This page was updated in February 2021.
If you’ve got a grill, a toaster is essentially a superfluous piece of kit – but they make our lives a lot easier (and tastier), and 91% of British homes have one.
As well as removing the need to keep an eagle-eye out for burning, many modern models include features such as bagel toasting, defrosting and a warming function, taking the guesswork out of browning bread of every shape and size.
Although they’re relatively simple appliances, it’s surprising how many struggle to brown bread evenly across the slice, and with the same (or at least similar) colouring on each side. We’ve taken this into consideration when testing out a range of models and rounded up the top performers accordingly.
We tested at a range of models from budget to luxury using slices of shop-bought loaf, XL tall slices, thickly sliced artisan bread, fruit loaf and sliced bagels. We also tested any extra functions on offer.
All were rated against practical considerations such as size and weight, safety, ease of use, good looks and speed of toasting (we can confirm that the rumours are false: the settings on your toaster don’t correspond with the number of minutes it takes to toast bread).
Taking into account variations in the types of bread we were using (old bread tends to toast faster), after exhaustive toasting, warming and munching, we selected the eight best models. Find out more about the specific criteria we used to test the toasters beneath the main review.
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- Best all-round toaster: DeLonghi Distinta Flair 4-slice toaster, £88.89
- Best blow-out buy: KitchenAid Artisan 5KMT4205 4-slice toaster, £299
- Best looking 4-slot toaster: Swan Gatsby ST14082 4-slice toaster, £49.99
- Best basic 4-slot toaster: Progress 4-slice toaster, £19.99
- Best value 4-slot toaster: Russell Hobbs 24381 Inspire 4 Slice Toaster, £35
- Most attractive 4-slot toaster: SMEG TSF03 4-slot Steel Toaster, £169
- Four-slot toaster with best browning: Kenwood Mesmerine TFM810 toaster, £129.98
- Toaster with best overall functionality: Sage the Smart Toast BTA845, £169.95
When you’re buying a new toaster, there are plenty of other factors to consider, too. Are you a fan of chunky artisan bread, or loaves with large slices that your toaster might struggle to hold? Read our tips on the features to look for when buying a toaster:
What does it toast?
When you’re looking for a four-slot toaster, think about what you use your current model for the most, and make sure it has everything you need. There’s nothing worse than being a big fan of bagels and realising you’ll have to use your grill instead.
If your family all makes their toast pretty much the same way, a single-lever model will suit you fine (and likely be cheaper), while the bagel function found on some toasters is super-useful for lovers of bagels and crumpets, as it toasts one side, while only warming the other.
As with so many kitchen appliances, you often get what you pay for: some cheaper models do a perfectly good job, but if you’re using your toaster every day, it’s worth investing in a sturdy model that can withstand being used regularly and taken in and out of its cupboard without getting damaged.
Is it a titan of a toaster with a cumbersome cord that will take up too much space in your kitchen cupboards? If you’re a fan of bagels, or store your bread in the freezer, does it include all the functions you need to create toasted perfection?
Checking the weight and measurements of your toaster is also important, as four-slice models are significantly larger than two-slice versions, and can weigh a lot. If you store yours in a high cupboard, a lighter model is best, unless you’re happy to rearrange your kitchen.
Most modern toasters have a defrost setting that allows you to toast bread from frozen, with the exception of the cheapest models.
For anyone who does not want to eat their toast straightaway, this is an important consideration. The toaster will keep your slice heated without toasting it further, until you return to it later.
If you enjoy a thickly sliced bread or chunky artisan types, be sure to look for a toaster with an extra-wide slot. Some models even have adjustable slow width. On pressing down a lever, the metal frame fits to the slice size to ensure an even toasting, regardless of thickness.
DeLonghi Distinta Flair 4-slice toaster
Best all-round toaster
- Unique look
- Great browning
- Shallow slots
Star rating: 4.5/5
We really liked the unusual industrial look of this toaster, with brushed chrome and Art Deco feel. It has plenty of settings for various types of bread and browns evenly across each slice, no matter what your preference. It handled frozen bread well, which can be a challenge. The slots are wide enough to fit thickly-sliced artisan bread, plus it’s speedy – the medium setting takes only two minutes to create perfectly golden toast. Read our full review of the DeLonghi Distinta Flair toaster.
KitchenAid Artisan 5KMT4205 4-slice toaster
Best blow-out toaster
- Sophisticated toaster technology
- Sleekly designed
- Large footprint
Star rating: 4.5/5
KitchenAid has created a serious bit of kit with this Artisan 4-slice. It’s size, design and die-cast metal construction scream statement, demanding a deep work surface and boasting a sophisticated number of settings. The pairs of extra-wide toasting slots are sensor-controlled, lowered with a gentle elevator ping that’s particularly satisfying and it’s accompanied by useful extras like a toastie rack. If you have the space and budget to invest, this model makes toasting fun. Read our full review of the KitchenAid Artisan 5KMT4205 4-slice toaster
Swan Gatsby ST14082 4-slice toaster
Best looking 4-slice toaster
A lot of thought has gone into the styling of the Swan Gatsby 4-slice toaster, but thankfully it’s not style over substance. Defrost, reheat, bagel functions are on offer, it’s lever arms have a bread-lift feature so you don’t need to poke around for slices with tongs. Its seven heat levels are over-enthusiastic for normal toasting; five settings would be enough here but on the whole, this is a good-looking toaster worthy of its price tag. Read our full review of the Swan Gatsby ST14082 4-slice toaster
Progress 4-slice toaster
Best basic 4-slice toaster
- Built-in cord storage
- Non-slip feet
- Limited functions
Star rating: 3/5
At under £20, the real selling point of this toaster is its price – and it performs the basics well. The browning settings are intuitive to control, there are removable crumb trays for easy-emptying. Obviously you forfeit elements like contemporary design and sophisticated features. The slots accommodate thick-cut slices but were too short to toast tall pieces of bread. But it offers features that more expensive models don’t, like the non-slip feet, built-in cord storage and cool-touch outer housing giving it a good line in safety credentials for use in busy kitchens. Read our full review of the Progress 4-slice toaster
Russell Hobbs 24381 Inspire 4 Slice Toaster
Best value 4-slot toaster
- Even browning
- Great price
- Shallow slots
Star rating: 4/5
This budget-friendly toaster gets the job done for a good price. What it lacks in functions – it doesn’t have bagel or keep-warm options for example – it makes up for in reliability. It produced some of the most evenly-toasted bread of all models we tested plus it handles thicker sliced bread as well as the standard sliced loaf. Toasting takes slightly longer than other models and the exterior of the toaster does get rather hot, but overall we were impressed with performance over price. Read our full review of the Russell Hobbs Inspire toaster.
SMEG TSF03 4-slot Steel Toaster
Most attractive four-slot toaster
SMEG’s distinctive retro style is timeless and versatile, and this toaster in signature brand style has real visual impact. But it also impressed us with its functionality. It has generous, extra-wide slots that hold taller slices of bread horizontally. Those who like personalisation will be happy with the number of options available. There are 11 browning settings in total, plus effective keep-warm and defrost settings and accompanying products to buy including a bun warmer and sandwich rack. Read our full review of the Smeg TSF03 toaster.
Kenwood Mesmerine TFM810 toaster
Four-slot toaster with best browning
- Even toasting
- Fairly light
- Quite slow
- Needed adjusting for frozen bread
Star rating: 4.5/5
A lightweight toaster with excellent results, this stylish model has plenty of toasting options. It handles chunkier slices of bread and had the most even browning of all models we tested. Not too large or heavy, the plastic outside stays cool enough to touch, which makes it a good choice for the safety-conscious. It also looks good, with its 3D pearlised effect that’s available in four colours. Read our full review of the Kenwood Mesmerine toaster.
Sage the Smart Toast BTA845
Toaster with best overall functionality
- Good selection of settings
- Easy to use
- Good browning
- No warming function
Star rating: 4.5/5
Although it’s undeniably expensive, using this toaster felt a little like making breakfast with a friendly robot. Created in collaboration with the original kitchen whizz, Heston Blumenthal, this clever toaster has various niche functions such as crumpet toasting. Everything is operated by buttons rather than levers. Bread smoothly descends into the slots as though descending a lift. Sadly it lacks a warming option, but otherwise Sage has thought of everything and this is a joy to use. Read our full review of the Sage the Smart Toast.
We tested and reviewed a representative sample of toasters in controlled conditions, using standard loaf slices, fruit bread, chunky-cut artisan loaf and sliced bagels, scoring them out of five against the following criteria on our testing matrix:
Size and shape
Does the cord tuck away for easy storage? Does it take up a lot of kitchen worksurface room, and is it heavy to lift?
Does it offer any extra settings such as defrost, warming and a bagel function? Are there controls for each side of the toaster, and are there any extra features such as the option to check your bread mid-toast?
Design and aesthetic
Does the toaster look good and come in different colours to suit your kitchen?
How well does the toaster handle different types of bread? Do standard slices brown evenly, with the same result on each side?
Value for money
Toasters perform the basic task of browning bread, so the price should fit the sophistication of its technology and the variety of functions on offer.
Overall quality of materials
Every part of the toaster was given a tug and a shake.
More advice on buying electronic kit…
This review was last updated in February 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.
What toaster do you use? We’d love to hear your product suggestions…