazon
Best for: Precision toasting perfectionists
Famed since the 18th century for its exceptional kitchen knives, Zwilling’s Enfinigy kitchen appliance range might well be unfamiliar to the UK, but developed in Germany and designed in Italy, there’s no denying the solid build-quality, sleek aesthetics and effortless efficiency of the entire offering, with the two-slice toaster – handily – standing out in particular.
Available in a silver or black finish, this is an intelligent toaster. How so? Well, with four separate heating elements packed inside, you can always be assured of evenly brown toast, even when repeated toasting, thanks to the Zwilling Enfinigy automatically shortening the toasting duration to help you achieve that pinnacle of toast perfection: crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.
With seven browning settings, a thaw feature and bagel setting, easy-out crumb draw, not to mention a soft-lift function that stops your utopian toast ending up flung onto the floor, and the Zwilling Enfinigy, despite having a name that’s playing havoc with my spellcheck, is the obvious option for particularly picky toast purists.
Buy now £90.00, Zwilling
Best for: Timeless toaster form and function
There is simply something about KitchenAid’s Artisan two-slot toaster that, from the moment you take it from the box, makes it the stunning centrepiece of any style of kitchen – whether that’s some shabby chic country design or a masterpiece of minimalism. There are few toasters you can say that about… or would say that about, if you weren’t being paid to review toasters. But there it is, in all its sexy glory, encouraging you to admire it and, yes, even indulge in a quick caress of its die-cast curves, before reaching for the bread.
Which is when things literally heat-up even more. A fully auto model, a sensor recognises when bread has been inserted, slowly lowering it, letting you brown said bread to seven shades of golden, before lifting it up again for you to get stuck into.
With an LED timer to keep you in the picture while it works, the KitchenAid Artisan features a bagel function, defrosts and toasts frozen bread, can keep your toast warm for you if something more important than eating toast pops up (as if) and comes in 10 colours that are all easy on the eye.
Is it expensive? Yes, it is. But then this is the Rolls Royce (rolls, geddit?) of toasters and, as such, it’s reassuringly expensive.
Buy now £230.00, KitchenAid
Best four slice toasters
Bosch DesignLine Stainless Steel TAT4P440/GB
Best for: Quickly catering to all tastes
Got more than one stomach to feed of a morning and only so much time in which to do it? Do these separate stomachs also have wildly different toast tastes when it comes to the extent of scorch?
Well, what you need is a four-slice toaster that not only self-centres the bread for even browning, but which also allows you operate each slot independently, thus catering to even those at opposite ends of the toast spectrum, and the DesignLine from Bosch is just that machine.
Also capable of reheating brutally neglected toast, defrosting straight from the fridge and featuring a removable crumb tray, finished in stylish stainless-steel and black and costing under £50, the Bosch DesignLine is a bigger breakfast bargain.
Buy now £49.00, Hughes
Sage The Smart Toast BTA845UK
Best for: Almost utterly effort-free toast
The second Sage to make my round-up, this ante-upping four-slice take on the earlier featured ‘A Bit More’ four-slot model follows much the same design cues as its smaller sibling, in that its sleek, slick and brushed stain-steel, but now with double the slots and precision toasting controls.
Why ‘Smart’ in the name? Well, whether you’re hankering for plain toast, sourdough, crumpets, bagels or fruit-based bread, just stick it in the slot, make use of the easy one-touch auto-lowering mechanism and just let the Sage see to all the different toasting timings while you monitor progress via the LED indicator.
There’s a ‘Quick Look’ button atop to let you do a quick visible check on your toast, an auto-raise function when done and, like the Sage two-slot, a ‘A Bit More’ button to add an extra 30-seconds of toasting time if you’re not quite satisfied with your level of goldeness. The machine aslo has a removable crumb tray for cleaning.
In fact, the only thing the Sage The Smart Toast toaster doesn’t do for you is actually eat the toast too.
Buy now £180.00, Lakeland
Best for: Toasting like a breakfast ninja
In a world of flashy stainless-steel, glittering golds or pastel hues vying for your toaster-buying attention, why not seek out something a little different to bring added edge to your kitchen? All hail the Stealth toaster from Swan, a matt black bread-browner that’s cool, contemporary and cooks toast without compromise.
Offering independent controls for each set of slots, it is capable of whipping up four slices of immaculately incinerated-to-personal-preference toast, even from frozen. It’s just a simple matter of popping your bread into the Stealth’s self-centring slots, picking your predilection and letting the Swan see to the rest.
Capable of reheating toast that was just too stealthy too, plus featuring that omnipresent but also essential removable crumb tray, the Swan Stealth is beautifully understated toaster art.
Buy now £70.00, Swan
Best for: An absolute kitchen classic
If ever a toaster deserved the moniker ‘iconic’, other than Talkie Toaster from Red Dwarf, of course, it would be the NewGen from Dualit. Famously finished in polished stainless-steel (though also available in a range of two-tone stainless-steel and colour finishes), this four-slice monument to the craft of browning bread comes made to order (handmade in the UK, as point of fact) and blessed with Dualit’s classic styling, unerring mechanical timer and ejector lever.
Allowing for the heating of one, two, three or all four slots, the NewGen delivers the flexibility to work in both home and commercial environments and, like the finest of its peers, can defrost frozen bread before toasting and toast buns and bagels to perfection.
With a mechanical timer, manually operated eject lever to keep contents warm until needed, a high lift mechanism to remove small items easily, the price may seem somewhat steep for a means of warming bread, but a Dualit NewGen is not just a toaster for Christmas, it’s a toaster for life. It comes with fully replaceable parts that Dualit will fit when necessary, so this little beauty will be topping you up with toast until the day – to use an East End expression - you yourself are ‘brown bread’.
Buy now £220.00, John Lewis
Funky Appliance Company Funky Toaster
Best for: Retro styling with a bigger, bolder edge
Available in some six bright and brilliant colour options, the Funky Toaster is both a breakfast- and conversation-starter. It’s the only toaster that, straight out of the box clearly has been designed by someone thinking outside of the box.
Indeed, eschewing any conventional variations on the standard box-shaped bread-browner, the Funky is an exciting curvy affair that sees four slots running across a uniquely arching top in a manner that’s distinctly eye-catching. Would I say this toaster has booty? Normally no, because that would be weird, but in this instance - there’s no denying it; the Funky Toaster is bootylicious.
But it’s not all about the looks. With cancel, reheat and defrost abilities, independent control of both sides and integrated removable crumb trays, it’s as much about function as well as form.
What’s more, its extra-deep, variable width slots mean that not only can the Funky Toaster accommodate all manner of bready delights, it can also boast something that many other toasters simply cannot: it can fully toast a slice of Warburton’s Toastie loaf, something which has been confirmed by Jonathan Warburton himself. How many toasters can say that?
If you’re looking for top toast and a statement piece to bring some cool to your kitchen, things just got Funky for you.
Buy now £90.00, Amazon
Best for: Retro toasting style at a bargain price
Offering a blend of real retro design, exceptional performance and a price that works out at less than a tenner a slot, the Beko Cosmopolis, resplendent in white, black or blue and complete with geometric pattern and chrome accents, delivers a lot for considerably less cash than most quality four-slots.
Extra wide slots let you brown thicker slices, bagels, burger buns and crumpets, while five toasting levels ensure you live your best browning life each and every time. Clear defrost, reheat and cancel settings permit you to streamline the experience, and a high-lift keeps fingers free from accidental burns. Cleaning is easy peasy thanks to a removable crumb tray.
In short, then, the Beko Cosmopolis is all the retro-look four-slot toaster you need to brighten up breakfast without breaking the bank.
Buy now £39.00, Currys
Morphy Richards Signature
Best for: Toast adventurers
Not everyone is satisfied with standard slices of bread, even if they are toasted to golden brown perfection. There are those out there who want to experiment with all contained within life’s rich and wide cornucopia of crumb-creating creations. These breadosexuals (as we’ll never refer to them again) want baguettes, pitta, bagels, paninis, ciabatta, sourdough, pumpernickel, rye, spelt and on and on to sate their endless bread-based appetite. However, not every toaster has the slots to accommodate such varied sizes and shapes. Which is where the Signature by Morph Richards steps up to the dinner plate.
Featuring two long slots in which you can slide four slices of standard or individual helpings of the more fancy, artisanal offerings, seven variable browning settings are on-hand to render your bread of choice as brown as desired, while settings to defrost or reheat are also in place to see to bread/toast in all its states.
Good-looking to boot and available in gold, copper or black finishes, for those looking to make bolder breakfasts, the Morphy Richards Signature could well be the best thing since unsliced bread.
Buy now £100.00, Currys
Gastroback Design Toaster Digital 4S
Best for: Those going gluten-free
It may never have occurred to you before, particularly if you’ve never suffered gastrointestinal problems from the consumption of bread, but gluten-free bread tends to be a bit tough to toast. The reason for this is that it is generally denser and therefore takes longer to toast than conventional bread, so what you often end up with from regular toasters is bread that is anywhere between crispy and burnt on the outside, yet cold or possibly still frozen (if straight from the freezer, obviously).
If only there was a toaster so advanced that not only did it have extra-wide slots for a wide range of bread types, seven degrees of browning setting, an LCD display and a countdown timer, but also a setting specifically for gluten-free bread. Wait, what’s that? The Gastroback Design Toaster Digital 4S?
Yep, this Teutonic-designed toaster of the future does all of the above and has a standalone setting for the extra-careful toasting treatment of tricky, denser gluten-free bread, removing all the aforementioned issues and serving up perfectly crispy toast that’s warm inside and out.
Featuring – the now expected – defrost, reheat and cancel functions too, plus a removable crumb tray, programmable settings for those very specific about how they have their toast and even a rack for warming rolls, the Gastroback Design Toaster Digital 4S is the stainless-steel face of 21st century toasting.
Buy now £100.00, Gastroback
Cuisinart 4 Slice Toaster
Best for: Timeless-looking toaster tech
Another absolutely winning combination of brushed stainless-steel and polished side panel perfection, the 4 Slice Toaster from Cuisinart has the undeniable look of field radio operating kit from back in WWII, which may seem like an odd look to go for (if that was Cuisinart’s intention, of course), but it works for me!
With deep slots to accommodate taller bread and ensure even browning, those slots come independently operated and offer up to six degrees of toastiness while self-centring holds your bread in the optimum position throughout the toasting process.
Featuring bagel, defrost and reheat functions, plus a cancel button, high-lift lever for handling smaller loads and, of course, a removable crumb tray to keep it tight and tidy, the Cuisinart 4 Slice Toaster will look effortlessly elegant in any environment and see you at the top of your toasting game any time of day.
Buy now £100.00, Currys