Those prone to rushed mornings will know the virtues of a convenient electric toaster all too well. We put four-slot toasters from popular brands to the test to see which are worth investing in.
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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.
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, which your toaster might struggle to hold? Is it a titan of a toaster with a cumbersome cord that will take up too much space in your kitchen cupboards? And 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?
As with so many kitchen appliances, it's the case that you 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.
For our review, we tested four-slot toasters, looking at a range of models from budget to luxury. We used them to toast ordinary supermarket pre-sliced bread, taller sliced loaves and thickly cut artisan breads, and also tested any extra functions on offer.
We rated them 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 five best models from our sample of the latest models. Here’s our take on the top five four-slot toasters currently on the market.
DeLonghi Distinta Flair 4-slice toaster
Best all-round toaster
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.
Russell Hobbs 24381 Inspire 4 Slice Toaster
Best value 4-slot toaster
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.
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.
Kenwood Mesmerine TFM810 toaster
Four-slot toaster with best browning
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.
Sage the Smart Toast BTA845
Toaster with best overall functionality
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.
Which toaster to buy
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 takes 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.
Checking the weight and measurements of your toaster is also important, as four-slice models are significantly larger than the 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.
What we looked for in a toaster
Size and shape
Does the cord tuck away for easy storage? Does it take up a lot of cupboard 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?
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This review was last updated in July 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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